College Basketball Nation: Evan Turner

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

1. Michael Redd (2000)
2. Mike Conley (2007)
3. Jim Jackson (1992)
4. Evan Turner (2010)
5. Jared Sullinger (2012)

Sixth man: Daequan Cook (2007)

The rest: Jon Diebler, Byron Mullens, Kosta Koufos, Greg Oden, Ken Johnson, Scoonie Penn, Lawrence Funderburke

Why they're ranked where they are: Because this is a solid, albeit not particularly inspiring, list of former NBA draftees? Let's start with that.

If you're young enough to have just started watching professional basketball in the past few years, and have only seen an aging, slightly paunchy Redd chucking 3s for the Phoenix Suns, you might not be aware of just how good of a pro he was for almost all of the aughts. Or maybe you just aren't aware the Milwaukee Bucks exist. (Sorry, Myron.) But they do, and Redd is easily their best player of the past decade-plus. From 2003-04 to 2008-09, he averaged 21.7, 23.0, 25.4, 26.7, 22.7, and 21.2 points per game, respectively; he was one of the purest perimeter scorers in the NBA, an NBA All-Star in 2004 and a member of the U.S. Men's Olympic "Redeem Team" in 2008. Basketball-Reference's Elo Fan Ratings list Redd as the No. 207th-ranked player of all time, ahead of Allan Houston and behind Steve Francis. That sounds about right, and it's not too shabby for a guy drafted 43rd in 2000. Redd was a good pro.

[+] EnlargeMichael Redd
Jonathan Daniel/AllsportMichael Redd filled it up during his three seasons at Ohio State, then averaged 19.6 points in a 12-year NBA career.
Conley currently is a good pro -- an intelligent do-everything-well point guard lynchpin for a very good Memphis Grizzlies team, which was just eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals this week. Conley struggled early in the NBA but has improved dramatically since, making the much-derided $45 million contract extension he signed in 2010 look more like a steal than a boondoggle.

Meanwhile, don't sleep on Jackson, either. The former Buckeyes guard played for 12 mostly bad teams in his 14-year career, so it's easy to forget how productive he was. But a 14-year career is impressive in and of itself, even before you see Jackson's 14.3 points/4.7 rebounds/3.2 assists per-game splits.

Those three guys are good enough to get Ohio State on this list and good enough to bump the Buckeyes above No. 20 Syracuse. But the rest of the list -- with the possible exception of Turner, who is clearly talented but reportedly not the easiest person to play with -- makes it hard to go beyond that.

Why they could be ranked higher: Conley, Redd and Jackson are really a solid group of pros whose careers all began at disparate times; that speaks to at least some consistency with the production of NBA talent even before Thad Matta made the Buckeyes a national title contention stalwart. Redd's heights were high; his averages of 25.4 and 26.7 points in consecutive seasons is no joke, nor is membership on a hyper-talented national team that won a symbolically redemptive gold medal in Beijing. Conley might still be underrated in general; many of the things he gives the Grizzlies (control, smarts, great perimeter defense) don't show up in box scores. Jackson, as we've already laid out, is definitely underrated as a pro.

Really, the thought that OSU could potentially go higher comes down to exactly that: potential. Turner could yet morph into a very good NBA player. Sullinger is just getting started but proved he can rebound in the league as a rookie. Mullens averaged double figures in Charlotte this season. Even Oden, whose NBA career has been such a massive disappointment, is still just 25 years old. If he can get to a team on which he can get healthy this summer (and ifs don't get bigger than this, I realize), there's no reason he couldn't change course on what has thus far been a tragic career arc.

Also, if you're the type of person to award extra points for awesome names, Lawrence Funderburke is a big-time asset.

Why they could be ranked lower: Because, with the exception of Conley, almost all of the players on this list have produced what they've produced on bad teams. Sure, Mullens made a nice little jump this season, but he was playing for the worst franchise in the sport. Oden is less a basketball player than a cautionary tale about the fallibility of irregular human biology. Sullinger has a ton to prove. Turner is trending upward, but he still shot 41.9 percent in his first featured season in Philadelphia.

Cook played a solid bench sharpshooter role for the Oklahoma City Thunder in their emergence in recent years (though he was weirdly buried by mad basketball genius Tom Thibodeau for the Chicago Bulls this season), and he gets some credit for maximizing that all-important one NBA skill. But when Cook is your sixth man, you're not going to be near the top of this list.

What’s ahead? We've already discussed the varying futures on the table for Turner, Sullinger, Mullens, as well as the unlikely-but-still-possible resurrection of Oden, so let's focus on the prospects. Deshaun Thomas is Ohio State's one draft entrant this season, and he isn't particularly highly regarded by NBA scouts. Thomas is seen as a tweener who isn't athletic enough or a good enough shooter to play guard and not big enough to score over taller defenders in the post. I'm more bullish; when you're a born scorer like DT, you find a way to get those buckets.

Looking ahead, the clearest NBA prospect on the Buckeyes' 2013-14 roster is LaQuinton Ross, an immensely gifted 6-foot-8 wing with an NBA body, who can handle and hit 3s, among other skills. Ross blossomed in the NCAA tournament in March, and he'll be expected to take on a larger scoring load next season. Whether he maximizes it is yet to be seen. Likewise, Sam Thompson doesn't get much NBA love, but he's a great defender with good size, and that should hold up if he gets a shot at the league.

Final thoughts: Ohio State always has been, and probably always will be, a football school. Matta has changed that reputation more than any other coach in OSU history; he's spent the better part of the past decade recruiting top talent and fashioning it into tough, defensive-minded teams that challenge for national titles. Redd and Jackson prove that NBA talent at OSU isn't limited to the Matta era.

If Matta keeps moving at his current pace, Ohio State could climb much higher in this list in a decade's time. Right now? It's worthy of inclusion … but only just.

Spartans meet Hoosiers in contrast of styles

February, 28, 2012
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The Big Ten title is on the line as No. 5 Michigan State travels to No. 20 Indiana (7 p.m. ET on ESPN). With a win, the Spartans would claim sole possession of the regular-season title for the first time since the 2008-09 team that eventually lost in the championship game.

It’s also a big game for the Hoosiers, who are looking to become the fourth team in the past 10 years to defeat three AP top-5 teams in the same season. Indiana is 16-1 at home this season, including wins against top-ranked Kentucky and No. 2 Ohio State.

Contrast in styles

The game should be a classic matchup between Indiana’s offense and Michigan State’s defense. In Big Ten play this season, the Hoosiers lead the league in points per possession and points per game. On the defensive side, the Spartans lead both of those categories in addition to allowing the lowest field goal percentage.

When the teams met on Dec. 28, the Spartans became the first team this season to hold the Hoosiers under a point per possession. Indiana is 0-5 this season when it has been held below a point per possession.

Green powers Spartans from post

Michigan State’s calling card under Tom Izzo has been its physical play, especially on the offensive glass. Last season’s team strayed from this tradition, barely finishing in the top 100 in the nation in offensive rebounding percent and missing the Final Four for the first time since 2008. This season, the Spartans lead the Big Ten in offensive rebound percentage (39 percent), second-chance points per game (13) and paint points per game (34).

Senior forward Draymond Green leads the Michigan State attack. He is one of five players from power six conferences averaging at least 15 points and 10 rebounds per game this season.

Green is also one of the best big men in the country distributing the ball. He has five games this season with at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. The only players in the previous 15 years who can claim at least four such games are Evan Turner (six in 2009-10), Tim Duncan (five in 1996-97) and Carmelo Anthony (four in 2002-03).

Zeller leads Hoosier turnaround

After three straight 20-loss seasons, Indiana has performed one of the biggest turnarounds in the nation this year. The Hoosiers 10-win increase over last season is the most among power six conference teams and one of seven double-digit improvements in the nation. With one more win, Indiana will match the largest win increase in school history, an 11-game improvement from 18-11 in 1989-90 to 29-5 in 1990-91.

He might be overshadowed by National Player of the Year candidate Anthony Davis, but Cody Zeller is having a great freshman campaign. He leads the Big Ten and is fourth in the nation in field goal percentage and ranks in the top 15 among power six conference freshmen in points and rebounds per game. His current field goal percentage ranks fifth among freshmen since 2000.

Jeremy Lundblad, Toby Petitpas and David Kiarsis contributed to this post
If anyone knows how to work with Evan Turner, it's Thad Matta. It took a couple of years for Evan Turner to figure things out. His first year at Ohio State wasn't bad, but it was marred by the occasional rumbling that Turner wasn't exactly the easiest player to coach. Then, as a sophomore and junior, under Matta's tutelage (and brilliant decision to make Turner, a 6-foot-7 wing, his point guard last season) The Villian became, well, The Villian.

[+] EnlargeEvan Turner
Robin Alam/Icon SMIThad Matta helped Evan Turner's career at Ohio State.
The beginning of his rookie season was marred by similar issues as his freshman year at OSU. Reports surfaced that Turner wasn't getting along with his coaching staff and teammates. Things appear to be looking up -- Turner played very well in his first start on Sunday -- and, interestingly enough, Matta's ongoing experience with Turner might be part of the reason why. From PhillyBurbs.com:
Collins, the Sixers' coach, said he told the Ohio State coach how proud Matta must be of the way former Buckeye Evan Turner played in Turner's first NBA start. [...] Matta texted back to "just keep showing him the 'how' and the 'why' because the kid wants to win," according to Collins. [...]

"I'm kind of always trying to understand why we're doing what we're trying to do and why things occur," Turner said.

You can see where that desire to know "why" might get Turner in trouble with coaches. Coaches don't expect players to ask for underlying reasons for every command. They expect their players to do what they say. (If your mom tells you to clean your room, you do it, even if you disagree with the practice in theory.) But Turner's time at Ohio State proves he's been here before and, given the pressures of the NBA, you could argue that Turner's rookie season is already going better than his freshman year. If Sixers fans suddenly see a potential rookie of the year candidate at the small forward spot, they might just have Matta to thank.

Hoopsbag: Answering our mail

October, 27, 2010
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Each Wednesday, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) will respond to your questions, comments and nonsensical rants in this space. To submit, visit this page by clicking the link under my name in the upper right-hand corner of the page. You can also e-mail me or send me your entries via Twitter. Let's begin with a video response to a couple of similar questions about Colorado and Louisville:

Matt from New Jersey writes: Where is Seton Hall? It returns the best scorer in the conference, the best rebounder in the conference, two great perimeter guards that can defend, an Ole Miss transfer (6-foot-6 forward Eniel Polynice) and has Jeff Robinson for a whole season. The best part is that they finally have a sane, calm coach with a good demeanor who will preach the two most important elements: defense and rebounding.

Eamonn Brennan: Matt, I assume you're asking about Seton Hall's lack of presence in various preseason discussions of the Big East, and not actually trying to find Seton Hall geographically. But just in case, here you go.

Also, I hope you are not insinuating that former Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez was insane. What would make you think that?

Google Maps-related jokes aside, your question, vague though it may be, is valid. But there are a few reasons why Seton Hall probably isn't on most preseason prognosticators' minds, and I think they're valid too. The first is uncertainty. Kevin Willard takes over as a first-year coach in the Big East, and that's not an easy job for anyone, even a guy like Willard, who is familiar with the territory. Forward Herb Pope is key to Seton Hall's chances, and no one was really sure whether or not he was going to be able to play in 2010-11 -- or, for that matter, ever again. (Pope collapsed during a workout last spring but appears to be able to play this season.) The third is talent: Even with Pope, leading scorer Jeremy Hazell, and forward Jeff Robinson for much of last season, Gonzalez's team struggled to get to 9-9 in the Big East. Returning talent is nice, and adding Polynice gives the Pirates some depth, but is this team really that much better than last year's? And if not, do they really deserve the preseason love?

Don't get me wrong: Seton Hall could definitely surprise some people this season. Willard is inheriting a solid nucleus. If Pope is productive, an NCAA tournament bid is well within reach. But you can't blame preseason scribes from warily avoiding Seton Hall until the Pirates prove a few things on the court. That's only fair.


Tom D. from Austin, Tex., writes: I saw that Duke hung 141 points on last year's CIAA champs in an exhibition game with no player getting more than 22 minutes. Does this mean anything at all?

Brennan: Let's see: The reigning NCAA national champs and 2010-11 preseason No. 1 beat a CIAA team (St. Augustine's) that lost six players? And they did so by a considerable margin?

Uh, yeah. This means nothing at all. It might actually mean less than nothing. If there was an "absolute nothing," this would be it. (Like absolute zero? See what I did there? Har? OK, moving on...)


Stephen from Evansville, Ind., writes: Everyone always seems to get caught up on how many teams a conference gets into the NCAA tournament as a measure for the quality of the conference. What should the Missouri Valley expect as far as NCAA tournament teams and success year-in and year-out?

Brennan: In terms of resources and conference affiliation, it's a little unrealistic to expect the Missouri Valley to recreate its brilliant 2006 run, when the MVC got four NCAA tournament bids and saw two teams streak to Sweet 16 appearances. Like many other mid-majors, it's hard for teams in the MVC to put together strong overall résumés, because it's so hard to convince the big boys to play them. It ain't fair, but that's just life in the sub-high-major world.

I think the Valley would be pretty excited if it could consistently place three teams in the NCAA tournament every year. That means at least two or three programs are building the sort of long-term success that doesn't require a one-year flash in the MVC tourney to get in to the Big Dance. That could be the case this year, as both Wichita State and Creighton (and maybe even Northern Iowa) look like potential NCAA tournament teams. But it's a lot to expect from a conference like the Missouri Valley on a year-to-year basis.


Tim Watts from Philadelphia, writes: Will Ohio State still be a contending team without superstar Evan Turner? And do they have a chance of winning the Big Ten over Michigan State?

Brennan: Yes and yes. Turner was a special player, but Ohio State has a coterie of experienced guards who can share Turner's ballhandling and scoring roles (William Buford, David Lighty, Jon Diebler), and could end up being much deeper and more balanced than last season's team. That's because forward Jared Sullinger could be a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate in the post, and OSU's other highly touted recruits should be able to contribute right away. Sullinger remains unproven, so you have to give Michigan State the nod, but if he pans out, the Buckeyes might be even better than last season. Hard to imagine after the year Turner had, but imagine it anyway.

(As an aside, I hope I'm not the only college hoops fan who is thoroughly disappointed with how Turner's NBA career -- thus far marred by supposed attitude problems and lack of productivity -- has begun. Philly coach Doug Collins even benched Turner for Wednesday night's season opener, instead opting for ... Jason Kapono. What a bummer.)


Tony Waffen from Wasilla, Alaska, writes: What is your evaluation of the Saint Mary's Gaels this year? And what happened to Omar Samhan?

Brennan: Greetings from Wasilla? I promise not to make any Sarah Palin jokes. I think I can hold off.

I also think St. Mary's is clearly a notch or two below Gonzaga this season, if only because coach Randy Bennett doesn't have a clear replacement for the inside-out forward combo of Samhan and Ben Allen. But Mickey McConnell and Matthew Dellavedova are as good a guard combo as the WCC will have -- McConnell shot 51 percent from 3 last season, which is just silly -- and with a few contributions from guys like Clint Steindl and Jorden Page, I think Saint Mary's is still a factor at the top of their conference.

As for Omar? After an encouraging stint with the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA summer league, Samhan signed a contract with Zalgiris Kaunus, a club in Lithuania. There's a decent chance Samhan gets a few more NBA looks -- he definitely made an impression on a handful of GMs this summer -- but for now, he's getting paid to play hoops in Eastern Europe. There are worse fates. (And let's hope Omar has been brushing up on his Lithuanian, so he can be the funniest basketball player on two continents, and not just one.)


Derek Rainbolt from Bloomington, Ind., writes: With Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia leading the way for the SEC, why does it seem the league is not getting national buzz?

Brennan: And let's not forget Mississippi State and Vanderbilt, both of whom are likely NCAA tournament teams. This is a good conference.

That said, I'm not sure I agree with your premise. "National buzz" is sort of hard to gauge in the first place, but from where I'm sitting (and I might not be the best judge, since I basically spend every day holed away in front of my computer reading and writing about college basketball), I'm not sure the SEC has received any less of this mythical buzz than conferences like the ACC or the Big East, both of which have their strong teams, but both of which are less deep than we're used to. In any case, if the SEC isn't getting the requisite amount of love, that will change as soon as its top five or six teams start proving themselves this winter. Until then, I wouldn't worry about it too much.


Eric from Bethlehem, Pa., writes: Would you consider C.J. McCollum of Lehigh one of the top players in the mid-major ranks? He dominated the Patriot League and played well against Kansas in the NCAA tournament last season.

Brennan: Why yes, yes I would. McCollum won player of the year and rookie of the year awards as a freshman at Lehigh last season. That's big-time stuff no matter the conference, and his performance in the first round of the NCAA tournament -- 26 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block -- was very impressive. Maybe the most exciting thing about McCollum (assuming he doesn't decide to transfer at some point, in which case, sorry, Lehigh fans) is that he was only a freshman. He's already one of the better mid-major players in the country, and his ceiling remains very high.


Armand from Springfield, Mo., writes: How much more does Mike Anderson need to do to get some respect? Look at the last two seasons: Big 12 champs in 2008 with an Elite Eight finish. Second round in 2009, with inferior talent compared to K-State, Kansas, Texas and Baylor. Despite a proven system, every fall experts predict Missouri to finish behind all these teams. Well, now we have the best junior college transfer in the country as well as a five-star recruit in Tony Mitchell (eligible in the spring sem., right when conference play begins). Mizzou will be a force to be reckoned with and Big 12 coaches realize this, but the media never seems to. #TheFastest40Minutes

Brennan: First of all, hashtag in a mailbag question gets an immediate thumbs up. You should shorten that and use it to live-tweet Missouri games. After all, like Forrest Gump said, you never know what you're going to trend.

Second, Mizzou fans are awesome. I'm not being sarcastic. Every week the mailbag has at least two or three Missouri-related questions or comments. Columbia is excited about their program.

Then again, why shouldn't they be? I have a couple of soft spots when it comes to Missouri basketball. I love uptempo play, I love a properly run full-court press, and I love a coach who is willing to buck the conventional X's-and-O's wisdom to run a chaotic, onions-to-the-wall style because he believes in it. Mike Anderson has done all three at Missouri, and there's no question it's paid off.

Last Thursday at Big 12 media day, Anderson made a comment to a reporter about his team's propensity to be ranked in the lower half of the league before the season, only to finish among the conference's leaders. I asked him if he thought his system explained the gap. He downplayed it, telling me he thought his players didn't get enough credit, that he had had some underrated talent in his tenure, and that his staff worked hard to develop his guys as the season went along.

It was a nice answer, but it's barely half-right; his system deserves a lot of the credit. Missouri puts opponents on their heels for a full 40 minutes. They shoot from anywhere on the court, they force you to rebound on every possession, they make you move the ball 80 feet to get into your offense, and they don't let up once you do. It's brilliant to watch, and I think it's better proof that undermatched teams can change the conditions of the game than anything Malcolm Gladwell cited last year.

The scary part is what happens when Missouri has the same kind of talent as Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas. Assuming Mitchell is able to get eligible for the spring semester, the Tigers will be a fearsome bunch. And, as always, incredibly fun to watch.
For the next month or so, our friends at The Mag are previewing one high-profile school per day for their Summer Buzz series. For the sake of all that is synergistic, yours truly will be attempting the same, complementing each comprehensive Insider preview with some adjusted efficiency fun. Today's subject: Ohio State Insider . Up next? Illinois.

It's still too early to make 2010-11 season predictions. Instead, allow me to make a prediction about the 2010-11 preview season: In every single season preview written about the Ohio State Buckeyes, you are going to hear one name over and over: Evan Turner.

[+] EnlargeEvan Turner
Robin Alam/Icon SMIThad Matta helped Evan Turner's career at Ohio State.
Why wouldn't you? Turner was the Buckeyes in 2010-11. Watching Ohio State play was to watch Turner dominate in the way most talented sixth-graders dominate: consistently and comprehensively. Turner was on the ball at all times. He played point guard, even though he's a 6-foot-7 wing player, mostly because it seemed like the easiest way to get him the ball. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta coached Turner and the Buckeyes the exact way you or I would coach the aforementioned talented sixth-grader: "OK, guys, let's keep it simple. Evan, go score. On three, win!"

And why not? It worked. Turner was the consensus national player of the year, Ohio State won a share of the Big Ten title, and the Buckeyes were a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament before falling short in the Sweet Sixteen.

So, naturally, the impulse when previewing the Buckeyes is to wonder: What happens now? Who scores all those points? (Turner scored 20.4 points per game.) Who handles the ball? (Turner had the third highest possession percentage in the NCAA.) Who rebounds so well from the guard position? (Turner grabbed 9.2 rebounds per game; his defensive rebounding rate ranked him No. 65 in the country.) Who finds sharpshooting teammates for wide-open looks? (Turner's assist rate of 37.4 was the eighth-highest in the country.)

Who replaces Evan Turner?

The answer, of course, is nobody. But if the Buckeyes can recalibrate their lineup well enough -- and get big contributions from much-hyped incoming forward Jared Sullinger -- that answer could very well be: everybody.

After seeing Sullinger play at the Nike Skills Camp earlier this summer, I wrote that it was easy to see the Buckeyes completely changing their style in 2010-11. That means a menagerie of players have to chip away at what Turner did all by his lonesome.

The point guard spot is still up for grabs, and Matta is hesitant to turn over the reins to freshman recruit Aaron Craft. So why not slide guard William Buford and Jon Diebler into combo-guard roles and have both split some semblance of point responsibilities in the wake of Turner's absence? This could work: Buford turned the ball over on only 13 percent of his possessions in 2009-10, while Diebler, who gave it away at a rate of 11.3 percent, was even better. The addition of Deshaun Thomas, the No. 3 small forward in the class of 2010, means Buford and Diebler can afford to play even further from the basket.

Likewise, with Sullinger and Thomas entering the fold -- joining veteran big man Dallas Lauderdale under the hoop -- the Buckeyes shouldn't need a do-everything guard to clean up on the defensive glass. Their bigs should be able to handle that responsibility in more conventional fashion: block-out, rebound, outlet, run.

Offensively, Ohio State should be more balanced. Post looks for Sullinger and Lauderdale should lead to open shots for Buford, Diebler and senior guard David Lighty. No one player needs to dominate the ball, and no one player needs to take a majority of shots. The Buckeyes' look and feel should be totally different -- less guard-heavy, less reliant on a handful of similar talents, more plodding, bigger, stronger, deeper.

It will be very, very difficult to replace the impact Evan Turner had on the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2009-10. It would be impossible to do so with one player. But if the Buckeyes can mix the unconventional (the Buford-Diebler hybrid point guard setup) with the conventional (a greater focus on interior play, and better rebounding in the post) they might find a way to replace Turner's 34.7 percent possession rate by committee. In fact, it's the only way.
The ESPYS had its share of highlights last night. Seth Meyers was casually great. The story and presentation of the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage to the survivors of slain high school football coach Ed Thomas made my living room suddenly dusty. Brooklyn Decker was ... present.

And yes, college hoops got its fair share of dap in the awards category. Duke was named best men's college athletics program, which might have had something to do with the Blue Devils winning their fourth NCAA title under coach Mike Krzyzewski. John Wall won the award for best male college athlete, which is kind of hard to defend: What about Evan Turner? What about Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram? Wall was good, but he wasn't even the best college hoops player in 2009-10, so how could he have been the best male college athlete? I demand answers to my ESPY-related queries!

There was no questioning the winner of the Best Upset category, though: That award rightfully went to the Northern Iowa Panthers for their second-round win over No. 1-ranked Kansas this March. As Diamond wrote yesterday, it would have been a major upset if the Panthers didn't win.

College basketball's ESPY nominations

June, 24, 2010
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Kentucky's John Wall, who is expected to be the first overall pick in today's NBA draft, headlines college basketball's ESPY nominations with two of them. Wall will go up against Ohio State's Evan Turner among others in the category for Best Male College Athlete and is also nominated for Best Breakthrough Athlete.

Here's a rundown of the rest of the college basketball nominees...

Best Championship Performance:

Anthony Johnson's 34-point second-half outburst for Montana in the Big Sky conference championship game against Weber State

Prediction: If big names and big stages have the advantage, it's going to be hard to beat Drew Brees in the Super Bowl.

Best Upset:

Northern Iowa shocks top-ranked Kansas in the second round of the NCAA tournament

Prediction: Y.E. Yang beating Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship was also a stunner, but Ali Farokhmanesh and Co. should walk off with the hardware.


Best Game:

Duke gets past Butler in the NCAA championship game

Prediction: Twins over the Tigers in a tiebreaker game? Canada over the USA in overtime for the gold medal? Unlike Gordon Hayward's shot, this one isn't close.

Best Coach/Manager:

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski

Prediction: Phil Jackson seems to be the current sentiment, but Geno Auriemma could be a dark horse.

Our boys are all grown up

June, 24, 2010
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It's been almost a full calendar year since we turned our focus to the 2009-10 hoops season. We met the recruits. We greeted the veterans. We saw them play through five months of college basketball, from Midnight to March Madness. We laughed. We cried. We learned. We loved.

And now, many of those players are heading to the NBA, leaving college basketball behind. Despite my relatively unadvanced age (I'm just a couple years older than some of the draft picks) sometimes this process feels like being a high school teacher forced to say goodbye to a graduating class. You come to "meet" (and in some cases actually meet) a group of young people. You spend a year with them. You watch them struggle and flourish. And then you send them off to bigger and better things, waving in the rearview mirror as they go.

That is the NBA draft.

We'll check in now and then. We'll make sure our old students are doing well. We'll lament the burnouts. We'll thrill at the ones who really make something of themselves. We'll say we saw their potential even when we didn't. It's true: We college basketball fans are like a big, passive, amoebic high school faculty, and today the kids are all grown up.

All of which is a really long, silly way of me telling you that no high school graduation is complete without at least two or three intensely embarrassing senior photos. (True story: A kid in my high school graduating class did his senior photo with his shirt off -- it may have been tied around his waist; I can't remember -- and a football in hand. He insisted it was the photographer's idea. Amazing.)

We have those senior photos today thanks to Ball Don't Lie's Trey Kerby, who compiled the best of the 2010 NBA draft portraits into an easily digestible bit of second-hand embarrassment. With the exception of Wes Johnson and Cole Aldrich, pretty much everyone looks ridiculous. DeMarcus Cousins forget to button his sleeves. John Wall is wearing one of those silly LeBron-style custom-made cardigans. And Evan Turner looks like your boss on laundry day.

It's thoroughly awesome, and it makes me just a little bit sentimental. Farewell, boys. May you all be able to afford personal stylists soon. And don't forget to call!

Evan Turner wouldn't mind being No. 1 pick

May, 20, 2010
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Evan Turner has been the presumed No. 2 overall pick in this year's NBA draft camp, but the former Ohio State star sure didn't mind stating his case to be the top pick to the Washington Wizards.

Bulls.com has audio of what Turner said today at the NBA draft camp in Chicago.

"Not to be arrogant or cocky, but I won every national player of the year award," Turner said.

Asked to explain what makes him the No. pick, Turner offered this:

"My versatility. John Wall's a great player, and he’s a great kid. I love John Wall. I just think my versatility. I just think if Gilbert Arenas is still there, I would probably fit in a little bit better than him. But you never know. I think I've done a lot this year to be the No. 1 pick."

Meanwhile, Wall told Andy Katz on the ESPNU broadcast at the camp that he wasn't sure he was the top pick, either.

"I think it's a 50-50 chance," Wall said.

Ohio State's next Evan Turner?

April, 30, 2010
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AZUSA, Calif. -- Lenzelle Smith, Jr., a guard set to start his freshman season at Ohio State, said he's heard it more times than he can count that he's the next Evan Turner.

Smith, Jr.
Smith, Jr.
"Every time I hear it, it's great," Smith said after practice for Saturday's High School Academic All-American Classic. "Those are big shoes to fill.

"I don't think it's totally far-fetched."

Replacing a national player of the year won't be easy, of course, but Smith said he shares similarities with Turner and appears comfortable making the comparison with his former AAU teammate.

With Turner leaving school after his junior season as a projected top NBA draft pick, Smith is expected to get a shot to play point guard. At 6-foot-4, he has good size for a player who can distribute the basketball.

Smith is leaving high school with a 4.1 grade-point average. He and Turner briefly played together with the Illinois Stars when Smith was in the eighth grade.

"He calls me his little brother," Smith said.

Jimmer Fredette tiptoeing into NBA draft waters

April, 15, 2010
4/15/10
3:59
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It's nothing we haven't heard before and won't likely be officially announced until next week, but BYU star Jimmer Fredette is expected to follow through with declaring for the NBA draft without hiring an agent.

You rarely hear it like this, but the junior guard who led the Cougars to an NCAA tournament win and the Mountain West Conference in scoring with 22.1 points per game is maintaining he'll go into the draft with the intention of returning for his senior season.
"My expectation is to go into this thing expecting to come back [to school]," Fredette told The Post-Star. "That's what I'm expecting to do -- never know what can happen. If you have an opportunity and that presents itself, you may never get it again, might have to take it. The mindset going in is solely coming back to school. Test the waters and see what it's like."

With a quote like that, you almost get a vision of John Wall and Evan Turner cannonballing into the water while Fredette is the guy in goggles clutching a pool toy.

Ah, but don't ever underestimate Fredette. Or leave him an opening.

Evan Turner wins Wooden Award

April, 10, 2010
4/10/10
12:17
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Ohio State's Evan Turner continued his sweep of national player of the year awards by taking home the Wooden Award on Friday night in Los Angeles.

Turner spent the previous evening hanging out with Jimmy Kimmel, and on the nationally televised show, Kimmel managed to flash some knowledge by calling the Buckeyes star as Evan "The Villain" Turner.

That's the nickname that walk-on teammate and blogger Mark Titus famously bestowed upon Turner, who broke into a huge smile while sitting in the audience alongside Wooden Award finalist Wes Johnson of Syracuse.

"I'm going to say a prayer for you guys that neither of you winds up on the Clippers," Kimmel joked.

Both players laughed at that one, but Johnson, who hasn't yet announced his intentions, actually might be headed to the Clippers according to at least one mock draft.

Podcast: Expansion, Turner and Wall

April, 2, 2010
4/02/10
1:45
PM ET
Andy Katz speaks with Freshman of the Year John Wall and Player of the Year Evan Turner. Plus, Katz shares his feelings on the possible expansion of the NCAA tournament.
Mark Titus is a tremendous jokester, easily the funniest college basketball player of the past few years. You don't build a following the size of Titus' with a blog about your end-of-the-bench exploits without a sense of humor, and Titus certainly has that. Which is a shame for Ohio State fans, actually. Because thanks to Titus' cruel April Fools' Day prank, plenty of them got completely punked.

Titus took to his Twitter feed yesterday to entice Buckeyes followers with an all-too-tantalizing notion: That runaway Associated Press player of the year Evan Turner was leaning toward staying at OSU for his senior year:

Impressed w/ OSU recruits in McD's game last night. With The Villain coming back, they should be preseason #1. I really might redshirt now.

Let me clarify. The Villain hasn't officially decided, but he's hinted to me by saying things like "We're gonna be loaded next year".

He's also hinted by saying "I'm going to stay for my senior year" and "I'm not going to NBA this year". Sorry I drew conclusions from this.

Oh, Titus. You trickster.

Of course, Turner isn't returning for his senior year. Or, if he does, it won't have anything to do with the fake comments Titus posted on his blog yesterday. Turner is the consensus No. 2 -- and possible No. 1 -- overall pick in the NBA draft next year. Returning for his senior season would not only put him at risk of injury, but would mean gambling his financial future on the NBA lockout in 2011. Evan Turner is not staying. Sorry, folks. April Fool's.

Oh, and in other April 1-related clarifications: Ed Davis is not transferring to a different school. Stupid April Fools. For one day of the year, it's almost like you can't trust everything you read on the Internet.
Yes, The Associated Press has released its 2009-10 All-American teams, and there are few surprises on the lists. But that doesn't mean everyone is going to agree.

Anyway, since it's easier to just chew on a list, here's the first, second and third All-America squads:

First team

Second team

Third team

It's worth noting that the All-American teams aren't lineup specific, even though that first-team starting five looks pretty well apportioned. Positions don't really matter, which is why the third team would probably beat the second team thanks to sheer size.

Anyway, those are three pretty good lists, if you ask me. Reynolds faded down the stretch and turned in an uncharacteristically quiet NCAA tournament performance, but he carried his team for much of the season, and I have no real problem with his inclusion. Others have already criticized DeMarcus Cousins' place on the first team thanks to Cousins' 23.5 minutes per game average, but so what? Cousins was so good that he didn't need to play more than that to change the face of every game he entered. He still averaged a double-double, and while it would have been nice to see what he could do with Wall's 35 minutes a game, Cousins was never that player. But he was still that good. (And assuming it was always Cousins' fault he wasn't on the floor more seems a little silly. Sure, Cousins had his share of foul issues, and there were plenty of times when he needed to put his temper back in the box. But Kentucky coach John Calipari also had Patrick Patterson and Daniel Orton on his front line, and you're not going to bench Patterson or ignore Orton no matter how good Cousins is. There are other, long-term considerations -- the NBA draft, how the program looks to recruits, etc. -- to be made there.)

Other than that, some might complain that Harangody was included on the third team. Harangody was injured for the most successful patch of Notre Dame's season after all, and he returned just in time to play a key role in his team's first-round tournament loss to Old Dominion. But at the risk of getting too sappy, Harangody deserved some recognition for his outstanding career, and if that means a slightly suspect inclusion on the third-string All-American team, so be it.

What about you, commenters? Any issues with your 2010 All-Americans?

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