College Basketball Nation: Anthony Davis

Editor's note: ESPN.com’s Summer Shootaround series catches up on the offseason storylines for each conference. For more on the SEC, click here.

Five freshmen to watch in the league ...

Nerlens Noel, Kentucky: He is the No. 1-ranked recruit in the country, the early favorite for 2013's No. 1 overall NBA draft pick, and the centerpiece of another massive talent haul for coach John Calipari and the Wildcats. He is purportedly one of the best shot-blockers we've seen enter the college stage in years -- including predecessor Anthony Davis. If Noel is even 75 percent as good as that, the Wildcats will be a defensive force yet again.

Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin, Kentucky: I didn't want to make this entire list Kentucky's recruiting class, nor did I want to exclude Poythress and Goodwin, both of whom are worthy of your attention next season. Poythress will bring athleticism and rim-attacking rebounding from the wing. Goodwin is a polished, multifaceted scorer. Both will start, and both will be crucial to Calipari from the outset.

Devonta Pollard, Alabama: The No. 28-ranked player in the Class of 2012, Pollard has drawn rave reviews from scouts, and comparisons to Travis Outlaw, for his end-to-end athletic ability. He'll have to round out his offensive game, but he'll be a tremendous cog in Anthony Grant's defense-first system.

Braxton Ogbueze, Florida: Four-year guard Erving Walker graduated, and conveniently enough, Florida coach Billy Donovan has the No. 7-ranked point guard in the 2012 class signed up to fill the spot. Ogbueze could see starter's minutes right away, or he could fill in behind Mike Rosario, Kenny Boynton and Scottie Wilbekin. Either way, the Gators' backcourt is in fine shape.

Jordan Price, Auburn: After a rather brutal 15-16 season, Auburn coach Tony Barbee desperately needed an infusion of talent. Price and forward Shaquille Johnson, both top-100 players, will help immediately.

Editor's note: ESPN.com’s Summer Shootaround series catches up on the offseason storylines for each conference. For more on SEC, click here.

Five offseason storylines in the SEC ...

1. Life is good in Lexington: At any other program, with any other coach, when you win a national title and send your six best players to the NBA draft, you are not supposed to compete for a national title 12 months later. But this is not any other program, or any other coach. This is Kentucky as led by John Calipari, a finely tuned college hoops machine.

After harnessing the insane talents of Anthony Davis and the team-first ethos of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist -- the NBA draft's No. 1 and No. 2 overall selections -- Calipari has cleared the "one-and-dones can't win a title" hurdle, if it existed in the first place. So now what? Naturally, Calipari reeled in another talented recruiting class -- the No. 2 class in the country, according to RecruitingNation, the first time in four years Kentucky hasn't been ranked No. 1 -- that includes the No. 1-ranked player in the class, center Nerlens Noel, and top-15 recruits Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin. Sophomore power forward Kyle Wiltjer, a top-20 recruit in 2011, will take on a much larger role, and former NC State transfer Ryan Harrow will step in at point guard.

Is Calipari's latest refresh as good as Davis & Co.? Doubtful. Then again, few teams are. What's certain is that the Wildcats will again be ranked in the top five to start the season, will defend like crazy and are a clear threat -- if not the outright favorite -- to repeat as national champions. Indeed, the state of Big Blue Nation is strong.

2. Missouri and Texas A&M deepen SEC hoops: Few realignment moves have driven as much discussion (read: vitriol) as Texas A&M and Missouri's respective decisions to leave the Big 12 and join the SEC. The 2012-13 season will be the first for both under the new banner, and the Tigers are more likely to make an immediate impact. In addition to returning guards Michael Dixon and Phil Pressey, a big-time breakout candidate, coach Frank Haith has assembled a transfer-heavy team (Alex Oriakhi, Jabari Brown, Keion Bell, Earnest Ross) that should compete for the SEC title right away. Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy has a more protracted rebuild on his hands, but if A&M continues the program growth it experienced in the past decade, the SEC -- where basketball has always been football's little brother -- will be much stronger for it.

3. South Carolina lands … Frank Martin. Huh? South Carolina is not a basketball school, but the Gamecocks made the best -- and most surprising -- hire of the offseason when they persuaded Kansas State coach Martin to leave his budding program behind. Martin has relentlessly denied rumors that his departure stemmed from untenable disagreements with K-State athletic director John Currie, particularly involving senior Jamar Samuels' NCAA-imposed ineligibility debacle in March. For his part, Martin sounds sincere when he says he felt embraced by South Carolina and that he relishes the chance to build something from scratch in Columbia. It will take a while, but Gamecocks fans have every reason to be thrilled.

4. Other new faces in new places: Martin wasn't the only offseason coaching change in the SEC. At LSU, Trent Johnson -- whose final three seasons never came close to his debut 2008-09 campaign -- was replaced by former North Texas coach Johnny Jones. Meanwhile, after two turbulent seasons that capped a 14-year career at the school, Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury retired. Former Purdue and Clemson assistant Rick Ray, who was an applied mathematics major and Chicago-based actuary before deciding to take a chance on coaching, gets his first crack at a head-coaching gig in Starkville.

5. Vanderbilt starts fresh, to say the least: Did any team in the country lose as much this offseason as Vanderbilt? The Commodores waved farewell to their top six players, including all five starters: All-SEC guard John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor, Festus Ezeli, Lance Goulbourne, Brad Tinsley and backup forward Steve Tchiengang. That's the entire core of coach Kevin Stallings' excellent four-year run in Nashville. With few proven reserves waiting in the wings, the 2012-13 Commodores are the biggest mystery in the league.

King: Replacing lottery picks not impossible

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Losing a lottery pick can be crippling to a college basketball program -- but it's not always, writes ESPN.com's Jason King. It all depends on what's waiting in reserve. While schools such as Connecticut and Illinois will be in rebuilding mode after watching star players shake NBA commissioner David Stern's hand last week, others such as Kentucky and Florida will enter the 2012-13 campaign with NCAA title hopes. Here is look at the 10 schools that lost lottery picks in last week's NBA draft, and what to expect from those schools this season.

Can Anthony Davis live up to the hype?

June, 28, 2012
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Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless discuss if Anthony Davis will live up to the high expectations.
Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist & Andre DrummondUS PresswireWhere will Thomas Robinson (left), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Andre Drummond end up?
That headline ought to be fairly self-explanatory. Here are the 10 things I'm most intrigued to see in Thursday night's NBA draft:

1. Who goes No. 1 overall?

(Kidding. I hope I have your attention now.)

2. OK, seriously, who goes No. 2?

Now this is an intriguing question, one we've argued before in this space. With Anthony Davis such an obvious No. 1 pick, this is really the only top-two suspense in this draft, made all the more so by the simple fact that the Bobcats could pick just about anybody and become immediately better. Under "needs," the Bobcats have listed "a basketball team." They could trade their pick. They could draft Thomas Robinson and shoot for the stars, or take Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and try to work on a winning culture, or do something crazy and take Andre Drummond. Whatever they do, it will be fascinating to see the implications for the other teams in the top five, and the players they select.

3. Will someone reach for Andre Drummond?

If I was a general manager, I'd be horrified to take Drummond. I'd also be horrified to not take him. There's all that physical talent. There's that apparent basketball apathy. The only time I remember seeing Drummond openly enjoying basketball as a freshman was that tip-dunk against Syracuse (just YouTube it). Being able to do that to wide-open tip-dunks would bring a smile to my face, too. Battling with NBA bigs? Not as much fun!

Austin Rivers
Mark Dolejs/US PresswireWhere will Austin Rivers, the talented yet polarizing guard from Duke, end up?
4. Who loves (or hates) Austin Rivers?

A year ago, I randomly polled some of the NBA scouts at the Nike Skills Camps in Chicago for their opinions of Rivers, the incoming Duke guard. A few loved his crossover and his swagger; others had big lingering questions about what he was (A 2-guard? A point? A combo scorer? Monta Ellis?) at the next level. Even then, he was polarizing.

That didn't change much during his one-year stopover at Duke. Rivers struggled early, had big moments (remember this?), never totally put it all together, and Duke went out in the first round to 15-seeded Lehigh. It's clear it hasn't changed at all since the NBA draft process began.

Resident draft expert Chad Ford does not like Rivers one bit, and plenty of NBA scouts have told him why: "However, here's my knock on Rivers. He thinks he's Kobe. He's not. He doesn't have the length, the height, nor the athletic ability. Take those things away from Kobe, and he's Ricky Davis -- an irritating ball hog no one wants to play with and who isn't good enough to warrant the diva act."

On the other hand, Rivers has the best dribble moves in the draft, a well-respected coach-father who knows everything about how to be a pro in the league, and a shooting mechanic ripe for improvement. I'm just as torn as everyone else. I can't wait to see where he lands, and how the franchise that takes him will affect his development.

5. More trades! Please?

On Wednesday night, my buddy Phil asked me if the draft was on. When I told him it was Thursday night, he said, "Oh. I just can't care about the NBA draft." Phil is not an NBA fan. I am. Which is why I am fascinated by the slew of trade rumors out there already, from the Houston Rockets' play for Dwight Howard to the Lakers dangling Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace. Always one of the best parts of the draft, at least for me. Your mileage may vary.

6. Which late first-round team will be smart and take Draymond Green?

I realize the dude's 22. He's definitely a tweener and there are 20 players in the draft with more enticing measurables. But Day-Day is about as versatile as any player in this draft, and he's a winner. He won't be an All-Star, but he will be a perfect fit on any already-good team looking for a solid rotation piece and a great teammate to boot. And he'll get a chance to play for a good team right away. I think that's a huge blessing in disguise.

7. How far will Jared Sullinger slide?

Get this: The guy who spent two years dominating the Big Ten, whose freshman season statistically most closely resembled Kevin Love's, who earned All-American honors and led his team to a Sweet 16 and a Final Four, might actually fall out of the first round. I get the back issues scaring people slightly, but come on! He was a top-five pick last year! NBA GMs, get it together!

[+] EnlargeJared Sullinger
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireHow far will Jared Sullinger fall on Thursday night?
8. Speaking of Sullinger ... what will this draft say about staying in school?

More often than not in the one-and-done era, players promised top-10 draft picks left after just one season in school. It just made too much sense. Last year's lockout changed that calculus, and college basketball was better for it. We got to see sophomore seasons from Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Terrence Jones and Perry Jones, all of whom could have been top-five picks in last year's draft. This June, only Barnes has retained his top-five status. Terrence Jones is coming off being a top rotation player on a national title team, while Perry Jones came back and improved, though only marginally. Both are borderline lottery picks, according to most mock drafts. Will things go even further south Thursday night? And if so, what will that say to elite prospects considering a sophomore season in the future?

9. Will the Bulls get Will Barton?

That's what Ford has in his latest mock draft, and as a Chicago resident, let me just say: Yes, please. I think Barton could be a real steal. He had a thoroughly excellent (and underrated) season in 2012 -- he finished behind Green, Davis and Sullinger in Ken Pomeroy's final player of the year efficiency calculations. Barton definitely needs to add things to his game (more strength and girth, a more consistent outside shot) but he is already a very versatile player who could conceivably play a 2 or a 3 in the NBA for years to come. Also, he's bouncy. I like him. It would be a great pick for the Bulls, but really for any team at that level of the draft. We'll see.

10. Whose suit will be most on point?

I'm not sure anyone in this class has the chops to pull off the Joakim Noah swagger (sorry, but that suit was and is amazing, almost as amazing as this photo). Unfortunately, based on most of the personalities in this class, I don't think most of these guys will go the wacky route, either. I hope I'm wrong. Nominate in the comments.

3-point shot: Coaches Newark-bound

June, 28, 2012
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1. Baylor coach Scott Drew said he is coming to Newark to witness history: three Baylor players taken in the NBA draft. All three -- Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy -- have a legitimate chance to be in the first round. Miller is on the bubble; Acy could yet climb into the back end of the first round. Acy is the best back-to-the-basket player among the three. What makes Drew’s appearance interesting is that none of the Baylor players were invited by the NBA. But Drew said late Wednesday that all three are going to go to Newark, sit in the stands and walk across the stage when their names are called.

2. New Kansas State and former Illinois coach Bruce Weber said he will also be in Newark, at the invitation of Meyers Leonard. This is a great gesture by Leonard, who stuck with Weber through a tough season in Champaign. Leonard had an enigmatic career at Illinois, but Weber was in his corner. Leonard has been complimentary of Weber and his time at Illinois during multiple interviews in Chicago and again Wednesday in New York.

3. St. John’s coach Steve Lavin is planning on being in Newark to witness Moe Harkless get selected somewhere in the first round. North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Kentucky’s John Calipari will also be in the green room -- Williams has three players invited (Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson), Calipari two (Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist). Washington coach Lorenzo Romar is in Newark as well to support late add Terrence Ross, who isn't expected to get past No. 15 Thursday night. Two coaches who have had a history of not coming to the draft and allowing their players to have the moment to themselves are Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and UConn’s Jim Calhoun. Neither will be in Newark on Thursday.
Fellow hoops fans, lend me your ears. The ESPYS Awards voting is now open, and you, the Internet voter with time to kill at work on a Wednesday afternoon, are directly responsible for the winners. You can click here to get started on all of the categories. Or, if you prefer, you can merely vote for the college hoops-related categories. This year's awards feature six separate subsections with college basketball players, coaches or teams as nominees.

And the nominees ... drumroll, please ... are:
You may not need confirmation from the ESPYS Awards that what you saw when Norfolk State beat Missouri was indeed the greatest upset of the past 12 months. Maybe you prefer Lehigh vs. Duke. Either way, the memories will remain. But as someone who just rampaged through these categories in about 15 minutes, let me be the first to say that voting is actually really fun, and also that I definitely had to Google Lexi Thompson. My sports fandom has a ton of blind spots.

Anyway, let your sports superlative voice be heard! (Or don't. No hard feelings either way.)
Editor’s note: Each week, ESPN.com writers will debate a topic of interest in the college basketball landscape. Today's topic: Is an age limit for the NBA a worthwhile initiative? Is there a better alternative to the one-and-done rule? Also: Check out Jason King's lists of 10 players who are flourishing in the NBA after spending just one season in college and 10 who haven't been as fortunate.

Jason King

Was there any reason for LeBron James to go to college? Of course not. The same goes for Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett and a handful of others.

[+] EnlargeJohn Wall
Harry E. Walker/MCT/Getty ImagesWizards PG John Wall attended Kentucky for one season, 2009-10.
For the most part, though, surefire first-round NBA draft picks who have been forced to spend one year in school the past seven seasons have benefited a great deal.

And the high school kids who would’ve made a terrible decision under the old rule and entered the draft came to realize just how much a year in college can help.

That’s why it wouldn’t bother me a bit if players were forced to spend two years in school.

Talented as they may be, most 18-year-old kids are incredibly immature and haven’t received the type of discipline and coaching it takes to make it in the NBA. The majority of them have been coddled throughout high school and have a false sense of just how good they really are. They get bad advice from handlers and hangers-on and are allowed to do anything they want on the court.

As a result, they have a sense of entitlement. Sure, there are exceptions. But most kids need to spend a year or two being taught -- and hardened -- by top-flight coaches such as John Calipari, Bill Self, Jim Boeheim or Roy Williams. They need to be taught how to become better teammates and the importance of playing tough defense and sharing the basketball.

As much as he would’ve loved to enter the NBA draft out of high school, I’m certain John Wall will tell you that spending a year at Kentucky was one of the best things for his career. And I’m confident there are plenty of other NBA players who feel the same way about their time in college.

If you let kids enter the draft straight out of high school, you’ll have too many who will make bad decisions. They’ll go undrafted, spend a year or two in the D-League and fizzle out. If they spend two years in school, they’ll develop on and off the court. Adding another year will also help programs that continue to have trouble establishing stability (i.e. Texas) because of so many players leaving school after just one season.

Another option would be the addition of an “evaluation committee” by the NBA that determines approximately where a high school kid considering the draft would be selected. If the player was definitely going to be a first-rounder, the committee would “approve” him to enter the draft. Anyone else would have to spend two years in college. That would allow players who have no business in college (LeBron, Kobe, etc.) the chance to turn pro out of high school while saving the Korleone Young's of the basketball world.

Dana O’Neil

I went to a high school with a guy who was really handy with cars, gifted in the same way a pianist who can play by ear is gifted.

He didn’t go to college after graduation. He went to work. No one gasped in horror then, and now that he’s gone on to do pretty well for himself, no one rues what might have been.

The same should be true of basketball players. They are gifted like prodigies and skilled like mechanics. At a somewhat precocious age they show a deft ability to dribble, shoot, dunk or block a basketball. They need college about as much as Mozart needed middle school.

[+] EnlargeDavis
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertForward Anthony Davis is leaving Kentucky for the NBA after just one season with the Wildcats.
So why bother? What, besides a mockery of academia, is gained by forcing them to go to college?

We roll them out for a year and call them student athletes. We tout their GPAs and remind everyone that they're regular Joes who go to class regularly (for a whole two semesters), and extol their growth into young adulthood -- as if a year of chartered planes, team meals, tutors, free gear and adulation mimics a real college experience.

It’s ridiculous.

Is Anthony Davis really that much more seasoned now than he was a year ago? Hardly. Yet we forced him, and plenty of others like him, to go to college because, like eating your broccoli, it’s supposed to be good for him.

The truth is these guys would prefer to be students of the game of basketball. We make that seem like a bad thing. It isn’t.

If you are blessed with an ability that can be honed outside of a classroom -- like a tennis player, figure skater, gymnast, golfer, painter, dancer, cellist, plumber, or mechanic -- then you should be allowed to enjoy your craft immediately.

I know the NBA argues that a year in college will better prepare players emotionally and mentally for the rigors of professional basketball. Except college campuses aren’t meant to be daycare centers and the NBA is a business, not a helicopter parent.

Sure, some kids will fail. They’ll have an overinflated sense of their worth and talent, and they’ll spend draft day next to a telephone that never rings.

It stinks.

It’s also life.

The rest of the world, the non-coddled majority, makes their own decisions and lives with the consequences.

Some kids go to college for four years. Some kids go to college for four years and make the dean’s list.

Some kids go to college and drop out. Some kids never go to college.

Some succeed wildly and some don’t.

That’s what happens when you’re given free will -- you make a choice for yourself and for your life. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

College isn’t for everybody. Some guys are really good tinkering with cars. And some guys are really good tinkering with a basketball.

Both should be able to pursue their careers when they believe they are ready.

More: Read Myron Medcalf's piece on the history of the NBA's minimum age requirement and how we got to this point in the one-and-done debate.

Did You Know: NBA Draft Edition

June, 26, 2012
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Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesAnthony Davis and his Kentucky teammates have a chance to make history at the 2012 NBA Draft.
Trivia question: Anthony Davis will become the second player in the common draft era (since 1966) to be drafted first overall the same season as winning a national championship and being the AP Player of the Year. Name the other.

Here are a 10 more facts to impress your friends with as we get ready for draft night.

Did you know that…

• Davis averaged 14.2 points per game at Kentucky. In the common draft era, the fewest points per game by any No. 1 pick who played in college the previous season was 14.5 by Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing in 1984-85.

• Kentucky will be the ninth school to have more than one former player taken first overall. The two years between top overall picks (also in 2010) is the fewest among those nine schools.

• Kentucky and North Carolina could have a combined 10 players drafted. There has never been a draft in the common draft era in which two schools each had at least four picks in the first two rounds, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

• Since Derrick Rose went No. 1 in 2008, John Calipari has coached seven first-round picks. Bill Self and Rick Barnes are tied for the second-most over that span with six.

• Speaking of lottery picks, UNC could have four of them. The earliest in the common draft era a school has had four players selected is 14th (Duke in 1999, UNC in 2005).

• With the lack of elite international prospects this year, it could mark the first time since 1994 that every first-round pick came from the college ranks.

• If Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal are selected in the Top 3, it will be the second time a conference has had the top 3 picks. In 1986, the ACC pulled it off with the selection of UNC’s Brad Daugherty, Maryland’s Len Bias and NC State’s Chris Washburn.

• If Thomas Robinson goes second, it would be the first draft in NBA history in which each of the top two picks played against each other in the preceding national championship game, according to Elias.

• Weber State's Damian Lillard is projected to go in the Top 10 of many mock drafts. The only Big Sky player ever chosen in the top 10? Montana’s Michael Ray Richardson in 1978.

• There’s not a heavy senior presence with Tyler Zeller seemingly the only lock for the top 20. There’s a chance this draft could set an all-time record for fewest seniors taken in the first round. In 2004 Jameer Nelson, Luke Jackson, Rafael Araujo and Tony Allen were the only four seniors taken in the first round.

Trivia answer: Lew Alcindor in 1969.

Get the information you need to be ready for the draft and follow the action Thursday night on Twitter @ESPNStatsInfo.
I was never quite sure what to make of Anthony Davis's eyebrow, and I was never quite sure how other college fans would treat it. I was self-conscious as an 18-year-old. Aren't we all? Was it really the best thing to subject a nice-enough kid to questions and chants and posters and T-shirts about a feature that would get most kids ridiculed? Would the talk always be good-natured? It was just sort of awkward, or at least I assumed it would be.

And then Kentucky fans took over. They claimed ownership of Davis and his brow, turning the eyebrow (or eyebrows) around as quickly as Billy Madison turns his friend's accident around on the bus trip: Look at Anthony play! That unibrow is swagger! Fear the unibrow! Brow down! And so on. Before you knew it, the entire college hoops landscape was that little old lady by the side of the road: If having a unibrow is cool, consider me Miles Davis.

By the time Anthony Davis and Kentucky reached the Final Four, T-shirts and eyebrow flair were on nearly every UK fan in the country. Even UK's mascot and Davis' mom wore homages. The only thing awkward now? There were people out there making what one assumes was a pretty good chunk of change by selling and promoting a very specific part of Davis' likeness. Davis, being an amateur, couldn't do anything about it.

That's not a problem anymore, and according to CNBC's Darren Rovell, Davis trademarked the phrases "Fear the Brow" and "Raise the Brow" earlier this month:
“I don’t want anyone to try to grow a unibrow because of me and then try to make money off of it,” Davis told CNBC. “Me and my family decided to trademark it because it’s very unique.” Davis said that people frequently tell him to cut it, but Davis said he won’t because “everyone’s talking about it.”

I still wonder whether this is a sustainable nickname. Just because everyone is talking about it doesn't make it a keeper, you know? It's not like we're talking about "Air Jordan" here.

Eh, oh well. At least this gives Davis some legal recourse against the who-knows-how-many people have sold some minor merchandise with at least a portion of his amateur likeness on it in the past eight months. Say what you want about the NCAA's amateurism structure -- this seems like as good a jumping-off point as anyway -- but what I know is this: If anyone deserves to make money off of that eyebrow, it's Davis. After all, he's the one stuck wearing it.
1. Kentucky coach John Calipari will be in Newark Thursday to see what he hopes is another record night. He has been touting a stat that is hard to beat: Every Wildcats starter for the past three seasons has been or will be an NBA draft pick. The only player that could be a question mark heading into Thursday is Darius Miller; but I expect him to go in the second round. The Wildcats will likely see five starters drafted in the first round: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague. Teague will go likely fifth among the playmaking group that includes Dion Waiters, Damian Lillard, Austin Rivers and Kendall Marshall.

2. Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said the Seminoles will surprise some people next season “like we always do.’’ FSU has had a few workouts and will have even more once the next summer session starts. Hamilton reports junior forward Terrance Shannon, who didn’t play after losing to UConn on Nov. 26 due to a shoulder injury, is coming along quite well. And Hamilton said the leadership out of big shot Michael Snaer and Ian Miller is already taking shape in offseason workouts. The Seminoles were a first-place ACC team in the middle of the conference season and ended up finishing 12-4, 25-10 overall before losing to Cincinnati in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

3. Replacing Mike Dunlap on the St. John’s staff may be as important as all the players Steve Lavin signed this year. Dunlap was hired because of his player development skills and the Red Storm will once again have a young roster. Lavin needs to find a strong candidate who can handle a similar role during a critical season for St. John’s. Lavin doesn’t need a recruiter in that position, he needs a coach who will be in the trenches and in the gym.

Take Three: Who should go No. 2?

June, 19, 2012
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There is no debate about No. 1 in the upcoming NBA draft. Anthony Davis has that one locked up. But who should go No. 2? Three of our writers weigh in on which player they'd take if they were drafting second overall:

[+] EnlargeKentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Mark Cornelison/Getty ImagesMichael Kidd-Gilchrist has proven he can play and win, qualities general managers should be after.
Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Dana O'Neil)

The NBA draft has confounded me for years, with general managers and scouts selecting players on upside and potential, imagining what a player might someday be instead of considering what he already is. To me, it should boil down to two simple, easily answered questions: Can he play and does he win?

With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the answer to both is an emphatic yes. That’s why I’d take him with the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft.

As much as Anthony Davis dazzled through Kentucky’s national championship run, I believed it was Kidd-Gilchrist’s tenacity, especially through the slow grind of the regular season, that kept the Wildcats going. He was a freshman who never played like one, using his energy and toughness to lead vocally and by example.

Davis was the star, Darius Miller the veteran, but I believed MKG was Kentucky’s heart. He has the things you can’t teach -- relentless rebounding skills, a swarming defensive presence and a never-let-you-lose toughness -- and he's just 18 years old, so he can refine the rest. Yes, his jump shot would make most shot doctors’ "don’t" lists, but surely someone in the NBA can help clean that up.

I get the questions. I get that he doesn’t fit in neatly with the NBA’s checklist. He’s not an obvious No. 2 pick because he’s not exactly the right size for any one position and he’s not exactly an offensive player and he’s not exactly a slasher.

I’ve also never heard anyone wax poetic through the NBA Finals about a player’s wingspan and how it’s won a team games. The Charlotte Bobcats are in dire need of a lot -- an intervention, perhaps, at the top of the list -- but above all else, they need two things: They need guys who can play basketball and guys who know how to win.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist knows how to play and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist knows how to win.

Sometimes you just don’t need to make things more complicated than that.

[+] EnlargeBradley Beal
Jeff Blake/US PresswireA spectacular March put Bradley Beal in the conversation for the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft.
Florida's Bradley Beal (Myron Medcalf)

A former college standout once told me that regular-season performances proved little. “When the lights come on” in March and April, however, the true talents emerge, he said.

I respect that mantra. Former Florida Gator Bradley Beal lived it. The freshman earned instant street cred as a key piece in UF's run to the Elite Eight.

Beal looked like a top-10 prospect in the first three months of his first and only season of Division I basketball. And then March happened.

During an SEC tournament loss to Kentucky, Beal scored 20 points. He also finished with eight rebounds and five assists. He connected on 4 of 7 from beyond the arc.

But he didn’t stop there. Beal averaged 15.8 points per game and connected on 42 percent of his 3-point attempts during the NCAA tournament. A youngster who’d entered the Big Dance as a possible lottery pick had thrust himself into the “What if he’s the second-best player in this draft?” conversation.

Thomas Robinson might make more sense for the Bobcats at No. 2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a near-perfect build for an NBA small forward. Hard to argue against either of those guys.

But Beal deserves that slot based on his versatility and potential. He’s a 6-foot-4 guard who can play point and wing. He has range (34 percent from 3-point range). He’s athletic. And he commits to the little things, such as rebounding and defense.

In recent weeks, Beal has been compared to Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade and Eric Gordon. He’s a tough guard who can extend defenses with the 3-ball or crash the lane as a penetrator. He's definitely worth the gamble at No. 2.

[+] EnlargeThomas Robinson
Bob Donnan/US PresswireThomas Robinson has the potential to be an All-Star power forward in the NBA.
Kansas' Thomas Robinson (Eamonn Brennan)

The NBA draft is often about extremes, about choices between two disparate sets of needs. Do you draft for production or potential? Do you want a player with a limitless ceiling, or one who will deliver immediate results? Put more topically, do you want Andre Drummond or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist?

Perhaps no player in the 2012 NBA draft (other than Anthony Davis, of course) bridges these divides quite like Kansas forward Thomas Robinson. His projected competitors in the top five, players like MKG and Drummond and Brad Beal, will, regardless of position, force GMs to make some sort of underlying choice.

With Kidd-Gilchrist, you know what you're going to get. With Drummond and even Beal, you are assuming the player's potential will vastly eclipse his production as a freshman. (Beal seems like the much sounder bet here, but it is nonetheless a bet.) That might be right. It might not. Robinson presents the best of both worlds: Already a very good player -- the consensus runner-up for 2012 national player of the year -- T-Rob still has tons of room to improve.

Robinson's past two seasons (a sophomore campaign backing up the Morris twins and a breakout junior year) offer evidence of both. In 2012, the Kansas forward posted a rebounding rate of 30.5 percent, the highest mark in the nation in a skill that typically translates well to the NBA. Robinson's offensive rebounding rate fell to 11.5 percent last season from 18.8 percent in 2011, but that had as much to do with his new role as KU's go-to scorer as anything else.

Bottom line: At the very least, Robinson will do what every NBA power forward must do: He will rebound. He has the athleticism and tangible production to back that prediction. Worst case, if he ends up becoming a more-skilled Kenneth Faried, well, which NBA coach wouldn't sign up for that?

But Robinson's evolution from a rebound machine/energy backup to go-to guy is still a work in progress, one that should make most NBA scouts salivate. T-Rob is still building his offensive skills away from the rim, still finding a midrange-to-18-foot jumper, still working on post moves over both shoulders, still refining many of the offensive and defensive fundamentals that separate the best post players from the merely mediocre.

Robinson is not a finished product by any means. If this finishing process goes well, he could be an All-Star power forward one day. Even if you're being conservative, maybe he becomes a more athletic, above-the-rim version of Utah Jazz-era Carlos Boozer. Again: We're dealing with a high ceiling here.

There are players with more potential, and there are players who offer a stronger predictive picture without the ceiling to match. But other than Davis, I'm not sure there is a top-five-level player with equal measures of both. Less risk, more potential. If I'm an NBA GM and I can't take Davis, that calculation sounds pretty good to me.
Every year, when we wave farewell to NBA-bound players and begin to analyze the coming season's rosters, we cast our flailing glares at recruiting class rankings. You can't really blame us: Every year, there are at least a handful of truly elite freshmen, players who change their teams' seasons and their programs' trajectories in real and often lasting ways. There were few better examples of this than 2012, when John Calipari's loaded freshmen-led team put together one of the most dominant seasons in the history of the modern game.

[+] EnlargeKidd-Gilchrist/Davis
Mark Zerof/US PrresswireMichael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis certainly lived up to their hype last season as star freshmen.
But there is a big, big difference between that handful of elite freshmen and the rest of the top-100 recruiting rankings. Despite the attention we pay to the number of top-100 prospects in each recruiting class, and the high hopes every fan base has for every player with little "100" icons next to his likeness on recruiting sites, it seems we are at least slightly overrating -- and sometimes drastically -- overrating the latter.

Drew Cannon, Basketball Prospectus' resident data-driven recruiting expert, proved as much Monday, when he released his look back at the performances of his list of top 100 recruits in the class of 2011. The list isn't shocking, I suppose, but by the time you finish it, you walk away with a deeper appreciation for just how few players in the 2011 class truly made major, immediate impacts.

The vast majority of last year's freshmen -- all but the 22 players listed under "Effective Starters" and the five listed under "Elite" -- either barely cracked their team's rotation (and had varying success doing so) or languished on the bench for much of the season. As Cannon writes:
It's interesting to think about this list like so: A player ranked, say, No. 46 in high school, should perform at about the level of No. 46 on this list. (It actually works pretty well.) I think you'd find that, except for the fact that few people expect Nerlens Noel to be Anthony Davis, there are unreasonably high expectations for every single member of the Class of 2012 top 100. Fine, only please don't do that with No. 1. That just wouldn't be fair.

The No. 46 player in Cannon's list in the class of 2011 was LSU's Johnny O'Bryant, who had a nice season but ranked just No. 45 in Cannon's final appraisal. In 2012, the No. 46-ranked player in the ESPNU top 100 is Villanova commit Ryan Arcidiacono, the No. 6-ranked point guard in the class. The way Arcidiacono's strengths are discussed by scouts ("ultra skilled and super competitive with an exemplary feel for the game and unwavering confidence," "incredible passer who sees absolutely everything," "master of misdirection") might make you think he's a lock for Big East Freshman of the Year. More likely, he will have a season in the range of his ranking; more likely, he'll be a nice player in relatively marginal minutes as a freshman, with a bright future awaiting him in subsequent seasons.

There is always room for pleasant surprises in recruiting, just as there is always room for major disappointment. (Maybe Arcidiacono will be an immediate star, and I will have to learn how to spell his name without copy-paste by mid-December. It could happen!) But odds are, if your recruiting class doesn't contain one of the best 10 or (maybe) 20 players in the country, your team is focused not on the sexy one-year turnaround but rather on the far less sexy, but no less important, long-term improvement.

In short: College basketball is hard. Because a handful of elite freshmen have made it look so easy for so long, we -- and yes, I'm including myself here -- tend to forget that. But just because the game is easy for Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist doesn't mean it will be easy for players ranked well below them on the annual recruiting lists. Last season, as ever, was proof enough of that.

Video: Anthony Davis talks with Andy Katz

May, 30, 2012
5/30/12
9:44
PM ET

Anthony Davis shows off his national championship ring and talks about the Hornets winning the lottery.

Video: Andy Katz with Anthony Davis

May, 30, 2012
5/30/12
11:00
AM ET

On the eve of finding out his likely destination on lottery night, former Kentucky center Anthony Davis chatted with Andy Katz after a workout in Lexington.

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