- Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger17 hrs ago
Of all the college prospects weighing whether or not to enter the NBA draft this spring, Nick Johnson had one of the most difficult decisions.
No matter what he chose, the Arizona star had to make a sacrifice.
If he stayed for his senior season at Arizona, there was a very good chance Johnson's stock would level off or even diminish. Not only would it be tough for Johnson to duplicate his All-American-caliber junior season with Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sharing playing time at wing, he also would have little chance to prove to NBA scouts he could play point guard with T.J. McConnell returning.
At the same time, leaving Arizona meant missing out on a season that had the potential to be special. Were the Wildcats to have McConnell at point guard, him, Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson at wing and Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski anchoring the frontcourt, they probably would enter the season no worse than the co-favorites to win the national championship.
- Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger21 hrs ago
At the same time as Tennessee was fighting to scrape together enough wins to make the NCAA tournament in late February, a petition with more than 30,000 signatures circulated the Internet urging the Vols to bring Bruce Pearl back after the season.
Those Tennessee fans won't get Pearl but they will get a new coach.
Cuonzo Martin is leaving Tennessee after three seasons to replace the newly retired Mike Montgomery as head coach at Cal. Martin led the Vols on a surprise run to the Sweet 16 last month after narrowly slipping into the NCAA tournament as a No. 11 seed.
Leaving Tennessee now is a shrewd move by Martin because he was in a tough spot following the most successful coach the Vols had ever hired.
In six seasons in Knoxville, Pearl led Tennessee to six straight NCAA tournaments, ascended to No. 1 in the nation briefly in 2008 and reached the Elite Eight in 2010. Martin was never fully able to escape Pearl's shadow and win over the Tennessee fan base while leading the Vols to a pair of NITs prior to this year's NCAA tournament run.
- Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger1 day ago
The last image of Willie Cauley-Stein on the Kentucky bench won't be with an electric blue flower-print button-down shirt underneath his jersey.
Cauley-Stein announced Monday evening that he is passing on the chance to enter the NBA draft and intends to be back in uniform at Kentucky next season. The 7-foot center averaged 6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks this past season before suffering what turned out to be a season-ending right ankle injury against Louisville in the Sweet 16 and sitting out the remainder of the NCAA tournament.
“I’m proud to say I’m coming back for my junior year,” Cauley-Stein said on Twitter. “I still have an empty spot to fulfill and in no rush to leave the best fans in the USA!”
- Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger1 day ago
What happens when the three leading scorers are removed from a Syracuse program that already struggled to generate enough offense late last season?
We're about to find out.
Syracuse announced Monday that sophomore forward Jerami Grant will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and declare for the NBA draft. His decision ensures Syracuse will lose the core of this past season's 28-win team since All-ACC forward C.J. Fair is graduating and standout freshman point guard Tyler Ennis is also entering the NBA draft.
The departure of Grant is not a huge surprise since he showed enough promise while averaging 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds this past season to intrigue NBA scouts. Even with an inconsistent jump shot and little in the way of a back-to-the-basket game, Grant is a likely first-round pick this June thanks to his explosive athleticism, impressive wingspan and ability to make an impact on the glass and finish around the rim.
- Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger1 day ago
Had Montrezl Harrell entered the NBA draft this June as expected, Louisville likely would have begun the season on the fringes of the preseason top 25.
Instead the 6-foot-8 forward is returning for his junior season, giving the Cardinals hope of contending in their debut season in the ACC and reaching a third Final Four in four seasons.
Harrell announced his surprising decision to stay in school on Monday via Twitter. Wrote the sophomore in a tweet that included a picture of himself in a Louisville uniform., "Been on my mind heavy but I love the feeling of being a Louisville Cardinal [and] I will be wearing this for the next year."
The return of Harrell is a surprise because he likely would have been selected in the middle of the first roundhad he turned pro. He averaged 14.0 points and 8.4 rebounds during a breakout sophomore season and tallied double-doubles in six of his final 11 games, helping Louisville finish 31-6 and reach the Sweet 16.
- Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger2 days ago
The infamous "tweak" that John Calipari credited for Kentucky's stunning postseason reversal of fortune not surprisingly turned out to be a pretty simple coaching adjustment.
Calipari revealed Monday that he merely simplified the game for point guard Andrew Harrison before the SEC tournament and told him to worry less about scoring and more about distributing.
"I was trying to make the game easier for Andrew," Calipari told "CBS This Morning" on Monday during an interview promoting his new book. "I got tapes of Deron Williams, who averaged nine assists throughout his career in the NBA. We had a game where he had 11 assists and I showed Andrew and I said, ‘Look at this. Let’s watch. Would you have passed or shot?’ He said, ‘I would have shot.’ ‘Would you have passed or shot?’ Well, Deron was throwing balls to everybody.
- Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger4 days ago
The Dagger continues its season-in-review series this week with a look back at the best dunks of the 2013-14 college basketball season. Let us know which ones we missed via Twitter or in the comments below.
No. 1 Wichita State guard Tekele Cotton's poster dunk
Comment: Illinois State defender John Jones learned the hard way not to rotate late on help defense. The 6-foot-2 Cotton threw down a dunk so vicious over Jones that it even had his coach raving about it. "Oh man, that was quite a play," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall told reporters after the game. "Tremendous. Tekele’s just a tremendous athlete and it seemed like he never stopped rising."
No. 2 Wagner's Dwaun Anderson flushes off-the-glass alley-oop
Comment: The highlight of Wagner's Jan. 11 victory over fellow NEC contender LIU Brooklyn was this emphatic off-the-glass alley-oop from sophomore senior Latif Rivers to sophomore Dwaun Anderson. Two Wagner players actually had a chance to finish the dunk, but Anderson skies over Marcus Burton to complete the spectacular play.
No. 3 Michael Qualls' game-winning tip dunk at the buzzer
- Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger5 days ago
The Dagger will be recapping the best and worst of the recently completed 2013-14 college basketball season during the next week. Here's a look at the 10 best games:
1. Kentucky 74, Wisconsin 73 (April 5): Aaron Harrison experienced the exhilaration of sinking a game-winning shot in the NCAA tournament for the third time in eight days. The Kentucky guard added to his growing legend in the national semifinals, beating Wisconsin with a game-winning left-wing 3-pointer from virtually the same spot on the floor that he'd waylaid Michigan from six days earlier. Harrison's shot not only kept the Wildcats' national title hopes alive but also saved his twin brother from some difficult postgame questions. Andrew Harrison enabled Wisconsin to take the lead on the previous possession when he bit on Traveon Jackson's shot fake as the shot clock was winding down and sent him to the line for three free throws.
- Kyle Ringo at The Dagger5 days ago
Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo and some of his players joined hundreds of students on campus Wednesday to paint a rock and fill it with messages to 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth, who lost her fight with cancer this week.
The beautiful little girl became known as 'Princess Lacey' and developed a bond with MSU senior forward Adreian Payne, who first met her two years ago during one of her hospital stays. She suffered from neuroblastoma, a fetal-nerve cell cancer. They became like brother and sister with Payne and his teammates including her in numerous team activities.
It was time for my lil princess to go home & feel no more pain,now she's happy & she's my angel watching over me. pic.twitter.com/bpUPCipcif
Payne carried her around the court last month during senior day and allowed her to participate in cutting down the nets with the Spartans when they won the Big Ten tournament.
Izzo spoke to a large group of Michigan State students at the rock memorial Wednesday night.
- Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger6 days ago
It didn't take long for Devonte Graham's phone to start buzzing once new Appalachian State coach Jim Fox did what his predecessor would not and released the Brewster Academy standout from the letter of intent he signed in 2012.
Fifteen schools have already called Graham to show interest in recruiting him since he received his complete release late Wednesday night. Among those to reach out to the Class of 2014's best available point guard are Boston College, Cincinnati, Creighton, Florida, Florida St, George Mason, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Providence, South Florida, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Xavier.
Coaches from most of those schools plan to fly to New Hampshire to visit Graham at Brewster Academy either Thursday, Friday or Sunday. Brewster coach Jason Smith said he expects Graham to narrow his list early next week once he has a chance to visit with all those coaches.