Best and worst transfer decisions 

January, 19, 2015
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Kyle WiltjerCasey Sapio/USA TODAY SportsGonzaga forward -- and Kentucky transfer -- Kyle Wiltjer has been exceptional in 2014-15.
There were approximately 550 players who decided to transfer in 2013, 700 or so who decided to leave their Division I schools a year ago.

Some sat out a year based on transfer rules, others gained waivers from the NCAA to play immediately and other players took advantage of the fifth-year grad transfer rule and also didn’t have to sit and wait.

We take a look at a dozen guys who made the right call -- and 10 more who didn’t.

(To be clear: We are not including guys like Washington’s Robert Upshaw and Memphis’ Kedren Johnson, who didn’t have an option to leave their previous schools).


Transfers who made the right decision

1. Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga Bulldogs (from Kentucky)

He just didn’t fit as well at Kentucky. Part of the reason was

College hoops' 10 most hostile venues 

January, 15, 2015
Jan 15
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Allen FieldhouseJamie Squire/Getty ImagesAllen Fieldhouse (where KU is 8-0 this season) has been a house of horrors for Kansas opponents.
There are a variety of factors that make an arena hostile. First, you need passionate fans. You also need a quality product. Sure, the size of the building can help, though bigger does not always mean better. One arena on this list holds only 6,000 people. Another seats nearly 20,000. I talked to players and coaches and also drew from my own experience of going to venues to come up with the Top 10 most hostile college basketball environments:

1. Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse -- It’s a no-brainer for the list, and a no-brainer for the top spot. It holds more than 16,000 people, and about 25 percent of the seats are reserved for students. It gets loud, the fans are rabid, and the Jayhawks are almost always good.

“Their fans are so loud and there’s just so many of them. It’s like you are trapped, everywhere you look.” -- Iowa State’s Georges Niang


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John Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski, Tony BennettGetty ImagesJohn Calipari, Mike Krzyzewski and Tony Bennett are among the nation's elite coaches.
Kentucky needed three overtimes to get past Ole Miss at home and Texas A&M on the road. Duke just went down for the first time on the road against rival NC State. Virginia remains undefeated -- along with John Calipari’s Wildcats.

We reached out to 20 coaches and NBA guys to get their takes on who they would take out of Kentucky, Duke and Virginia if the game were played today on a neutral court.

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10 most overrated, underrated so far 

January, 5, 2015
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Tony BennettRandy Sartin/USA TODAY SportsVirginia coach Tony Bennett, who has his team ranked No. 3 in the nation, deserves more credit.
OK, it’s time to play the overrated-underrated game with the current season, and we didn’t just limit it to teams or players. We’ve also included a couple of coaches in the underrated category as well as one player’s ego. Overrated? We’ve got leagues, teams, coaches, players and even a recruiting class.

Underrated

1. Tony Bennett, Virginia Cavaliers

The 45-year-old is as low-key as it gets, the furthest thing from a self-promoter. Remember, this is a guy who took Washington State to a pair of NCAA tournament berths -- including a Sweet 16 appearance -- in his three seasons in Pullman. It took him a little while to get acclimated in Charlottesville, but he swept the ACC regular-season and tournament titles last season and has the unbeaten Cavs as the No. 3 team in the land right now.

2. Melo Trimble, Maryland Terrapins

Somehow, Maryland’s freshman point guard gets lost among the other elite frosh. Yet he’s probably just as important -- if not more so -- to his team’s success as any of them.

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Tyler Ulis AP Photo/Timothy D. EasleyKentucky guard Tyler Ulis has been praised by NBA personnel for his late-game playmaking skills.
I recall thinking (and tweeting) it about a year or so ago when Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison was struggling as a freshman point guard for John Calipari, and it was apparent that at least one of the highly touted set of twins might not be able to bolt college for the NBA after just one campaign.

I told the UK fans over and over: Just wait until Tyler Ulis arrives in Lexington. Big Blue Nation was going to love this kid. I’d seen him plenty the previous summer and he’d be exactly what they needed: A guy who controlled the tempo, set up his teammates, played with poise, got after people on the defensive end and didn’t appear concerned about the next level.

A year later, Andrew Harrison has improved, but he remains inconsistent in his decision-making and his shot selection on the offensive end. Last week in Chicago, Harrison was a key cog in the dismantling of UCLA. He found his teammates, made shots and looked the part of a high-level point guard. So, too, did Ulis. But then Harrison came back with a sub-par performance at Louisville, with Ulis clearly looking the part of the guy who should receive extensive playing time.

Harrison is a big, strong guard who gives UK some flexibility, but Ulis is small, quick and can get into the lane and kick it out for uncontested perimeter shots. He’s also a tenacious on-ball defender with his ability to apply pressure on the perimeter, especially knowing that rim protectors sit along the backline.

Calipari’s dilemma is simple.

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My All-Americans, entering league play 

December, 29, 2014
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Jahlil Okafor, Phillip NolanJim O'Connor/USA TODAY SportsBarring an injury, Jahlil Okafor figures to be in the conversation for many awards this season.
We've almost reached the start of a new calendar year, which means conference play is upon us. That also means it’s time to hand out my midseason awards (and yes, we know it's not exactly the halfway point of the season).

The race for national player of the year remains wide open heading into the new year, but it’s tough to imagine anyone toppling one big man for freshman of the year honors.

Below we give you the player of the year, coach of the year, freshman of the year and three All-American teams as the calendar flips to 2015. But much can (and will) change in league action.




National player of the year:

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Why Kentucky will not go undefeated 

December, 22, 2014
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Karl-Anthony Towns, Tony ParkerAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhKarl-Anthony Towns and Kentucky dominated UCLA last weekend in Chicago.
CHICAGO -- It was as dominating a 20-minute stretch as I’ve ever seen, and trust me when I say I’ve seen some one-sided contests (I covered AAU basketball for years). UCLA had yet to score nearly eight minutes into the game, and the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats were ahead 24-0.

The fat lady might as well have begun to sing, because it was over.

Kentucky’s resume now includes a pair of current top-10 teams in Kansas and Texas, another top-25 club in North Carolina and also a UCLA team that features an NBA lottery pick.

But the Cats aren’t running the table.

With all due to respect to my colleague Dan Dakich and the others who have pegged this team as one that won’t have a single blemish, I’m not buying it.

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Nation's top 20 breakout players 

December, 19, 2014
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Justin AndersonAmber Searls/USA TODAY SportsVirginia guard Justin Anderson has doubled his scoring average from last season.
Last season, Nik Staukas, Terran Petteway and Fred VanVleet had breakout seasons. Sure, people were aware of Stauskas, but few thought he’d become a college star. Petteway was anonymous when he transferred from Texas Tech to Nebraska, but he led the Cornhuskers to the NCAA tourney. VanVleet came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the best point guards in the nation.

Here are 20 guys who are following in the footsteps of the above and enjoying breakout seasons thus far:


Justin Anderson, 6-foot-6, F, Jr., Virginia Cavaliers

2014-15: 15.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 59 percent 3-point shooting, 27.3 MPG
Last season: 7.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 29 percent 3-point shooting, 21.5 MPG

Anderson started a handful of games last season for the Cavaliers and was a nice piece, but now he’s emerged as Tony Bennett’s best player. He’s doubled his scoring average and is shooting the lights out from beyond the arc.


Willie Cauley-Stein, 7-0, C, Jr., Kentucky Wildcats

2014-15: 10.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 24.5 MPG
Last season: 6.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 23.8 MPG

The numbers don’t tell the entire story of Cauley-Stein’s progress over the past year or so. He’s averaging 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in the three biggest games of the season against Kansas, Texas and North Carolina.

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Nation's top 5 midseason transfers 

December, 18, 2014
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Semi OjeleyeLance King/Getty ImagesFormer Duke forward Semi Ojeleye is being looked at by schools including Wisconsin and Kansas.
There were nearly 700 total transfers in college basketball last season, with about 60 or so coming on the midseason transfer list. In 2014-15, we’re already at 60-plus midseason transfers, and it’s not even Christmas.

I’m not quite sure any of the guys listed below will put up 19 points and grab nine boards in their debut with their new school, as was the case with former Indiana big man Luke Fischer, a member of the midseason transfer list last season. Fischer nearly put up a double-double Wednesday night in his first game with Marquette.

However, the following are a handful of guys who can certainly make an impact wherever they opt to go. I've also put the full list of transfers below.

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Revisiting preseason expectations 

December, 15, 2014
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Jahlil OkaforMike McGinnis/Getty ImagesJahlil Okafor's early play was not a surprise -- but Duke's decisive takedown of Wisconsin was.


We've now passed the one-month mark of the 2014-15 season, and at this point the preseason hype has all but given way to in-season reality. With opinions crystallizing, I wanted to look at back at how my own expectations have been either confirmed or denied:

NOT SURPRISED...

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New UK lineup, other big starter changes 

December, 12, 2014
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Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress, Aaron HarrisonJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesWithout Poythress (22), Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Aaron Harrison will have it tougher.

John Calipari finally has a valid excuse to scrap the platoons. With forward Alex Poythress suffering a season-ending torn ACL in practice Thursday, Kentucky’s head coach can do what he should and would have been doing all along -- if he weren’t so concerned with keeping everyone happy.

Play the best players as much as possible.

The loss of Poythress, who was a member of the starting unit alongside the Harrison twins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein, should eventually mean that the platoons are a piece of history.

Now we examine Kentucky’s potential new-look starting lineup, along with every other Top 25 starting lineup, and what changes could be made.

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Picks for ACC/Big Ten Challenge 

December, 1, 2014
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Frank KaminskyKevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsFrank Kaminsky and Wisconsin will have a mighty challenge against Duke on Wednesday.

The ACC was dominant against the Big Ten for the first decade of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but the Big Ten responded by winning the challenge three straight years before the two leagues split the dozen matchups the last two seasons. The B1G is off to a strong start in this year's event, with Nebraska and Rutgers making the league 2-0 headed into Tuesday night .

Below (and updated after Monday's action), I give my picks for each game in this year's ACC/Big Ten Challenge, ranked in order of game quality. I also let you know where Kelly Oubre's lack of playing time and production sit among elite freshmen over the past decade (you may be surprised to know which elite freshman was the most productive through the first six games). And I reveal my 10 Observations from the past 10 days (or so) in New York at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and the NIT Season Tip-Off.

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Picks for Thanksgiving week games 

November, 24, 2014
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Ryan Arcidiacono, Treveon GrahamUSA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesRyan Arcidiacono and Treveon Graham square off in a highly anticipated Monday matchup.
With two weekends of the 2014-15 college basketball season in the books, opinions about teams and players are beginning to crystallize.

Kentucky is indeed as good as we thought they could be. Kansas, Syracuse and the defending champion UConn Huskies have some work to do. Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos (23 assists without a turnover in four games) is back to his pre-injury form and Duke’s talented freshman group (Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow) looks downright frightening.

As we head into Feast Week, new narratives will be formed and some opinions are bound to change. Here’s a look at the games, teams and players I’ll have my eye on as the college basketball calendar creeps toward December.

For more, be sure to check out ESPN Insider's PickCenter.


Monday


7 p.m. (ESPNU) -- Villanova Wildcats vs. Virginia Commonwealth Rams

This is a battle of top-25 teams, and the winner should get Michigan on Tuesday at the Barclays Center. The question will be whether Ryan Arcidiacono can handle the Rams' relentless defensive pressure.

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Syracuse could be in trouble 

November, 21, 2014
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Kaleb Joseph and Jim BoeheimRich Barnes/Getty ImagesSyracuse coach Jim Boeheim will be counting on consistency from freshman guard Kaleb Joseph.
NEW YORK -- It’s just three games into the season, and Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange have a freshman point guard and a bevy of players thrust into new roles due to the departure of Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant and Baye Moussa Keita.

The knee-jerk reaction following Thursday night’s loss against a California team picked to finish closer to the bottom of the Pac-12 than the top would be to say that the Cuse is NIT-bound this season.

It’s not off base.

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Picks for the Tip-Off Marathon 

November, 17, 2014
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While the 2014-15 college basketball season technically tipped off this weekend, the season really gets underway with the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. It starts Monday night with the in-state battle between Miami and Florida in Gainesville, and runs through Tuesday evening.

For the general public, the season might not begin until January when conference play starts. But for the wiseguys out in Vegas, early-season college basketball is the time to clean up on weak spreads. Below is the first of a weekly column I’m starting this year to give you my perspective on every game, with useful notes and nuggets.

Since you'd ask if we didn't, we'll include the the lines. But remember: These are the lines at the time of writing. For this, some of the Tuesday lines haven’t been released yet, but check back later for the Champions Classic doubleheader between Kentucky-Kansas and Duke-Michigan State.

And for other betting coverage at ESPN, check out the new ESPN Chalk section.

7 p.m. (ESPNU) -- Miami (FL) Hurricanes at Florida Gators

The Gators will be without talented sophomore big man Chris Walker for a second game, and this would have been an area that Billy Donovan could have taken advantage against a lackluster Hurricanes group. Donovan also will have a banged-up Dorian Finney-Smith. If Finney-Smith plays, it’ll be with a broken bone in his non-shooting hand.

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