In case you missed the announcement on Tuesday, you might want to sit down before you read this.
The Final Four, as we know it, is changing.
No, the NCAA is not reseeding the teams when they get there (a great idea); no, they haven’t decided to limit the rotation of Final Four sites to New Orleans, San Antonio and Indianapolis (an even better idea); and, no, they aren’t turning college basketball’s grand finale into three best-of-three series showdowns to make it more closely resemble the NBA playoffs (a terrible idea, one I’ve never heard suggested and I don’t even know why I wrote it).
In the interest of clarity, it should be pointed out that the Final Four itself is not actually changing at all. But the Final Four experience, the weekend of hype and excitement and music and contests and give-aways that surround the main event is adding a wrinkle that figures to draw some interest and up the fun level for fans and players alike.
Here’s the gist:
• Intersport, a marketing company based out of Chicago, on Tuesday announced the creation of a 3-on-3 tournament at the Final Four, which Intersport will host. The event will be dubbed the “3-on-3 College Hoops Invitational.” Sounds cool. But it gets better.
• The participants will be current seniors who have exhausted their college eligibility — i.e. did not reach the Final Four with their teams — and teams will be formed with members of the same conference playing together. Think Frank Mason III teaming up with fellow Big 12 seniors Monte Morris and Deonte Burton had they created this event last year.
• The rules will be standard, international, 3-on-3 rules: one point for a basket inside the 3-point line and two points for a bucket behind the line, with 12-second shot clocks and games played to 21 or whichever team has the highest score after 10 minutes of play.
• Each team will feature four players, three starters and one substitute, and, together, they will be competing in a three-day bracketed tournament — March 30-April 1 in San Antonio — for a cash prize of $100,000. Think about that as a graduation present — all four players on the winning team receive $25,000 apiece. Pretty sweet!
David Worlock, NCAA director of media coordination, told CBS Sports that the Intersport event was in no way directly associated with the NCAA or the Final Four, which is what allows the existence of a cash prize. Intersport also is the company that puts on the dunk contest and 3-point contest held in conjunction with the Final Four each year for the past 29 years.
This event is the latest to join the 3-on-3 craze that has reemerged as a big player in the game of basketball. The 3-on-3 format was added to the 2020 Olympics, of all places, and The Big Three event, created by Ice Cube and featuring some big and bright names from the NBA’s recent past, was a hit with fans, both in person and watching from home.
“The game of 3-on-3 basketball continues to gain momentum thanks to its recent addition to the Olympics and further development at the professional and grassroots levels,” Intersport vice president of sports properties Drew Russell said in a statement. “Based on our storied and successful history of creating and producing live college events for more than 30 years, Intersport is perfectly positioned to bring 3-on-3 basketball to the college game. We've been in the planning stages for months and are excited to bring this new and exciting opportunity to market for the very first time.”
While the event has some punch to it, fans of college programs across the country obviously will be rooting against the idea of having any of their players playing in the event.
Still, for those fans with intense conference pride and for those who would like idea of seeing their seniors play one more time after elimination from the NCAA Tournament, the 3-on-3 College Hoops Invitational has some serious potential.
One of the biggest potential pitfalls, of course, is the idea of players passing on the opportunity for fear of injury a couple of months ahead of the NBA Draft. And while that, no doubt, will keep a bunch of seniors from playing in the tournament, the mere fact that seniors being taken in the two-round NBA Draft has been on a steady decline for years at least brings back into play the possibility of a bunch of notable seniors deeming it worth their while, especially with that cash prize sitting there for the taking.
Who knows if this idea will have the staying power of the dunk contest and 3-point shootout, but it sure seems like it will be fun to find out.
What once looked like a promising option for a Kansas basketball program thin on big men now looks much less likely.
Jon Rothstein, of FanRag Sports, reported earlier this week that “multiple sources” had told him that 7-foot center Mitchell Robinson — the McDonald’s All-American who was released from his commitment to Western Kentucky and visited LSU, Kansas and New Orleans during recent weeks — was considering skipping the 2017-18 season altogether in order to prepare for the 2018 NBA Draft.
No Kansas. No New Orleans. No return to Western Kentucky. No basketball.
Sure, Robinson, if he does go this route, will spend the next 10 months working out and preparing for the draft, but is that really his best path to NBA success?
I get that being ineligible due to transfer rules, and therefore being unable to play in a game for whichever school he chose, would keep him from playing meaningful basketball. But isn’t the idea of learning from Bill Self or any other legitimate college basketball coach worth something to a young man in Robinson’s position? Malik Newman sure seemed to think so.
That’s not to say that Newman would have been a likely lottery pick had he sat out last year and then jumped into the 2017 NBA Draft before ever playing a minute at KU. He’s not 7 feet tall or that might have been the case. Either way, Newman still would have been drafted. But instead, he chose to come to Kansas to play for Kansas and now his name is all over the place, from coast to coast, as a part of potentially one of the best college backcourts in America.
It sure seems, at least to me, that going anywhere — Kansas, UNO, back to WKU, wherever — and getting the kind of structure one gets from regular practices, pick-up games, travel, film study and help in the weight room and with nutrition, would be a better move for Robinson than sitting out altogether.
Doing the opposite would not only keep Robinson from getting those benefits, but also would be another blow to the current NBA age limit rule, which states that players are not eligible to join the league until they turn 19.
While that rule gained support early on because it helped prevent players who were not ready for pro ball from jumping to the NBA right out of high school, situations like Robinson’s likely were not what they had in mind.
And I can’t imagine current NBA coaches or general managers like it much either.
Lottery picks are worth their weight in gold in the NBA, and, although Robinson would be sitting out hoping to preserve his status as a potential lottery selection — which he was on Jonathan Givony's most recent 2018 NBA mock draft — it’s hard to envision an NBA franchise picking a guy that high who had not played competitive basketball in more than a year.
Forget about the one-and-done trend’s impact on the college game for a second and think about it from the NBA perspective. Having a potential franchise player playing in college — or even overseas — for a full year before you draft him has to be much more appealing than picking a young man who has just been in the gym working out.
That’s not to say Robinson could not get better or position himself to be an attractive option for NBA franchises by getting after it for the next 10 months. In fact, Rothstein’s report mentions that Robinson’s camp is hoping he follows the path taken by Sudanese big man Thon Maker, who became the No. 10 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft after doing a year of post-graduate prep school in 2015 while waiting to fulfill the NBA’s age requirement.
But these two situations are not exactly the same and I can’t imagine this is the direction any of the other parties involved — college basketball, the NBA or NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who recently said the age 19 rule was “not working” — want to see the game go.
Time will tell what happens to Robinson. But, as of today, it’s looking less and less likely that college basketball will be a part of his story.
With visits to Kansas and the University of New Orleans officially out of the way, the New Orleans Times Picayune reported earlier this week that 7-foot McDonald's All-American Mitchell Robinson soon would make a decision between KU and UNO.
But close followers of Twitter who have been observing Robinson's behavior of late are aware that there might be a third school in the picture. And, no, it's not LSU, which Robinson also visited before trips to Kansas and New Orleans.
Instead, it's Western Kentucky. That's right... the same Western Kentucky program that Robinson initially had committed to but, in July, from which he asked for a release.
There's nothing official out there saying that WKU is back in the mix. But @BarstoolWestern, a Twitter account with 6,000 followers that tracks Western Kentucky sports, Tweeted this week that it had sources that confirmed that Robinson was "seriously considering returning to WKU."
Big deal, right? Fan site hopes for the best and tries to create a little buzz and/or hope that the return of the Top 10 prospect and potential future NBA lottery pick is a real option for the Hilltoppers.
That would be the logical conclusion. But add to that the fact that Robinson himself (@kodakmitch23) ReTweeted that claim and one that urged WKU fans with the following: "Hearing a lot of different thoughts from Tops fans about this. If you want to see him play for WKU, give him a shout"
Robinson also ReTweeted a Twitter poll put up by @100MilesofHate (sweet name, smh) that asked: "If you're @WKUBasketball & Coach Stansbury, do you welcome back Mitchell Robinson if he wishes to return?"
As of 1:30 p.m. Friday, with 1,092 votes counted, "Absolutely" was leading "Nope" 64-36. And that's far closer than I thought it would've been.
Robinson also ReTweeted at least three or four other Tweets referencing his possible return to WKU, including one person who took the ultimate leap and said Robinson going back to Western Kentucky "would be like Lebron coming back to Cleveland."
Robinson, as you surely know by now, is from Chalmette, La., so him going to UNO would be a lot more like him returning to Cleveland than him electing to stick with his initial commitment to WKU.
There's no telling just how serious this chatter about the 7-footer changing his mind (again?) and staying with Western Kentucky for the 2017-18 season really is. But it's at least worth tracking, even if Twitter is not the most official and scientific place to do such things.
Either way, if that Times Picayune report was accurate and Robinson is planning to decided soon, we'll know one way or another in the fairly near future and can move on from Robinson Watch 2017 regardless of the outcome.
According to a Wednesday night report from The New Orleans Times-Picayune, 7-foot McDonald’s All-American Mitchell Robinson did in fact visit the University of New Orleans on Wednesday and the big man appears to be headed toward making a decision sometime soon between Kansas and UNO.
The Top 10 prospect in the Class of 2017, who recently was granted a release from Western Kentucky after spending part of the summer at WKU, is from Chalmette, La., which sits just 10 miles east of New Orleans.
The location of his hometown further explains why both UNO and LSU were among the schools Robinson considered after leaving Western Kentucky, but Kansas still appears to be very much in the running to land Robinson.
While few people, if any, know exactly when a final decision will be made, it sounds like by the end of the week is certainly possible and it’s also starting to sound more and more like there is a legitimate chance that Robinson could be eligible to play during the 2017-18 season. In order to do so, Robinson would need to receive a waiver from the NCAA granting him immediate eligibility.
Landing Robinson, waiver in hand, would no doubt be huge news for the KU program. It would erase any concerns about front-court depth and talent and would turn KU’s big man status into a legitimate strength.
Remember, Robinson is a projected lottery pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and pairing him, a true 7-footer, with another 7-footer in sophomore Udoka Azubuike would give KU some serious options and advantages to work with during the upcoming season.
With that in mind, let’s jump ahead just a bit and look at a few possible lineups that assume Robinson joins the Jayhawks and is eligible to play this season.
Option 1: Twin towers
PG – Devonte’ Graham
SG – Malik Newman
SG – Lagerald Vick
PF – Mitchell Robinson
C – Udoka Azubuike
• This would seem to be KU’s most formidable lineup. Twin 7-footers clogging the middle and 3 lightning-quick, fantastic-shooting guards playing around them. Beyond that, it would give KU incredible depth at all positions, with senior Svi Mykhailiuk and promising freshman Marcus Garrett poised to back-up the three guards and five-star freshman Billy Preston and sophomore grinder Mitch Lightfoot in place to rotate with the two big men. Just the mere thought of Robinson and Azubuike on the court at the same time is enough to get KU fans excited.
Option 2: Run and gun
PG – Devonte’ Graham
SG – Malik Newman
SG – Svi Mykhailiuk
SG – Lagerald Vick
C – Mitchell Robinson OR Udoka Azubuike
• In this scenario, KU coach Bill Self would be putting his most experienced lineup on the floor and capitalizing on what he saw in Italy that he really liked — fast guards, running wild and shooting open shots from all spots on the floor. Because Self has always favored playing inside-out, this option seems like a long shot with Robinson in the fold, but the four-guard approach worked so well last year and Self easily could elect to start this way and yet still find 25+ minutes apiece for Robinson and Azubuike. Going this route would potentially bring out the best in the two 7-footers, as well as Preston, who all would be competing for playing time up front.
Option 3: The traditional look
PG – Devonte’ Graham
SG – Malik Newman
SG – Lagerald Vick
PF – Billy Preston
C – Udoka Azubuike
• This, to me, seems like the most unlikely of the three, but, if it came to fruition, it would be pretty tough to beat. The idea of Preston in the starting lineup means that things would have clicked sooner rather than later for the player Self has called the best looking freshman power forward to report to campus during his 15 seasons at Kansas. But there’s still a long way to go, mentally, for Preston, so it’s hard to imagine this one happening early on at least. If it did, Kansas would have an incredibly talented player in Robinson ready to spell either Preston or Azubuike at any time and also would have the same guard depth — Mykhailiuk and Garrett — as in the first lineup. While Preston in place of Robinson would take a little size away, it likely would allow the Jayhawks to play a touch faster.
Regardless of which one of those lineups you like best, or even if you have your own variation or prefer the senior version of Svi to start over Vick, one thing is abundantly clear from doing this exercise — adding Robinson, as long as he’s eligible, would not merely be a ho-hum case of blue blood program adds another McDonald’s All-American.
Instead, it would be an absolute game-changer for the Jayhawks and, potentially, for college basketball, giving KU some serious depth up front and giving Self plenty of options in how he plays and who he puts on the floor.
Stay in touch with KUsports.com for the latest on Robinson, who could make a decision/announcement at any time.
With his players free to head home from the time they landed in Newark, New Jersey, after their flight home from Italy on Aug. 8 through Sunday night, when the Jayhawks are expected to report back to campus for the start of another school year, Kansas coach Bill Self expected things to be quiet around Lawrence for those two weeks.
But that was hardly the case, as Self explained Wednesday during an appearance on ESPN radio with former coach and current college basketball analyst Seth Greenberg.
Although there still are expectations when they players head home to be with friends and family — from how and when they workout to what they eat and how they act — the main point that Self emphasized following the team’s trip to Italy was simple, “Just make sure you get back by Sunday evening (Aug. 20),” Self told Greenberg.
That was no problem for senior guard Devonte’ Graham, who returned to Lawrence about a week earlier than required.
“Devonte’ went home for like four days and said I’ve had enough, I’ve gotta get back, just so he could get back in the gym to work,” Self said Wednesday. “He is thirsty right now. He and Malik (Newman) spend about as much time in the gym shooting the ball as anyone we’ve ever had here.”
The reason for that is simple and falls in line with exactly the kind of thing Self likes to see from veteran leaders such as Graham, who carry such a tremendous responsibility of being able to set the tone for an entire team and season with their behavior before things get going.
“I haven’t talked to him about undue pressure,” Self said when asked by Greenberg if he thought the Raleigh, N.C., native was dying to become Frank Mason III 2.0. “But he has said that he’s gonna do everything he can to have a big senior year like Frank did.”
Moving into his senior season with the clear title of team leader, Graham, for the first time since he’s been at Kansas, will have the opportunity to dictate how the Jayhawks go on a day to day basis.
As a freshman, he played in 29 games but averaged just 17.8 minutes per game while averaging 5.7 points per game on less than 40 percent shooting.
In Year 2, with Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden as the team’s clear leaders, Graham jumped into the starting lineup but remained in a supporting role, averaging 11.3 points in 33 minutes per game.
A year ago, as a bona fide running mate with Mason, the 6-foot-2 guard inherited a clear role as one of the most important players on the team, but often still deferred to Mason, who was carving out a national-player-of-the-year campaign, and freshman phenom, Josh Jackson, who, like Mason, proved to be equally unstoppable at times.
In starting all 36 games and seeing his minutes per game average go up by three, Graham poured in 13.4 points per game but pushed his assist total to 4.1 per game.
It’s fair to predict that both numbers will go up again during Graham’s senior season, but, as he showed in Italy, by nearly averaging as many assists per game (7.5) as shots (8.3), Graham will remain fixed on doing whatever needs to be done to help Kansas win.
Finally a bit of news on the recruitment of 7-foot McDonald's All-American Mitchell Robinson, but it might not be the type of news that Kansas fans want to hear.
Jon Rothstein is reporting that Robinson will visit New Orleans today.
After checking out LSU and watching the Tigers fall off of his list of options, the big man made a visit to Kansas last weekend and indicated immediately that he liked what he saw by simply Tweeting, "Kansas is nice," on the night of his arrival.
Nothing more has come out of Robinson's visit to KU and Rothstein's report about today's visit to New Orleans is the first real news of any kind surrounding the consensus Top 10 prospect in the Class of 2017 since his visit to KU.
While the Jayhawks remain in the running for the former Western Kentucky signee, who still would need to receive a waiver from the NCAA to be eligible to play during the 2017-18 season, the fact that he's looking at New Orleans, just a couple of weeks after seriously considering LSU, might be an indication that the Chalmette, La., native is looking to move closer to home for what likely will be one year of college ball before jumping to the NBA.
Chalmette sits just 10 miles east of New Orleans.
Either way, until there's news otherwise, KU remains in play for the talented big man, who, best-case scenario, would become eligible for the upcoming season and provide the Jayhawks with another much-needed body up front, and, worst-case scenario, would come to KU as another important practice body who could help 7-foot sophomore Udoka Azubuike develop on a daily basis.
Either option would likely be a worthy reason for Kansas to use its final scholarship.
Well, it took less than 12 hours for Jonathan Givony, formerly of DraftExpress and currently at ESPN.com to slot Marvin Bagley III into his latest mock draft after the top-rated prospect in the Class of 2018 announced Monday night that he was going to Duke and would attempt to reclassify into the 2017 class.
If successful — and this remains a big if, in my opinion — Bagley will be eligible to play this season and would give Duke a significant lift while speeding up his own path to the NBA.
Kansas cracked the Top 6 for the 6-foot-11, 220-pound forward but could not get any closer than that. While his addition would have helped the KU roster immensely and immediately, Bagley is a sure-fire one-and-done prospect who will be on a college campus for the absolute minimum time required by the NBA's age limit rule.
With that in mind, here's a look at where Bagley lands in Givony's latest Mock Draft for the 2018 NBA Draft, along with a couple of other notable names who cracked his Top 60.
One thing that jumped out at me big time when scrolling down the list was the number of KU targets on it. Six of the Top 17 players in this mock draft seriously considered Kansas during the recruiting process, a sign that Bill Self and company continue to be in on the top talent in the country year in and year out.
• No. 2 - Marvin Bagley III, Boston
Quick take: How about that for good fortune? As if the Celtics have not been on enough of an upswing of late, they now get to add a player like Bagley to their roster. Big things happening in Beantown. For what it's worth, if Bagley winds up going No. 1 overall, Givony's consolation prize is Michael Porter Jr. Either way, Boston's in great shape.
Givony says: Bagley is a fluid athlete with a natural feel for scoring, rebounding and blocking shots, which helps him post elite numbers at the high school and AAU level. He's a terror in the open court and very difficult for opposing big men to stay in front of in one-on-one situations, getting him to the free throw line at an excellent rate. NBA teams will want to see how easily he'll be able to make the transition to the intensity level of the college game and get a better gauge for his defense and outside shooting potential.
• No. 14 - Mitchell Robinson, Portland
Quick take: This is the name Jayhawk fans are dying for news about and there remains a better than good chance that the 7-footer will be in a Kansas uniform this fall. Whether he'll be eligible to play in games remains the biggest question, but his ranking in this mock draft tells us two things: 1. He's a heck of a talent who, if eligible, could make a major difference for the Jayhawks right away. And 2. He's going to be in college (if he goes) for one year at the most. Still, he's worth the effort and KU, no doubt, will do everything it can to get him to town and have him eligible for the 2017-18 season.
Givony says: Robinson is a freakishly athletic 7-footer with a big wingspan and an impressive frame who plays quick off his feet with solid hands and touch. However, his on-court awareness and feel for the game are very underdeveloped. He left Western Kentucky after a handful of practices, and now his situation is in flux. Did NBA scouts see enough on the all-star circuit to draft him in the top 20?
• No. 33 - Svi Mykhailiuk, Atlanta
Quick take: The last time I looked (which was just a couple of days ago), DraftExpress had Svi as a late first-rounder, pencilled into the No. 29 spot. For all intents and purposes, when it comes to mock drafts, this is basically the same spot and it tells you that, with a strong season, Svi can solidify his standing as a first-round pick in next June's draft. Anything less than that and it's likely a second-round selection for the still-young Ukrainian.
Givony says: Nothing. They did not give commentary for the second round picks.
• No. 36 - Devonte' Graham, Orlando
Quick take: Graham is slotted in the same boat as Svi, just a couple of picks apart and in the position of knowing that a strong senior season could vault him comfortably into the first round. For both guys, it's not necessarily just about the numbers, it's about showing the NBA scouts what they want to see. Graham and Svi both gained valuable information this spring about their NBA stock and there's no doubt that each player has spent a good chunk of the summer and will spend much of the season trying to work on their areas of weakness and showcasing improvement. Neither player will do so at the expense of the team goals at Kansas, though, which should make KU fans happy and could go a long way toward helping these two showcase their skills without appearing to force it.
Givony says: Nothing. They did not give commentary for the second round picks.
The news that most people following college basketball recruiting expected became official on Monday night.
That's when Class of 2018 prospect Marvin Bagley III announced on ESPN's SportsCenter that he would reclassify into the 2017 class and attend Duke University during the 2017-18 school year.
Bagley, a 6-foot-11, 220-pound forward from California, chose Duke over finalists UCLA and USC, which made up his final three after that trio, along with Kansas, Kentucky and Arizona, had cracked his Top 6.
Bagley never visited KU and said on SportsCenter that he chose Duke because of the feeling he had while on campus.
"The brotherhood there, man," Bagley said live on the popular highlight show. "That's what Coach K preached to me and my family and I had a good feeling when I was there."
The addition of Bagley instantly moves Duke's 2017 recruiting class to the top of the rankings and also positions the Blue Devils as the preseason favorite heading into the 2017-18 season.
Kansas, meanwhile, continues to focus its efforts on 7-foot McDonald's All-American Mitchell Robinson, who visited campus over the weekend but has been pretty quiet about how his visit went since Tweeting last Friday night, "Kansas is nice."
The Jayhawks have one scholarship available to give for the 2017-18 season, and even if it winds up going to Robinson, the standout center still would need to be cleared by the NCAA to play immediately since he spent the summer on the campus of Western Kentucky, where he initially signed but asked out of his commitment after his godfather left the WKU coaching staff in July.
Class of 2018 star Marvin Bagley III will announce his college decision Monday night on the 10 p.m. SportsCenter, according to ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman.
And there figures to be more than a little attention paid to the announcement.
For one, anybody who follows college basketball with any regularity will be interested in learning the preferred destination of the 6-foot-10, 220-pound force from Chatsworth, Calif. Beyond that, most of the intrigue surrounds whether Bagley will be headed to his chosen school in time for the upcoming 2017-18 season or if he’ll be staying in the Class of 2018, where he is ranked by most recruiting services as the No. 1 prospect in his class.
For weeks, news of Bagley’s potential attempt to reclassify into the Class of 2017 has dominated recruiting talk. And in that time Bagley reportedly visited Duke, UCLA and USC. It was believed that Bagley also would visit Kansas, but with the Jayhawks in Italy during the first week of August and five-star big man Mitchell Robinson in to visit this weekend, there have been no reports of Bagley actually making a visit to KU despite the Kansas coaching staff’s strong efforts to go after him.
That makes KU a long shot to land the versatile forward, who many believe is headed to Duke. That said, 247 Sports recruiting guru Jerry Meyer pointed out on Twitter on Sunday night that, while Duke remains the favorite to land Bagley in 247’s Crystal Ball predicitions, USC’s national championship odds recently became less of a long shot in Las Vegas.
According to a source familiar with Bagley’s recruitment, his attempt to reclassify also could be considered a long shot, but Bagley and has family have been solely focused on that goal for the past couple of months, with the idea being to get him to school this year and into the NBA by this time next year.
Regardless of what plays out, Monday night’s announcement will go down as one of the bigger moments, if not the biggest, in the 2018 recruiting cycle.
After a summer spent wearing wild and wacky No. 99 with the Phoenix Suns’ summer league team, it appears that former Kansas standout Josh Jackson is prepared to enter his rookie season with a number that’s more common in the basketball world.
Jackson, who wore No. 11 at Kansas, will be wearing No. 20 for the Suns this season, largely because veteran guard Brandon Knight already wears No. 11.
Sure, guys have been known to pay for numbers in the past. And, yeah, it’ll probably happen again many times over in the future. But not Jackson. At least not now.
When he got to KU, that was a totally different story, as he had to work out a deal with Tyler Self for the coveted No. 11.
If I remember correctly, Jackson said the terms of the deal were a nice meal, maybe a steak dinner, on Jackson, which, clearly, was good enough for Tyler, who gave up No. 11 and switched to No. 20, the number his dad wore at Oklahoma State.
That’s where things get funny and the short comedy skit played out on Twitter on Friday.
Here’s a look:
Not a bad jab by Tyler followed by a pretty solid reply from Jackson.