Alabama 42, Auburn 14

Trent Richardson and No. 2 Alabama have convinced Nick Saban that they’re worthy of competing for college football’s top prize. They’ll have to wait a while before for the final decision is rendered.

<p>Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Stanford running back Bryce Love lead the Associated Press All–America Team, which was released Monday.</p><p>Mayfield threw for 4,340 passing yards and 41 touchdowns, adding another five scores on the ground.</p><p>He led the nation in passing efficiency, completion percentage, passing yards per completion and points responsible for, capping off his season winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoff.</p><p>Love, the Heisman runner-up, was second in the nation in rushing with 1,973 yards and averaged 8.3 yards per carry.</p><p>Here is the rest of the 2017 First Team AP All–America Team, along with the second and third teams. </p><h3>Offense</h3><p>Quarterback – Baker Mayfield, senior, Oklahoma<br>Running backs – Bryce Love, junior Stanford; Rashaad Penny, senior, San Diego State<br>Receivers ?–- James Washington, Oklahoma State, Anthony Miller, senior, Memphis<br>Tight end — Mark Andrews, junior, Oklahoma<br>Tackles — Orlando Brown, junior, Oklahoma; Mike McGlinchey, senior, Notre Dame<br>Guards — Quenton Nelson, senior, Notre Dame; Braden Smith, senior, Auburn<br>Center – Center — Billy Price, senior, Ohio State<br>All-purpose player — Saquon Barkley, junior, Penn State<br>Placekicker — Matt Gay, junior, Utah</p><h3>Defense</h3><p>Ends — Bradley Chubb, senior, North Carolina State; Clelin Ferrell, sophomore, Clemson<br>Tackles — Hercules Mata&#39;afa, junior, Washington State; Maurice Hurst, senior, Michigan<br>Linebackers — Roquan Smith, junior, Georgia; Josey Jewell, senior, Iowa; T.J. Edwards, junior, Wisconsin<br>Cornerbacks — Josh Jackson, junior, Iowa; Denzel Ward, junior, Ohio State<br>Safeties — Minkah Fitzpatrick, junior, Alabama; DeShon Elliott, junior, Texas<br>Punter — Michael Dickson, junior, Texas</p><h3>Second team</h3><p>Quarterback — Lamar Jackson, junior, Louisville<br>Running backs — Jonathan Taylor, freshman, Wisconsin; Kerryon Johnson, junior, Auburn<br>Tackles — Mitch Hyatt, junior, Clemson; Isaiah Wynn, senior, Georgia<br>Guards — Cody O&#39;Connell, senior, Washington State; Will Hernandez, senior, UTEP<br>Center — Bradley Bozeman, senior, Alabama<br>Tight end — Troy Fumagalli, senior, Wisconsin<br>Receivers — David Sills V, junior, West Virginia; Michael Gallup, senior, Colorado State<br>All-purpose player — Dante Pettis, senior, Washington<br>Kicker — Daniel Carlson, senior, Auburn</p><p>Ends — Sutton Smith, sophomore, Northern Illinois; Nick Bosa, sophomore, Ohio State<br>Tackles — Ed Oliver, sophomore, Houston; Christian Wilkins, junior, Clemson<br>Linebackers — Malik Jefferson, junior, Texas; Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, senior, Oklahoma; Dorian O&#39;Daniel, senior, Clemson<br>Cornerbacks — Jalen Davis, senior, Utah State; Carlton Davis, junior, Auburn<br>Safeties — Derwin James, junior, Florida State; Justin Reid, junior, Stanford<br>Punter — Johnny Townsend, senior, Florida</p><h3>Third Team</h3><p>Quarterback — Mason Rudolph, senior, Oklahoma State<br>Running backs — Ronald Jones II, junior, Southern California; Devin Singletary, sophomore, Florida Atlantic<br>Tackles — David Edwards, sophomore, Wisconsin; Jonah Williams, sophomore, Alabama<br>Guards — Beau Benzschawel, junior, Wisconsin; Tyrone Crowder, senior, Clemson<br>Center — Frank Ragnow, senior, Arkansas<br>Tight end — Jaylen Samuels, senior, North Carolina State<br>Receivers — Steve Ishmael, senior, Syracuse; A.J. Brown, sophomore, Mississippi<br>All-purpose player — D.J. Reed, junior, Kansas State<br>Kicker — Eddy Piniero, junior, Florida</p><p>Ends — Austin Bryant, junior, Clemson; Mat Boesen, senior, TCU<br>Tackles — Vita Vea, junior, Washington; Harrison Phillips, senior, Stanford<br>Linebackers — Micah Kiser, senior, Virginia; Tremaine Edmunds, junior, Virginia Tech; Devin Bush, sophomore, Michigan<br>Cornerbacks — Andraez Williams, redshirt freshman, LSU; Jack Jones, sophomore, Southern California<br>Safeties — Armani Watts, senior, Texas A&#38;M; Quin Blanding, senior, Virginia<br>Punter — Mitch Wisnowsky, junior, Utah</p>
Baker Mayfield, Bryce Love Lead AP All-America Team

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Stanford running back Bryce Love lead the Associated Press All–America Team, which was released Monday.

Mayfield threw for 4,340 passing yards and 41 touchdowns, adding another five scores on the ground.

He led the nation in passing efficiency, completion percentage, passing yards per completion and points responsible for, capping off his season winning the Heisman Trophy and leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoff.

Love, the Heisman runner-up, was second in the nation in rushing with 1,973 yards and averaged 8.3 yards per carry.

Here is the rest of the 2017 First Team AP All–America Team, along with the second and third teams.

Offense

Quarterback – Baker Mayfield, senior, Oklahoma
Running backs – Bryce Love, junior Stanford; Rashaad Penny, senior, San Diego State
Receivers ?–- James Washington, Oklahoma State, Anthony Miller, senior, Memphis
Tight end — Mark Andrews, junior, Oklahoma
Tackles — Orlando Brown, junior, Oklahoma; Mike McGlinchey, senior, Notre Dame
Guards — Quenton Nelson, senior, Notre Dame; Braden Smith, senior, Auburn
Center – Center — Billy Price, senior, Ohio State
All-purpose player — Saquon Barkley, junior, Penn State
Placekicker — Matt Gay, junior, Utah

Defense

Ends — Bradley Chubb, senior, North Carolina State; Clelin Ferrell, sophomore, Clemson
Tackles — Hercules Mata'afa, junior, Washington State; Maurice Hurst, senior, Michigan
Linebackers — Roquan Smith, junior, Georgia; Josey Jewell, senior, Iowa; T.J. Edwards, junior, Wisconsin
Cornerbacks — Josh Jackson, junior, Iowa; Denzel Ward, junior, Ohio State
Safeties — Minkah Fitzpatrick, junior, Alabama; DeShon Elliott, junior, Texas
Punter — Michael Dickson, junior, Texas

Second team

Quarterback — Lamar Jackson, junior, Louisville
Running backs — Jonathan Taylor, freshman, Wisconsin; Kerryon Johnson, junior, Auburn
Tackles — Mitch Hyatt, junior, Clemson; Isaiah Wynn, senior, Georgia
Guards — Cody O'Connell, senior, Washington State; Will Hernandez, senior, UTEP
Center — Bradley Bozeman, senior, Alabama
Tight end — Troy Fumagalli, senior, Wisconsin
Receivers — David Sills V, junior, West Virginia; Michael Gallup, senior, Colorado State
All-purpose player — Dante Pettis, senior, Washington
Kicker — Daniel Carlson, senior, Auburn

Ends — Sutton Smith, sophomore, Northern Illinois; Nick Bosa, sophomore, Ohio State
Tackles — Ed Oliver, sophomore, Houston; Christian Wilkins, junior, Clemson
Linebackers — Malik Jefferson, junior, Texas; Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, senior, Oklahoma; Dorian O'Daniel, senior, Clemson
Cornerbacks — Jalen Davis, senior, Utah State; Carlton Davis, junior, Auburn
Safeties — Derwin James, junior, Florida State; Justin Reid, junior, Stanford
Punter — Johnny Townsend, senior, Florida

Third Team

Quarterback — Mason Rudolph, senior, Oklahoma State
Running backs — Ronald Jones II, junior, Southern California; Devin Singletary, sophomore, Florida Atlantic
Tackles — David Edwards, sophomore, Wisconsin; Jonah Williams, sophomore, Alabama
Guards — Beau Benzschawel, junior, Wisconsin; Tyrone Crowder, senior, Clemson
Center — Frank Ragnow, senior, Arkansas
Tight end — Jaylen Samuels, senior, North Carolina State
Receivers — Steve Ishmael, senior, Syracuse; A.J. Brown, sophomore, Mississippi
All-purpose player — D.J. Reed, junior, Kansas State
Kicker — Eddy Piniero, junior, Florida

Ends — Austin Bryant, junior, Clemson; Mat Boesen, senior, TCU
Tackles — Vita Vea, junior, Washington; Harrison Phillips, senior, Stanford
Linebackers — Micah Kiser, senior, Virginia; Tremaine Edmunds, junior, Virginia Tech; Devin Bush, sophomore, Michigan
Cornerbacks — Andraez Williams, redshirt freshman, LSU; Jack Jones, sophomore, Southern California
Safeties — Armani Watts, senior, Texas A&M; Quin Blanding, senior, Virginia
Punter — Mitch Wisnowsky, junior, Utah

<p>With about a month of college games in the bag and plenty of data to pore over, it’s a good time to re-assess the 2018 NBA draft&#39;s top 60 prospects as conference play approaches.</p><p>While our <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/nba-mock-draft-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Mock Draft" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Mock Draft</a> aims to project what the draft might look like on a given day of the season and factors in team needs, the Big Board serves as our own point of reference for the available player pool. These rankings are based on our own evaluations and conversations with NBA scouts, and establishes how we&#39;d rate prospects in a vacuum (a scenario, of course, that will never actually happen). </p><p>Gifted Arizona center DeAndre Ayton remains atop our draft board, with Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley a close second and third, respectively. High-scoring Oklahoma guard Trae Young moves into first-round territory, as does intriguing draft-eligible high schooler Anfernee Simons. The big picture remains extremely fluid. Here’s how we see it.</p><p><em>(Note: Rankings and stats last updated Dec. 11).</em></p><h3>1. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last Ranking: 1 </strong></p><p>Elite physical tools, soft touch around the basket and a promising jump shot make Ayton a tantalizing prospect. He has most of the traits you want in a modern center plus the athletic ability to face up and play in space. The college game comes easily to him, and Ayton checks essentially every offensive box for his position. There are fair questions about his defensive comprehension and shot-blocking woes, but with his nimble feet and sheer size and strength, he has the tools to be an above-average presence around the rim. He’s a manchild with crazy-high upside and a potential franchise cornerstone.</p><h3>2. Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last: 3</strong></p><p>At 18, Doncic has become perhaps the top player in the Euroleague and a potential No. 1 pick. He’s comfortable as a lead ball-handler and has become deadly from three-point range. He makes his teammates better and reads the floor beyond his years. While he will face an adjustment to the speed of NBA defenses, there’s not really much to nitpick here, and his strong performances for Slovenia against high-caliber competition round out an impressive résumé. Doncic appears a safe bet to continue on the fast track and contribute at a high level as an NBA playmaker.</p><h3>3. Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 235 | Age: 18 | Last: 2</strong></p><p>Known for his aggression on the glass and competitiveness, Bagley manufactures easy baskets and possesses uncommonly fluid athleticism for a guy his size. He should become a versatile defensive piece on the perimeter, but has struggled to guard on the interior thus far. His growth as a scorer in the halfcourt will ultimately make or break him, and his jump shot is a work in progress, but his makeup and base strengths give his value a solid floor. His quick adjustment from reclassifying out of high school to dominating college competition is truly impressive. With his ball-handling and ability to face up, he has considerable room to grow.</p><h3>4. Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 5</strong></p><p>With off-the-charts length and impressive mobility, Bamba is potentially a dominant interior defender. His 7’9” wingspan deserves a sentence of its own. He has a slender frame and continues to round out his offensive skill set, but has shown ability as a jump shooter and is a constant threat to catch lobs. He’s further off from contributing than some of this draft’s other elite prospects, but his best-case scenario is right there with them. Bamba has an opportunity to evolve into a defensive-minded antidote for the young, perimeter-oriented bigs beginning to take over the NBA.</p><h3>5. Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;10&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 4</strong></p><p>Porter is a smooth, polished scorer who thrives on the perimeter and should be able to play either forward spot. Shooting is at a premium, and Porter’s ball-handling and perimeter skills give him a chance to contribute immediately. He can be a ball-stopper, and rounding out his game with playmaking and defense are the next steps, but he’s a pretty ideal frontcourt prospect in the pace-and-space era. Following back surgery, concerns over his long-term health and mobility are warranted. Barring major red flags, he won’t fall far.</p><h3>6. Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C, Michigan State | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 6 </strong></p><p>Jackson boasts NBA bloodlines and an intriguing blend of scoring touch, shot-blocking and three-point shooting potential. On top of that, he’s also producing on the court and competing hard as one of the youngest players in college basketball. His jump shot mechanics are unorthodox, which may limit how much of that specific success translates. As his body fills out, Jackson should become a better finisher around the rim. He has made major all-around strides over the last year or so and is worthy of consideration high in the draft.</p><h3>7. Robert Williams III, F/C, Texas A&#38;M | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 7</strong></p><p>A strong, athletic big with some inside-out scoring ability and a nose for the ball, Williams is a talented rim-runner who catches lobs and does a good job on the offensive glass. Williams is also a good passer with better feel than he’s been given credit for. It’s imperative he finds ways to better involve himself in games as a scorer, but he’s currently cast into a secondary role on a very good team. As a result, his offensive impact can be highly inconsistent. There aren’t many college bigs who play above the rim as easily as Williams can, and he has considerable potential as a Clint Capela-style five-man.</p><h3>8. Collin Sexton, G, Alabama | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;2&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 10</strong></p><p>Sexton is an aggressive, shoot-first guard whose handle and burst allow him to consistently penetrate defenses and draw fouls. He’s shown some improvement as a three-point shooter and has the ability to be a good defender when locked in. Sexton isn’t a pure point and can improve as a decision maker with the ball, but he has a good chance to become an effective change-of-pace scorer at minimum. He can occasionally struggle to finish around bigs, but his blend of shot-creation and toughness is rare. If he continues to draw fouls at a high rate in the NBA, the outlook should be sunny.</p><h3>9. Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 12</strong></p><p>On an inconsistent, younger-than-usual Kentucky roster, Knox has emerged as John Calipari’s top prospect. He’s developed into a capable three-point shooter and has enviable physical tools, with the size and reach to guard either forward spot and rebound effectively. Knox could stand to be more aggressive attacking the basket, and still has games where he disappears for long stretches. But his body and versatility project well, and he’s still quite far from the player he could eventually become.</p><h3>10. Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 23</strong></p><p>Bridges has emerged as a lottery-caliber prospect, with an improved offensive game now accompanying the impressive measurables that make him an impact defender. He moves well on the perimeter, can defend four positions, blocks shots and consistently generates steals with his 7’0” wingspan. Bridges’ improved aggressiveness on offense has answered the questons about his motor, and he has the kind of versatility that plays particularly well in a fast-paced game. Continuing to thrive in his increased scoring role will be key.</p><h3>11. Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 8</strong></p><p>Bridges competes hard on both ends of the floor, and his oft-spectacular athletic ability suggests he can be an impactful defender and transition threat. But scouts are questioning how much he’s improved since his freshman year, with an inconsistent jump shot and limited ability to create off the dribble. His energy and ability to run the floor should still play in a NBA that favors smaller, faster forwards, but it’s reasonable to wonder about some of his limitations.</p><h3>12. Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 11</strong></p><p>Walker checks a lot of boxes for an off-guard. He&#39;s able to slash to the basket and score from deep with great length and a nice frame for his position. He has long-term 3-and-D potential as he refines his skills, and learns to play off the ball. Tearing his meniscus over the summer was a setback that might help justify his slow start. He’s still a ways from being pro-ready, and has to prove he can put up the numbers to match his considerable talent.</p><h3>13. Bruce Brown Jr., G, Miami | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 13</strong></p><p>Gifted with size, strength and a relentless approach to the game, Brown continues to transition into playing the point full time and should put up big numbers for Miami. He can defend multiple positions on the perimeter and generate turnovers. On offense, he shoots the ball well but needs more polish as a playmaker and as a scorer off the bounce. His intangibles and versatility make him well-suited for an NBA backcourt.</p><h3>14. Trevon Duval, PG, Duke | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Last: 14</strong></p><p>Duval has shown improvement in every area of his gam save for his biggest weakness: his jumper. He has great size and length, can be an elite on-ball defender, makes plays in transition and has begun to slow the game down from a mental standpoint. But he’s essentially a non-factor shooting from the outside at this stage, with a lack of consistency and touch. Duval is talented enough to warrant lottery consideration but could be held back by those struggles.</p><h3>15. Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette High School (Louisiana)</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: 15</strong></p><p>Although Robinson will have had a year off from competitive basketball and enter the draft with no experience past high school, teams still have significant interest in his long frame, athleticism and shot-blocking ability. He’s a serious project with questionable feel for the game and likely won’t benefit from walking away from Western Kentucky. Conversely, there will be less time to pick him apart in workout settings. Robinson remains an intriguing name to file away.</p><h3>16. Dzanan Musa, G/F, KK Cedevita</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last: 16</strong></p><p>Musa is an aggressive scoring wing who shoots well from the outside and can attack effectively off the dribble. He’s an improving playmaker and has stood out for Bosnia with an advanced feel, but he’s very ball-dominant at this stage and may not be athletic enough for that role in the NBA. His body leaves something to be desired, as he’s somewhat thin. He lacks ideal length and has a bit of a hunched posture due to the shape of his back. He’s not much of a defender, either. Still, his ability to put the ball in the basket sets him apart.</p><h3>17. Wendell Carter Jr., F/C, Duke | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;10&quot; | Weight: 260 | Age: 18 | Last: 9</strong></p><p>Carter has a polished offensive game for a freshman, with the ability to score with his back to the basket as well as face up and hit a jump shot. He’s an intelligent player and passer with the size and strength to battle inside and corral rebounds. Although he’s not a bad athlete, he’s not especially explosive and can struggle when defenses collapse on him around the basket and alter his shot. As such, there are concerns about how he’ll adjust to facing elite length. There’s a chance his effectiveness is limited by the pace of the NBA game.</p><h3>18. Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 19</strong></p><p>Most of Brown’s appeal is tied to his long-term potential as an oversized ball-handler and versatile defensive piece. He’s at his best in the open floor and uses his length to attack the basket, see over defenders and make plays for teammates. He’s not a great shooter, but Brown also rebounds well and finds ways to impact the game without scoring. He has the upside to rise into the lottery with continued improvement.</p><h3>19. Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;2&quot; | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 55</strong></p><p>A gifted perimeter scorer and passer, Young burst out of the gate as one college basketball’s top point guards. His play has elevated a middling Oklahoma roster, and his string of huge performances has become impossible to ignore. He’s not especially big, quick or strong, but has a smooth handle and can create his own shot using his change of pace. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to stay on the floor defensively or be quite as effective creating separation against athletic defenses. Young’s impressive ability to shoot from deep and open things up for teammates have put him firmly on the radar.</p><h3>20. Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Last: 17</strong></p><p>Diallo is a divisive prospect, but nobody can argue with the freakish bounce and length that makes him worthy of first-round looks. He can run and jump with anyone and has enough of a handle to turn the corner and attack the basket, but his jumper needs work and he’s far from a finished product. Beyond easy transition points and his ability to get to the line, there’s not a ton else to Diallo’s game yet. He’s still so athletic that signs of substantive progress could land him in the lottery.</p><h3>21. Chimezie Metu, F/C, USC | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 20</strong></p><p>A springy big who blocks shots and has shown some touch, Metu has made noticeable strides year-to-year and continues to expand his game. He can make the game look easy at times, and has improved as a finisher who can throw it down in tight spaces. His game-to-game activity can waver, as can his on-court awareness. If he’s able to step out and make threes regularly, his ceiling increases considerably. Demonstrable consistency will take him a long way.</p><h3>22. Justin Jackson, F, Maryland | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 21</strong></p><p>Jackson’s long, well-developed frame makes him a very intriguing two-way forward and potential glue guy. His foot speed and 7’3” wingspan allow him to guard several positions, and he’s a useful rebounder and secondary ball-handler. That said, Jackson lacks a demonstrable offensive calling card right now unless he can somehow sustain last season’s impressive shooting clip. His scoring may come along slowly, but his well-rounded skill set is still worth an investment.</p><h3>23. Shake Milton, G, SMU | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 22</strong></p><p>Milton’s size, shooting and ability to play on and off the ball make him an intriguing prospect. He’s proven he can score from the outside and is the type of player who could pair well with a variety of backcourt partners. Milton will be the go-to guy for SMU this season and must continue to take care of the ball, play more aggressively and show he can defend at a competent level. He’s begun to turn his potential into production.</p><h3>24. Grayson Allen, SG, Duke | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 22 | Last: 24</strong></p><p>Allen is among the top distance shooters in the draft, able to get his jumper off both in tight spaces off the dribble and on the catch. He has a well-developed sense of how to get open and get to his spots, and makes difficult body-control plays look easy. Allen is a strong athlete who can attack a closeout and keep defenders from playing him too closely. Allen may not be an impactful NBA defender, but he’s certainly not a stiff. He’s tough, competes hard and looks tailored for an NBA role.</p><h3>25. Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 250 | Age: 19 | Last: 27</strong></p><p>McCoy is all tools at this stage, but he’s physically impressive and has surprised with the quality of his production. He can get up and down the floor and goes after the ball well off the glass. His timing and feel are still coming along, but he naturally alters shots and has shown some ability to shoot from the mid-range. Like many teenage bigs, his motor comes and goes, but McCoy has been effective almost in spite of it at times. He’s mobile and talented enough as a legitimate center to warrant first-round consideration.</p><h3>26. Killian Tillie, F/C, Gonzaga | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;10&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 18</strong></p><p>Hyper-efficient around the basket with a natural touch and quick burst off the floor, Tillie has quietly emerged as an intriguing prospect. The Frenchman has shown demonstrable polish and has flashed a nice-looking jump shot. He boxes out well and establishes good position inside, although he needs to add muscle in order to compete at the next level.. He moves well laterally and has some impact defensively, though how he’ll fare on both ends against NBA length remains to be seen.</p><h3>27. Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Senior</h3><p><b>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 180 | Age: 18 | Last: N/A</b></p><p>Currently in midst of a postgrad season at IMG, Simons will be draft-eligible and is considering entering the pool and skipping college. He’s a springy, quick-twitch athlete who is more of a combo guard at this stage of his development. He’s at his best attacking the basket downhill and elevating to finish, and has enviable defensive range that projects well. As he continues to develop as a shooter, he’ll have a chance to be a first-round draftee should he choose to go pro. As a high schooler, Simons obviously needs time, but the former Louisville commit possesses considerable upside and has the NBA intrigued.</p><h3>28. Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Last: 28</strong></p><p>Alkins missed the first chunk of Arizona’s season with a foot fracture, and his energy on both ends of the floor provides a major boost. He has a strong frame, NBA-caliber bounce and has demonstrated willingness to play a role for the benefit of the team. He’s evolved into a reliable defensive player and will have an opportunity to show more on the other end of the floor. He’s undersized at the two, but his ability to get to the rim, make plays and space the floor bode well.</p><h3>29. Tyus Battle, SG, Syracuse | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 20 | Last: 32</strong></p><p>Battle has nice size and skill and has taken a step forward as a versatile scorer. He’s agile and tough, but still has to prove he can create off the dribble and improve as a finisher. It’s unclear yet whether his defensive contributions will catch up to his physical prowess. Scouts will want to see him tap into his versatility and show increased efficiency on the wing.</p><h3>30. Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;2&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 22 | Last: 33</strong></p><p>As the leader of a less-loaded-than-usual Kansas team, Graham’s toughness, scoring and playmaking aren’t going unnoticed. He has a good stroke from three, and also impacts the game as a hard-working on-ball defender. He can struggle getting into the second level of defenses and isn’t elite at any one thing. But as a ball-handler who can potentially contribute quickly, given how well he’s played, the first round is within reach.</p><h3>31. Nick Richards, C, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 26</strong></p><p>Although extremely raw and prone to foul trouble, Richards’s size, rebounding, mobility and shot-blocking potential hold intrigue. He’s well-built, highly agile and can play above the rim. But his feel is lacking, and he’s very old for his class as a 20-year-old freshman. If he becomes a reliable rim-runner and shot blocker, Richards should be able to make an impact, but there are serious questions about his overall floor awareness.</p><h3>32. Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A</strong></p><p>One of college basketball’s breakout players, Thomas’s two-way ability has turned heads. He’s a consistent high-volume outside threat, can play on or off the ball and has defended extremely well, making him an excellent role player candidate at the NBA level. If he can improve creating off the dribble, it’s gravy. His growth this season is truly impressive.</p><h3>33. De’Anthony Melton, G, USC | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 31</strong></p><p>It certainly doesn’t help Melton’s case that he remains out due to the FBI’s college basketball investigation, but he’s a quality prospect just the same. He showed plenty of defensive toughness and offensive skill as a freshman, and remains on the NBA radar as an energy player and defensive presence. If he gets his jumper in order he could be in for a leap, but it&#39;s tricky to peg without him having played a game this season.</p><h3>34. Jaylen Hands, PG, UCLA | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 175 | Age: 18 | Last: 25</strong></p><p>In a weaker draft pool that’s especially thin when it comes to point guard talent, Hands’s highlight-reel explosiveness and end-to-end speed will make him an interesting upside pick if he comes out. He’s still learning how to run a team, but can get to the rim, push in transition and has a workable jumper and nice handle. He does things that are hard to teach. Hands lacks ideal size and strength for the NBA and would benefit from two seasons of college, but has a lot to offer down the line.</p><h3>35. Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 34</strong></p><p>Hachimura has come off the bench to start the year for Gonzaga and needs more opportunities to show his stuff, but he has a chance at the first round if he can string together some good performances. He’s got nice length and strength and has some touch as a shooter. He showed plenty of game playing for Japan over the summer and could evolve into a valuable two-way combo forward in time.</p><h3>36. John Petty, SG, Alabama | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 195 | Age: 18 | Last: 35</strong></p><p>The headlines have belonged to Collin Sexton, but Petty has been impressive playing off of his talented teammate. He’s a gifted perimeter shooter off the catch who can sustain hot streaks and hoist his shot quickly. It may be tricky to assess his well-roundedness given how much of Alabama’s points run through Sexton, but Petty can fill up a box score and has appeal in a 3-and-D role. </p><h3>37. Austin Wiley, C, Auburn | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 250 | Age: 18 | Last: 37</strong></p><p>Wiley continues to sit out due to the FBI corruption investigation, but possesses NBA ability and great size, length and strength. He’s young for his class and is in a pretty good place developmentally, working hard on the glass and showing the makings of a decent jumper. He’ll battle in the post and do the dirty work, but isn’t an elite athlete. He can improve as a finisher and has a history of knee injuries that limit his mobility.</p><h3>38. Rodions Kurucs, G/F, FC Barcelona</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 29</strong></p><p>Though Kurucs&#39;s stock has trended down somewhat after pulling out of last year’s draft and failing to earn minutes with Barcelona’s top team, his mix of size, athleticism and smarts offer appeal on the wing. He will need to improve his production beyond simply showing flashes. The Latvian still has some nice traits and looks like a potentially useful role player.</p><h3>39. Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 39</strong></p><p>Vanderbilt has yet to make his debut as he recovers from a foot injury, and it sounds like there’s a chance he could miss most or all of the season. He has a history of leg injuries and a thinnish lower body, but he’s a good athlete who can handle the ball a little bit and can make an impact on the glass and as a versatile defender with length. He can also make plays for teammates, particularly in the open floor. The health issues are a concern.</p><h3>40. Arnoldas Kulboka, F, Orlandina Basket</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Last: 40</strong></p><p>A productive, athletic wing with shooting potential, Kulboka has nice size at the three and has put up impressive numbers coming up in Germany. He has definite upside as a scorer. A native of Lithuania, he needs to add weight, improve defensively and add a little seasoning. He’s a potential draft-and-stash player if he comes out.</p><h3>41. Andrew Jones, G, Texas | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 38</strong></p><p>Jones is an impressive athlete and transition scorer still learning his craft. He may not evolve into a true point guard, but he has nice quickness and a burst that helps him on both ends. His halfcourt creation skills leave something to be desired and his jumper is a question mark, but Jones is a nice developmental piece with upside. He could still benefit from another year of school.</p><h3>42. Alize Johnson, F, Missouri State | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 42</strong></p><p>After breaking out over the summer at Adidas Nations, Johnson emerged as a unique prospect with guard skills and a high rebounding motor packaged into a combo forward’s body. He can handle the ball and push in transition and has some promise as a shooter, profiling as the sort of positionless-type big that’s in high demand right now. Thanks to his versatility, Johnson will get serious NBA looks as one of the top mid-major prospects around.</p><h3>43. Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;1&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 21 | Last: 46</strong></p><p>The youngest of the three Holiday brothers has proven a tough competitor in his own right. He’s undersized but scrappy, can hit an open three, get to the basket and fight on defense. Holiday will need to sustain a good amount of last season’s shooting numbers, which were abetted by playing alongside Lonzo Ball. But as the de facto veteran leader of a young, talented roster, Holiday continues to leave a nice impression.</p><h3>44. Isaac Bonga, G/F, Fraport Skyliners</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Last: 44</strong></p><p>An oversized ball-handler and talented passer, Bonga could be one of the youngest players in this class and has nice upside given his skill set. His jump shot is the biggest knock on him, but he has nice instincts and vision, particularly at his size. The German prospect needs a lot of time, but could become a two-way playmaker. Bonga’s offense in particular will require a ton of work, but what he might be in two or three years is enticing.</p><h3>45. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Last: 43</strong></p><p>Alexander-Walker is far off from logging actual NBA minutes, but his potential has him on draft radars. He has a nice stroke, the size to guard both guard spots and a generally good sense of the floor playing on and off the ball for Virginia Tech. He’d greatly benefit from a second year of college and needs to work on his body, as he struggles turning the corner against athletic defenders. He’ll be in for a season of ups and downs in the ACC, but has a nice long-term outlook.</p><h3>46. Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 200 | Age: 21 | Last: 48</strong></p><p>A popular sleeper and one of the top players in the Mountain West, Hutchison has 3-and-D potential and an unflashy, effective game. He’s a good off-ball cutter who can get himself open, and shot the ball well last season. He has the size to guard either wing position and contributes on the glass, too. If Hutchison can sustain his outside shooting clip with added volume, he may climb.</p><h3>47. Brandon Randolph, SG, Arizona | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A</strong></p><p>With his ability to put up points in bunches, Randolph has emerged as a useful complementary scorer for the Wildcats. He’s quick, smooth and is comfortable attacking the basket and spotting up off the dribble. He’s carved out a spot in the Arizona rotation and continues to improve at a high rate. He has the length and tools to become a capable defender and is a player worth tracking.</p><h3>48. Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita State | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Last: 41</strong></p><p>Shamet made it back for the start of the season, but he&#39;s now suffered serious injuries in both of his feet. That aside, he’s a gifted scorer who can hit difficult shots and began to come into his own down the stretch last season. He has nice size for a lead guard, changes speeds well and can move and defend passably. He could be in line for another big leap that could put him in the draft conversation.</p><h3>49. Bonzie Colson, PF, Notre Dame | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 220 | Age: 21 | Last: 47</strong></p><p>A truly unorthodox prospect, Colson has great length and a deep bag of offensive moves while standing just 6’5”. He’s been remarkably effective for Notre Dame anyway, and will tempt teams with his history of production and the hope that he can make it all work as a factor in smaller lineups. He can get to the foul line and has been extremely efficient to date. Whether or not he succeeds in the NBA, his situation will make for an interesting case study.</p><h3>50. P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A</strong></p><p>Despite a lack of ideal height, Washington&#39;s 7&#39;3&quot; wingspan gives him a unique physical profile and enables him to defend fours, fives and some threes on the perimeter. He’s a powerful leaper and intelligent player who has begun to make an adjustment to the college game. He may work best as a small-ball center at the next level and needs to prove he can be a shot-blocking presence. Washington’s baseline offensive skill level and shooting potential are also promising.</p><h3>51. Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 46</strong></p><p>Brunson is a heady playmaker who has had success throughout his career and looks tailored for a role as an NBA ball-handler. He doesn’t have great size or strength, but plays and works extremely hard and is often underrated as a scorer. He’s the leader of perhaps the top team in the country. Brunson relies on being crafty, understands how to run a team and has a chance to be drafted, whether this season or the next.</p><h3>52. Bryant Crawford, PG, Wake Forest | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 200 | Age: 20 | Last: 45</strong></p><p>A lesser-known prospect who has quietly developed over the last couple seasons, Crawford’s size and strength on the ball and willingness to defend has piqued NBA interest. He changes speeds well and can create in the halfcourt. Crawford isn’t a knockdown shooter and needs to prove he can be consistent. He will be asked to elevate a mediocre roster this season and could struggle with efficiency. But his experience, length and two-way contributions help set him apart.</p><h3>53. Allonzo Trier, SG, Arizona | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 53</strong></p><p>Trier is a dynamic college scorer who has improved his efficiency from the field, but questions linger over his shot selection and ability to fit into an NBA rotation. He lacks ideal length for a shooting guard and can be a ball-stopper. He’s an offensive-minded talent and consistent shooter from deep, but will be asked to play a supporting role at the next level. Trier may be able to succeed if he commits to defense, works on his body and proves there’s more to his game.</p><h3>54. Kris Wilkes, SF, UCLA | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Last: 30</strong></p><p>Though Wilkes has slowed down after an impressive start to the season, his smooth shooting mechanics, twitchy athleticism and 6’11” wingspan make him a natural fit for a 3-and-D role given time. He can attack a closeout and looks comfortable scoring in transition. Wilkes still has a lot of work to do on his handle and needs to show he can be a consistent threat from deep and impact the game beyond scoring. His game is reminiscent of Tim Hardaway Jr., and his strengths profile nicely down the line.</p><h3>55. Jacob Evans, G/F, Cincinnati | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 20 | Last: 52</strong></p><p>Evans is a tough, defensive-minded guard with shot-making ability who has come on strong as an NBA prospect. He has the chops to be a valuable 3-and-D piece and guard multiple positions. He’s physically impressive, but struggles to create off the dribble and may be better cast as a small forward at the next level. He needs to prove his outside shot is for real. </p><h3>56. Vince Edwards, F, Purdue | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 21 | Last: 50</strong></p><p>Edwards has the athleticism and length to guard several positions passably, and has a nice level of versatility to his game. He could be an ideal fit in smaller lineups with his ability to move the ball, space the floor and get involved on the glass. If you envision him as a glue guy and he shows real improvement as a defender, where he is prone to lapses, he’s not a bad roll of the dice.</p><h3>57. Moritz Wagner, F/C, Michigan | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 20 | Last: 51</strong></p><p>An inside-out scorer with the size to play center, Wagner has offensive talent and can be a tough matchup. He lacks the defensive chops to protect the basket and has holes in his all-around game. He’s begun to rebound the ball better this season, which is a start. Legitimate stretch bigs are tricky to find, and Wagner has the talent to space the floor if he can round out his weaknesses.</p><h2>58. Anas Mahmoud, C, Louisville | Junior</h2><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 22 | Last: 59</strong></p><p>Though old for his class and possessing a slender build, Mahmoud has the size, mobility and length to protect the rim and continues to improve. He’s a strong shot-blocker and showed improvement in his overall feel last year. He’s not much of a scorer and may be limited into a defensive specialist-type role. Any offensive development will help his case.</p><h3>59. Bennie Boatwright, F, USC | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 21 | Last: 54</strong></p><p>As a floor-spacer with size, Boatwright has been on the radar for a while. He’s a deadeye shooter with his feet set and has shown the ability to score off the bounce as well, although he’s not a great athlete or a presence defensively. He’s not especially efficient putting the ball in the basket any other way, but a strong year shooting the ball could put him in the second round.</p><h3>60. Ethan Happ, PF, Wisconsin | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 235 | Age: 21 | Last: 49</strong></p><p>Happ has done nothing but produce at Wisconsin and excels as a finisher and rebounder. He operates mostly in the paint, where he’s always active despite a lack of ideal size at the five. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s a good rebounder, ball-handler and passer and plays bigger than his size. It hurts that he’s not much of a shooter (and poor from the free throw line) but his track record is impressive.</p>
2018 NBA Draft Big Board 2.0: Breakout Stars Rise up the Rankings

With about a month of college games in the bag and plenty of data to pore over, it’s a good time to re-assess the 2018 NBA draft's top 60 prospects as conference play approaches.

While our Mock Draft aims to project what the draft might look like on a given day of the season and factors in team needs, the Big Board serves as our own point of reference for the available player pool. These rankings are based on our own evaluations and conversations with NBA scouts, and establishes how we'd rate prospects in a vacuum (a scenario, of course, that will never actually happen).

Gifted Arizona center DeAndre Ayton remains atop our draft board, with Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley a close second and third, respectively. High-scoring Oklahoma guard Trae Young moves into first-round territory, as does intriguing draft-eligible high schooler Anfernee Simons. The big picture remains extremely fluid. Here’s how we see it.

(Note: Rankings and stats last updated Dec. 11).

1. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona | Freshman

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last Ranking: 1

Elite physical tools, soft touch around the basket and a promising jump shot make Ayton a tantalizing prospect. He has most of the traits you want in a modern center plus the athletic ability to face up and play in space. The college game comes easily to him, and Ayton checks essentially every offensive box for his position. There are fair questions about his defensive comprehension and shot-blocking woes, but with his nimble feet and sheer size and strength, he has the tools to be an above-average presence around the rim. He’s a manchild with crazy-high upside and a potential franchise cornerstone.

2. Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last: 3

At 18, Doncic has become perhaps the top player in the Euroleague and a potential No. 1 pick. He’s comfortable as a lead ball-handler and has become deadly from three-point range. He makes his teammates better and reads the floor beyond his years. While he will face an adjustment to the speed of NBA defenses, there’s not really much to nitpick here, and his strong performances for Slovenia against high-caliber competition round out an impressive résumé. Doncic appears a safe bet to continue on the fast track and contribute at a high level as an NBA playmaker.

3. Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 18 | Last: 2

Known for his aggression on the glass and competitiveness, Bagley manufactures easy baskets and possesses uncommonly fluid athleticism for a guy his size. He should become a versatile defensive piece on the perimeter, but has struggled to guard on the interior thus far. His growth as a scorer in the halfcourt will ultimately make or break him, and his jump shot is a work in progress, but his makeup and base strengths give his value a solid floor. His quick adjustment from reclassifying out of high school to dominating college competition is truly impressive. With his ball-handling and ability to face up, he has considerable room to grow.

4. Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Freshman

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 5

With off-the-charts length and impressive mobility, Bamba is potentially a dominant interior defender. His 7’9” wingspan deserves a sentence of its own. He has a slender frame and continues to round out his offensive skill set, but has shown ability as a jump shooter and is a constant threat to catch lobs. He’s further off from contributing than some of this draft’s other elite prospects, but his best-case scenario is right there with them. Bamba has an opportunity to evolve into a defensive-minded antidote for the young, perimeter-oriented bigs beginning to take over the NBA.

5. Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Freshman

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 4

Porter is a smooth, polished scorer who thrives on the perimeter and should be able to play either forward spot. Shooting is at a premium, and Porter’s ball-handling and perimeter skills give him a chance to contribute immediately. He can be a ball-stopper, and rounding out his game with playmaking and defense are the next steps, but he’s a pretty ideal frontcourt prospect in the pace-and-space era. Following back surgery, concerns over his long-term health and mobility are warranted. Barring major red flags, he won’t fall far.

6. Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C, Michigan State | Freshman

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 6

Jackson boasts NBA bloodlines and an intriguing blend of scoring touch, shot-blocking and three-point shooting potential. On top of that, he’s also producing on the court and competing hard as one of the youngest players in college basketball. His jump shot mechanics are unorthodox, which may limit how much of that specific success translates. As his body fills out, Jackson should become a better finisher around the rim. He has made major all-around strides over the last year or so and is worthy of consideration high in the draft.

7. Robert Williams III, F/C, Texas A&M | Sophomore

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 7

A strong, athletic big with some inside-out scoring ability and a nose for the ball, Williams is a talented rim-runner who catches lobs and does a good job on the offensive glass. Williams is also a good passer with better feel than he’s been given credit for. It’s imperative he finds ways to better involve himself in games as a scorer, but he’s currently cast into a secondary role on a very good team. As a result, his offensive impact can be highly inconsistent. There aren’t many college bigs who play above the rim as easily as Williams can, and he has considerable potential as a Clint Capela-style five-man.

8. Collin Sexton, G, Alabama | Freshman

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 10

Sexton is an aggressive, shoot-first guard whose handle and burst allow him to consistently penetrate defenses and draw fouls. He’s shown some improvement as a three-point shooter and has the ability to be a good defender when locked in. Sexton isn’t a pure point and can improve as a decision maker with the ball, but he has a good chance to become an effective change-of-pace scorer at minimum. He can occasionally struggle to finish around bigs, but his blend of shot-creation and toughness is rare. If he continues to draw fouls at a high rate in the NBA, the outlook should be sunny.

9. Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 12

On an inconsistent, younger-than-usual Kentucky roster, Knox has emerged as John Calipari’s top prospect. He’s developed into a capable three-point shooter and has enviable physical tools, with the size and reach to guard either forward spot and rebound effectively. Knox could stand to be more aggressive attacking the basket, and still has games where he disappears for long stretches. But his body and versatility project well, and he’s still quite far from the player he could eventually become.

10. Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova | Junior

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 23

Bridges has emerged as a lottery-caliber prospect, with an improved offensive game now accompanying the impressive measurables that make him an impact defender. He moves well on the perimeter, can defend four positions, blocks shots and consistently generates steals with his 7’0” wingspan. Bridges’ improved aggressiveness on offense has answered the questons about his motor, and he has the kind of versatility that plays particularly well in a fast-paced game. Continuing to thrive in his increased scoring role will be key.

11. Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | Sophomore

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 8

Bridges competes hard on both ends of the floor, and his oft-spectacular athletic ability suggests he can be an impactful defender and transition threat. But scouts are questioning how much he’s improved since his freshman year, with an inconsistent jump shot and limited ability to create off the dribble. His energy and ability to run the floor should still play in a NBA that favors smaller, faster forwards, but it’s reasonable to wonder about some of his limitations.

12. Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami | Freshman

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 11

Walker checks a lot of boxes for an off-guard. He's able to slash to the basket and score from deep with great length and a nice frame for his position. He has long-term 3-and-D potential as he refines his skills, and learns to play off the ball. Tearing his meniscus over the summer was a setback that might help justify his slow start. He’s still a ways from being pro-ready, and has to prove he can put up the numbers to match his considerable talent.

13. Bruce Brown Jr., G, Miami | Sophomore

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 13

Gifted with size, strength and a relentless approach to the game, Brown continues to transition into playing the point full time and should put up big numbers for Miami. He can defend multiple positions on the perimeter and generate turnovers. On offense, he shoots the ball well but needs more polish as a playmaker and as a scorer off the bounce. His intangibles and versatility make him well-suited for an NBA backcourt.

14. Trevon Duval, PG, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Last: 14

Duval has shown improvement in every area of his gam save for his biggest weakness: his jumper. He has great size and length, can be an elite on-ball defender, makes plays in transition and has begun to slow the game down from a mental standpoint. But he’s essentially a non-factor shooting from the outside at this stage, with a lack of consistency and touch. Duval is talented enough to warrant lottery consideration but could be held back by those struggles.

15. Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette High School (Louisiana)

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: 15

Although Robinson will have had a year off from competitive basketball and enter the draft with no experience past high school, teams still have significant interest in his long frame, athleticism and shot-blocking ability. He’s a serious project with questionable feel for the game and likely won’t benefit from walking away from Western Kentucky. Conversely, there will be less time to pick him apart in workout settings. Robinson remains an intriguing name to file away.

16. Dzanan Musa, G/F, KK Cedevita

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last: 16

Musa is an aggressive scoring wing who shoots well from the outside and can attack effectively off the dribble. He’s an improving playmaker and has stood out for Bosnia with an advanced feel, but he’s very ball-dominant at this stage and may not be athletic enough for that role in the NBA. His body leaves something to be desired, as he’s somewhat thin. He lacks ideal length and has a bit of a hunched posture due to the shape of his back. He’s not much of a defender, either. Still, his ability to put the ball in the basket sets him apart.

17. Wendell Carter Jr., F/C, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 260 | Age: 18 | Last: 9

Carter has a polished offensive game for a freshman, with the ability to score with his back to the basket as well as face up and hit a jump shot. He’s an intelligent player and passer with the size and strength to battle inside and corral rebounds. Although he’s not a bad athlete, he’s not especially explosive and can struggle when defenses collapse on him around the basket and alter his shot. As such, there are concerns about how he’ll adjust to facing elite length. There’s a chance his effectiveness is limited by the pace of the NBA game.

18. Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Freshman

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 19

Most of Brown’s appeal is tied to his long-term potential as an oversized ball-handler and versatile defensive piece. He’s at his best in the open floor and uses his length to attack the basket, see over defenders and make plays for teammates. He’s not a great shooter, but Brown also rebounds well and finds ways to impact the game without scoring. He has the upside to rise into the lottery with continued improvement.

19. Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Freshman

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 55

A gifted perimeter scorer and passer, Young burst out of the gate as one college basketball’s top point guards. His play has elevated a middling Oklahoma roster, and his string of huge performances has become impossible to ignore. He’s not especially big, quick or strong, but has a smooth handle and can create his own shot using his change of pace. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to stay on the floor defensively or be quite as effective creating separation against athletic defenses. Young’s impressive ability to shoot from deep and open things up for teammates have put him firmly on the radar.

20. Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Last: 17

Diallo is a divisive prospect, but nobody can argue with the freakish bounce and length that makes him worthy of first-round looks. He can run and jump with anyone and has enough of a handle to turn the corner and attack the basket, but his jumper needs work and he’s far from a finished product. Beyond easy transition points and his ability to get to the line, there’s not a ton else to Diallo’s game yet. He’s still so athletic that signs of substantive progress could land him in the lottery.

21. Chimezie Metu, F/C, USC | Junior

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 20

A springy big who blocks shots and has shown some touch, Metu has made noticeable strides year-to-year and continues to expand his game. He can make the game look easy at times, and has improved as a finisher who can throw it down in tight spaces. His game-to-game activity can waver, as can his on-court awareness. If he’s able to step out and make threes regularly, his ceiling increases considerably. Demonstrable consistency will take him a long way.

22. Justin Jackson, F, Maryland | Sophomore

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 21

Jackson’s long, well-developed frame makes him a very intriguing two-way forward and potential glue guy. His foot speed and 7’3” wingspan allow him to guard several positions, and he’s a useful rebounder and secondary ball-handler. That said, Jackson lacks a demonstrable offensive calling card right now unless he can somehow sustain last season’s impressive shooting clip. His scoring may come along slowly, but his well-rounded skill set is still worth an investment.

23. Shake Milton, G, SMU | Junior

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 22

Milton’s size, shooting and ability to play on and off the ball make him an intriguing prospect. He’s proven he can score from the outside and is the type of player who could pair well with a variety of backcourt partners. Milton will be the go-to guy for SMU this season and must continue to take care of the ball, play more aggressively and show he can defend at a competent level. He’s begun to turn his potential into production.

24. Grayson Allen, SG, Duke | Senior

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 205 | Age: 22 | Last: 24

Allen is among the top distance shooters in the draft, able to get his jumper off both in tight spaces off the dribble and on the catch. He has a well-developed sense of how to get open and get to his spots, and makes difficult body-control plays look easy. Allen is a strong athlete who can attack a closeout and keep defenders from playing him too closely. Allen may not be an impactful NBA defender, but he’s certainly not a stiff. He’s tough, competes hard and looks tailored for an NBA role.

25. Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV | Freshman

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 250 | Age: 19 | Last: 27

McCoy is all tools at this stage, but he’s physically impressive and has surprised with the quality of his production. He can get up and down the floor and goes after the ball well off the glass. His timing and feel are still coming along, but he naturally alters shots and has shown some ability to shoot from the mid-range. Like many teenage bigs, his motor comes and goes, but McCoy has been effective almost in spite of it at times. He’s mobile and talented enough as a legitimate center to warrant first-round consideration.

26. Killian Tillie, F/C, Gonzaga | Sophomore

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 18

Hyper-efficient around the basket with a natural touch and quick burst off the floor, Tillie has quietly emerged as an intriguing prospect. The Frenchman has shown demonstrable polish and has flashed a nice-looking jump shot. He boxes out well and establishes good position inside, although he needs to add muscle in order to compete at the next level.. He moves well laterally and has some impact defensively, though how he’ll fare on both ends against NBA length remains to be seen.

27. Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Senior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 180 | Age: 18 | Last: N/A

Currently in midst of a postgrad season at IMG, Simons will be draft-eligible and is considering entering the pool and skipping college. He’s a springy, quick-twitch athlete who is more of a combo guard at this stage of his development. He’s at his best attacking the basket downhill and elevating to finish, and has enviable defensive range that projects well. As he continues to develop as a shooter, he’ll have a chance to be a first-round draftee should he choose to go pro. As a high schooler, Simons obviously needs time, but the former Louisville commit possesses considerable upside and has the NBA intrigued.

28. Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Last: 28

Alkins missed the first chunk of Arizona’s season with a foot fracture, and his energy on both ends of the floor provides a major boost. He has a strong frame, NBA-caliber bounce and has demonstrated willingness to play a role for the benefit of the team. He’s evolved into a reliable defensive player and will have an opportunity to show more on the other end of the floor. He’s undersized at the two, but his ability to get to the rim, make plays and space the floor bode well.

29. Tyus Battle, SG, Syracuse | Sophomore

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 20 | Last: 32

Battle has nice size and skill and has taken a step forward as a versatile scorer. He’s agile and tough, but still has to prove he can create off the dribble and improve as a finisher. It’s unclear yet whether his defensive contributions will catch up to his physical prowess. Scouts will want to see him tap into his versatility and show increased efficiency on the wing.

30. Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas | Senior

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 185 | Age: 22 | Last: 33

As the leader of a less-loaded-than-usual Kansas team, Graham’s toughness, scoring and playmaking aren’t going unnoticed. He has a good stroke from three, and also impacts the game as a hard-working on-ball defender. He can struggle getting into the second level of defenses and isn’t elite at any one thing. But as a ball-handler who can potentially contribute quickly, given how well he’s played, the first round is within reach.

31. Nick Richards, C, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 26

Although extremely raw and prone to foul trouble, Richards’s size, rebounding, mobility and shot-blocking potential hold intrigue. He’s well-built, highly agile and can play above the rim. But his feel is lacking, and he’s very old for his class as a 20-year-old freshman. If he becomes a reliable rim-runner and shot blocker, Richards should be able to make an impact, but there are serious questions about his overall floor awareness.

32. Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton | Junior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A

One of college basketball’s breakout players, Thomas’s two-way ability has turned heads. He’s a consistent high-volume outside threat, can play on or off the ball and has defended extremely well, making him an excellent role player candidate at the NBA level. If he can improve creating off the dribble, it’s gravy. His growth this season is truly impressive.

33. De’Anthony Melton, G, USC | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 31

It certainly doesn’t help Melton’s case that he remains out due to the FBI’s college basketball investigation, but he’s a quality prospect just the same. He showed plenty of defensive toughness and offensive skill as a freshman, and remains on the NBA radar as an energy player and defensive presence. If he gets his jumper in order he could be in for a leap, but it's tricky to peg without him having played a game this season.

34. Jaylen Hands, PG, UCLA | Freshman

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 175 | Age: 18 | Last: 25

In a weaker draft pool that’s especially thin when it comes to point guard talent, Hands’s highlight-reel explosiveness and end-to-end speed will make him an interesting upside pick if he comes out. He’s still learning how to run a team, but can get to the rim, push in transition and has a workable jumper and nice handle. He does things that are hard to teach. Hands lacks ideal size and strength for the NBA and would benefit from two seasons of college, but has a lot to offer down the line.

35. Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga | Sophomore

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 34

Hachimura has come off the bench to start the year for Gonzaga and needs more opportunities to show his stuff, but he has a chance at the first round if he can string together some good performances. He’s got nice length and strength and has some touch as a shooter. He showed plenty of game playing for Japan over the summer and could evolve into a valuable two-way combo forward in time.

36. John Petty, SG, Alabama | Freshman

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 195 | Age: 18 | Last: 35

The headlines have belonged to Collin Sexton, but Petty has been impressive playing off of his talented teammate. He’s a gifted perimeter shooter off the catch who can sustain hot streaks and hoist his shot quickly. It may be tricky to assess his well-roundedness given how much of Alabama’s points run through Sexton, but Petty can fill up a box score and has appeal in a 3-and-D role.

37. Austin Wiley, C, Auburn | Sophomore

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 250 | Age: 18 | Last: 37

Wiley continues to sit out due to the FBI corruption investigation, but possesses NBA ability and great size, length and strength. He’s young for his class and is in a pretty good place developmentally, working hard on the glass and showing the makings of a decent jumper. He’ll battle in the post and do the dirty work, but isn’t an elite athlete. He can improve as a finisher and has a history of knee injuries that limit his mobility.

38. Rodions Kurucs, G/F, FC Barcelona

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 29

Though Kurucs's stock has trended down somewhat after pulling out of last year’s draft and failing to earn minutes with Barcelona’s top team, his mix of size, athleticism and smarts offer appeal on the wing. He will need to improve his production beyond simply showing flashes. The Latvian still has some nice traits and looks like a potentially useful role player.

39. Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 39

Vanderbilt has yet to make his debut as he recovers from a foot injury, and it sounds like there’s a chance he could miss most or all of the season. He has a history of leg injuries and a thinnish lower body, but he’s a good athlete who can handle the ball a little bit and can make an impact on the glass and as a versatile defender with length. He can also make plays for teammates, particularly in the open floor. The health issues are a concern.

40. Arnoldas Kulboka, F, Orlandina Basket

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Last: 40

A productive, athletic wing with shooting potential, Kulboka has nice size at the three and has put up impressive numbers coming up in Germany. He has definite upside as a scorer. A native of Lithuania, he needs to add weight, improve defensively and add a little seasoning. He’s a potential draft-and-stash player if he comes out.

41. Andrew Jones, G, Texas | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 38

Jones is an impressive athlete and transition scorer still learning his craft. He may not evolve into a true point guard, but he has nice quickness and a burst that helps him on both ends. His halfcourt creation skills leave something to be desired and his jumper is a question mark, but Jones is a nice developmental piece with upside. He could still benefit from another year of school.

42. Alize Johnson, F, Missouri State | Senior

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 42

After breaking out over the summer at Adidas Nations, Johnson emerged as a unique prospect with guard skills and a high rebounding motor packaged into a combo forward’s body. He can handle the ball and push in transition and has some promise as a shooter, profiling as the sort of positionless-type big that’s in high demand right now. Thanks to his versatility, Johnson will get serious NBA looks as one of the top mid-major prospects around.

43. Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA | Junior

Height: 6'1" | Weight: 185 | Age: 21 | Last: 46

The youngest of the three Holiday brothers has proven a tough competitor in his own right. He’s undersized but scrappy, can hit an open three, get to the basket and fight on defense. Holiday will need to sustain a good amount of last season’s shooting numbers, which were abetted by playing alongside Lonzo Ball. But as the de facto veteran leader of a young, talented roster, Holiday continues to leave a nice impression.

44. Isaac Bonga, G/F, Fraport Skyliners

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Last: 44

An oversized ball-handler and talented passer, Bonga could be one of the youngest players in this class and has nice upside given his skill set. His jump shot is the biggest knock on him, but he has nice instincts and vision, particularly at his size. The German prospect needs a lot of time, but could become a two-way playmaker. Bonga’s offense in particular will require a ton of work, but what he might be in two or three years is enticing.

45. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech | Freshman

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Last: 43

Alexander-Walker is far off from logging actual NBA minutes, but his potential has him on draft radars. He has a nice stroke, the size to guard both guard spots and a generally good sense of the floor playing on and off the ball for Virginia Tech. He’d greatly benefit from a second year of college and needs to work on his body, as he struggles turning the corner against athletic defenders. He’ll be in for a season of ups and downs in the ACC, but has a nice long-term outlook.

46. Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State | Senior

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 200 | Age: 21 | Last: 48

A popular sleeper and one of the top players in the Mountain West, Hutchison has 3-and-D potential and an unflashy, effective game. He’s a good off-ball cutter who can get himself open, and shot the ball well last season. He has the size to guard either wing position and contributes on the glass, too. If Hutchison can sustain his outside shooting clip with added volume, he may climb.

47. Brandon Randolph, SG, Arizona | Freshman

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A

With his ability to put up points in bunches, Randolph has emerged as a useful complementary scorer for the Wildcats. He’s quick, smooth and is comfortable attacking the basket and spotting up off the dribble. He’s carved out a spot in the Arizona rotation and continues to improve at a high rate. He has the length and tools to become a capable defender and is a player worth tracking.

48. Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita State | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Last: 41

Shamet made it back for the start of the season, but he's now suffered serious injuries in both of his feet. That aside, he’s a gifted scorer who can hit difficult shots and began to come into his own down the stretch last season. He has nice size for a lead guard, changes speeds well and can move and defend passably. He could be in line for another big leap that could put him in the draft conversation.

49. Bonzie Colson, PF, Notre Dame | Senior

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 220 | Age: 21 | Last: 47

A truly unorthodox prospect, Colson has great length and a deep bag of offensive moves while standing just 6’5”. He’s been remarkably effective for Notre Dame anyway, and will tempt teams with his history of production and the hope that he can make it all work as a factor in smaller lineups. He can get to the foul line and has been extremely efficient to date. Whether or not he succeeds in the NBA, his situation will make for an interesting case study.

50. P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A

Despite a lack of ideal height, Washington's 7'3" wingspan gives him a unique physical profile and enables him to defend fours, fives and some threes on the perimeter. He’s a powerful leaper and intelligent player who has begun to make an adjustment to the college game. He may work best as a small-ball center at the next level and needs to prove he can be a shot-blocking presence. Washington’s baseline offensive skill level and shooting potential are also promising.

51. Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova | Junior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 46

Brunson is a heady playmaker who has had success throughout his career and looks tailored for a role as an NBA ball-handler. He doesn’t have great size or strength, but plays and works extremely hard and is often underrated as a scorer. He’s the leader of perhaps the top team in the country. Brunson relies on being crafty, understands how to run a team and has a chance to be drafted, whether this season or the next.

52. Bryant Crawford, PG, Wake Forest | Junior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 200 | Age: 20 | Last: 45

A lesser-known prospect who has quietly developed over the last couple seasons, Crawford’s size and strength on the ball and willingness to defend has piqued NBA interest. He changes speeds well and can create in the halfcourt. Crawford isn’t a knockdown shooter and needs to prove he can be consistent. He will be asked to elevate a mediocre roster this season and could struggle with efficiency. But his experience, length and two-way contributions help set him apart.

53. Allonzo Trier, SG, Arizona | Junior

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 53

Trier is a dynamic college scorer who has improved his efficiency from the field, but questions linger over his shot selection and ability to fit into an NBA rotation. He lacks ideal length for a shooting guard and can be a ball-stopper. He’s an offensive-minded talent and consistent shooter from deep, but will be asked to play a supporting role at the next level. Trier may be able to succeed if he commits to defense, works on his body and proves there’s more to his game.

54. Kris Wilkes, SF, UCLA | Freshman

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Last: 30

Though Wilkes has slowed down after an impressive start to the season, his smooth shooting mechanics, twitchy athleticism and 6’11” wingspan make him a natural fit for a 3-and-D role given time. He can attack a closeout and looks comfortable scoring in transition. Wilkes still has a lot of work to do on his handle and needs to show he can be a consistent threat from deep and impact the game beyond scoring. His game is reminiscent of Tim Hardaway Jr., and his strengths profile nicely down the line.

55. Jacob Evans, G/F, Cincinnati | Junior

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 210 | Age: 20 | Last: 52

Evans is a tough, defensive-minded guard with shot-making ability who has come on strong as an NBA prospect. He has the chops to be a valuable 3-and-D piece and guard multiple positions. He’s physically impressive, but struggles to create off the dribble and may be better cast as a small forward at the next level. He needs to prove his outside shot is for real.

56. Vince Edwards, F, Purdue | Senior

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 225 | Age: 21 | Last: 50

Edwards has the athleticism and length to guard several positions passably, and has a nice level of versatility to his game. He could be an ideal fit in smaller lineups with his ability to move the ball, space the floor and get involved on the glass. If you envision him as a glue guy and he shows real improvement as a defender, where he is prone to lapses, he’s not a bad roll of the dice.

57. Moritz Wagner, F/C, Michigan | Junior

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 230 | Age: 20 | Last: 51

An inside-out scorer with the size to play center, Wagner has offensive talent and can be a tough matchup. He lacks the defensive chops to protect the basket and has holes in his all-around game. He’s begun to rebound the ball better this season, which is a start. Legitimate stretch bigs are tricky to find, and Wagner has the talent to space the floor if he can round out his weaknesses.

58. Anas Mahmoud, C, Louisville | Junior

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 215 | Age: 22 | Last: 59

Though old for his class and possessing a slender build, Mahmoud has the size, mobility and length to protect the rim and continues to improve. He’s a strong shot-blocker and showed improvement in his overall feel last year. He’s not much of a scorer and may be limited into a defensive specialist-type role. Any offensive development will help his case.

59. Bennie Boatwright, F, USC | Junior

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 230 | Age: 21 | Last: 54

As a floor-spacer with size, Boatwright has been on the radar for a while. He’s a deadeye shooter with his feet set and has shown the ability to score off the bounce as well, although he’s not a great athlete or a presence defensively. He’s not especially efficient putting the ball in the basket any other way, but a strong year shooting the ball could put him in the second round.

60. Ethan Happ, PF, Wisconsin | Junior

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 235 | Age: 21 | Last: 49

Happ has done nothing but produce at Wisconsin and excels as a finisher and rebounder. He operates mostly in the paint, where he’s always active despite a lack of ideal size at the five. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s a good rebounder, ball-handler and passer and plays bigger than his size. It hurts that he’s not much of a shooter (and poor from the free throw line) but his track record is impressive.

<p>With about a month of college games in the bag and plenty of data to pore over, it’s a good time to re-assess the 2018 NBA draft&#39;s top 60 prospects as conference play approaches.</p><p>While our <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/nba-mock-draft-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Mock Draft" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Mock Draft</a> aims to project what the draft might look like on a given day of the season and factors in team needs, the Big Board serves as our own point of reference for the available player pool. These rankings are based on our own evaluations and conversations with NBA scouts, and establishes how we&#39;d rate prospects in a vacuum (a scenario, of course, that will never actually happen). </p><p>Gifted Arizona center DeAndre Ayton remains atop our draft board, with Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley a close second and third, respectively. High-scoring Oklahoma guard Trae Young moves into first-round territory, as does intriguing draft-eligible high schooler Anfernee Simons. The big picture remains extremely fluid. Here’s how we see it.</p><p><em>(Note: Rankings and stats last updated Dec. 11).</em></p><h3>1. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last Ranking: 1 </strong></p><p>Elite physical tools, soft touch around the basket and a promising jump shot make Ayton a tantalizing prospect. He has most of the traits you want in a modern center plus the athletic ability to face up and play in space. The college game comes easily to him, and Ayton checks essentially every offensive box for his position. There are fair questions about his defensive comprehension and shot-blocking woes, but with his nimble feet and sheer size and strength, he has the tools to be an above-average presence around the rim. He’s a manchild with crazy-high upside and a potential franchise cornerstone.</p><h3>2. Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last: 3</strong></p><p>At 18, Doncic has become perhaps the top player in the Euroleague and a potential No. 1 pick. He’s comfortable as a lead ball-handler and has become deadly from three-point range. He makes his teammates better and reads the floor beyond his years. While he will face an adjustment to the speed of NBA defenses, there’s not really much to nitpick here, and his strong performances for Slovenia against high-caliber competition round out an impressive résumé. Doncic appears a safe bet to continue on the fast track and contribute at a high level as an NBA playmaker.</p><h3>3. Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 235 | Age: 18 | Last: 2</strong></p><p>Known for his aggression on the glass and competitiveness, Bagley manufactures easy baskets and possesses uncommonly fluid athleticism for a guy his size. He should become a versatile defensive piece on the perimeter, but has struggled to guard on the interior thus far. His growth as a scorer in the halfcourt will ultimately make or break him, and his jump shot is a work in progress, but his makeup and base strengths give his value a solid floor. His quick adjustment from reclassifying out of high school to dominating college competition is truly impressive. With his ball-handling and ability to face up, he has considerable room to grow.</p><h3>4. Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 5</strong></p><p>With off-the-charts length and impressive mobility, Bamba is potentially a dominant interior defender. His 7’9” wingspan deserves a sentence of its own. He has a slender frame and continues to round out his offensive skill set, but has shown ability as a jump shooter and is a constant threat to catch lobs. He’s further off from contributing than some of this draft’s other elite prospects, but his best-case scenario is right there with them. Bamba has an opportunity to evolve into a defensive-minded antidote for the young, perimeter-oriented bigs beginning to take over the NBA.</p><h3>5. Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;10&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 4</strong></p><p>Porter is a smooth, polished scorer who thrives on the perimeter and should be able to play either forward spot. Shooting is at a premium, and Porter’s ball-handling and perimeter skills give him a chance to contribute immediately. He can be a ball-stopper, and rounding out his game with playmaking and defense are the next steps, but he’s a pretty ideal frontcourt prospect in the pace-and-space era. Following back surgery, concerns over his long-term health and mobility are warranted. Barring major red flags, he won’t fall far.</p><h3>6. Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C, Michigan State | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 6 </strong></p><p>Jackson boasts NBA bloodlines and an intriguing blend of scoring touch, shot-blocking and three-point shooting potential. On top of that, he’s also producing on the court and competing hard as one of the youngest players in college basketball. His jump shot mechanics are unorthodox, which may limit how much of that specific success translates. As his body fills out, Jackson should become a better finisher around the rim. He has made major all-around strides over the last year or so and is worthy of consideration high in the draft.</p><h3>7. Robert Williams III, F/C, Texas A&#38;M | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 7</strong></p><p>A strong, athletic big with some inside-out scoring ability and a nose for the ball, Williams is a talented rim-runner who catches lobs and does a good job on the offensive glass. Williams is also a good passer with better feel than he’s been given credit for. It’s imperative he finds ways to better involve himself in games as a scorer, but he’s currently cast into a secondary role on a very good team. As a result, his offensive impact can be highly inconsistent. There aren’t many college bigs who play above the rim as easily as Williams can, and he has considerable potential as a Clint Capela-style five-man.</p><h3>8. Collin Sexton, G, Alabama | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;2&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 10</strong></p><p>Sexton is an aggressive, shoot-first guard whose handle and burst allow him to consistently penetrate defenses and draw fouls. He’s shown some improvement as a three-point shooter and has the ability to be a good defender when locked in. Sexton isn’t a pure point and can improve as a decision maker with the ball, but he has a good chance to become an effective change-of-pace scorer at minimum. He can occasionally struggle to finish around bigs, but his blend of shot-creation and toughness is rare. If he continues to draw fouls at a high rate in the NBA, the outlook should be sunny.</p><h3>9. Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 12</strong></p><p>On an inconsistent, younger-than-usual Kentucky roster, Knox has emerged as John Calipari’s top prospect. He’s developed into a capable three-point shooter and has enviable physical tools, with the size and reach to guard either forward spot and rebound effectively. Knox could stand to be more aggressive attacking the basket, and still has games where he disappears for long stretches. But his body and versatility project well, and he’s still quite far from the player he could eventually become.</p><h3>10. Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 23</strong></p><p>Bridges has emerged as a lottery-caliber prospect, with an improved offensive game now accompanying the impressive measurables that make him an impact defender. He moves well on the perimeter, can defend four positions, blocks shots and consistently generates steals with his 7’0” wingspan. Bridges’ improved aggressiveness on offense has answered the questons about his motor, and he has the kind of versatility that plays particularly well in a fast-paced game. Continuing to thrive in his increased scoring role will be key.</p><h3>11. Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 8</strong></p><p>Bridges competes hard on both ends of the floor, and his oft-spectacular athletic ability suggests he can be an impactful defender and transition threat. But scouts are questioning how much he’s improved since his freshman year, with an inconsistent jump shot and limited ability to create off the dribble. His energy and ability to run the floor should still play in a NBA that favors smaller, faster forwards, but it’s reasonable to wonder about some of his limitations.</p><h3>12. Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 11</strong></p><p>Walker checks a lot of boxes for an off-guard. He&#39;s able to slash to the basket and score from deep with great length and a nice frame for his position. He has long-term 3-and-D potential as he refines his skills, and learns to play off the ball. Tearing his meniscus over the summer was a setback that might help justify his slow start. He’s still a ways from being pro-ready, and has to prove he can put up the numbers to match his considerable talent.</p><h3>13. Bruce Brown Jr., G, Miami | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 13</strong></p><p>Gifted with size, strength and a relentless approach to the game, Brown continues to transition into playing the point full time and should put up big numbers for Miami. He can defend multiple positions on the perimeter and generate turnovers. On offense, he shoots the ball well but needs more polish as a playmaker and as a scorer off the bounce. His intangibles and versatility make him well-suited for an NBA backcourt.</p><h3>14. Trevon Duval, PG, Duke | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Last: 14</strong></p><p>Duval has shown improvement in every area of his gam save for his biggest weakness: his jumper. He has great size and length, can be an elite on-ball defender, makes plays in transition and has begun to slow the game down from a mental standpoint. But he’s essentially a non-factor shooting from the outside at this stage, with a lack of consistency and touch. Duval is talented enough to warrant lottery consideration but could be held back by those struggles.</p><h3>15. Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette High School (Louisiana)</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: 15</strong></p><p>Although Robinson will have had a year off from competitive basketball and enter the draft with no experience past high school, teams still have significant interest in his long frame, athleticism and shot-blocking ability. He’s a serious project with questionable feel for the game and likely won’t benefit from walking away from Western Kentucky. Conversely, there will be less time to pick him apart in workout settings. Robinson remains an intriguing name to file away.</p><h3>16. Dzanan Musa, G/F, KK Cedevita</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last: 16</strong></p><p>Musa is an aggressive scoring wing who shoots well from the outside and can attack effectively off the dribble. He’s an improving playmaker and has stood out for Bosnia with an advanced feel, but he’s very ball-dominant at this stage and may not be athletic enough for that role in the NBA. His body leaves something to be desired, as he’s somewhat thin. He lacks ideal length and has a bit of a hunched posture due to the shape of his back. He’s not much of a defender, either. Still, his ability to put the ball in the basket sets him apart.</p><h3>17. Wendell Carter Jr., F/C, Duke | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;10&quot; | Weight: 260 | Age: 18 | Last: 9</strong></p><p>Carter has a polished offensive game for a freshman, with the ability to score with his back to the basket as well as face up and hit a jump shot. He’s an intelligent player and passer with the size and strength to battle inside and corral rebounds. Although he’s not a bad athlete, he’s not especially explosive and can struggle when defenses collapse on him around the basket and alter his shot. As such, there are concerns about how he’ll adjust to facing elite length. There’s a chance his effectiveness is limited by the pace of the NBA game.</p><h3>18. Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 19</strong></p><p>Most of Brown’s appeal is tied to his long-term potential as an oversized ball-handler and versatile defensive piece. He’s at his best in the open floor and uses his length to attack the basket, see over defenders and make plays for teammates. He’s not a great shooter, but Brown also rebounds well and finds ways to impact the game without scoring. He has the upside to rise into the lottery with continued improvement.</p><h3>19. Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;2&quot; | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 55</strong></p><p>A gifted perimeter scorer and passer, Young burst out of the gate as one college basketball’s top point guards. His play has elevated a middling Oklahoma roster, and his string of huge performances has become impossible to ignore. He’s not especially big, quick or strong, but has a smooth handle and can create his own shot using his change of pace. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to stay on the floor defensively or be quite as effective creating separation against athletic defenses. Young’s impressive ability to shoot from deep and open things up for teammates have put him firmly on the radar.</p><h3>20. Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Last: 17</strong></p><p>Diallo is a divisive prospect, but nobody can argue with the freakish bounce and length that makes him worthy of first-round looks. He can run and jump with anyone and has enough of a handle to turn the corner and attack the basket, but his jumper needs work and he’s far from a finished product. Beyond easy transition points and his ability to get to the line, there’s not a ton else to Diallo’s game yet. He’s still so athletic that signs of substantive progress could land him in the lottery.</p><h3>21. Chimezie Metu, F/C, USC | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 20</strong></p><p>A springy big who blocks shots and has shown some touch, Metu has made noticeable strides year-to-year and continues to expand his game. He can make the game look easy at times, and has improved as a finisher who can throw it down in tight spaces. His game-to-game activity can waver, as can his on-court awareness. If he’s able to step out and make threes regularly, his ceiling increases considerably. Demonstrable consistency will take him a long way.</p><h3>22. Justin Jackson, F, Maryland | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 21</strong></p><p>Jackson’s long, well-developed frame makes him a very intriguing two-way forward and potential glue guy. His foot speed and 7’3” wingspan allow him to guard several positions, and he’s a useful rebounder and secondary ball-handler. That said, Jackson lacks a demonstrable offensive calling card right now unless he can somehow sustain last season’s impressive shooting clip. His scoring may come along slowly, but his well-rounded skill set is still worth an investment.</p><h3>23. Shake Milton, G, SMU | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 22</strong></p><p>Milton’s size, shooting and ability to play on and off the ball make him an intriguing prospect. He’s proven he can score from the outside and is the type of player who could pair well with a variety of backcourt partners. Milton will be the go-to guy for SMU this season and must continue to take care of the ball, play more aggressively and show he can defend at a competent level. He’s begun to turn his potential into production.</p><h3>24. Grayson Allen, SG, Duke | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 22 | Last: 24</strong></p><p>Allen is among the top distance shooters in the draft, able to get his jumper off both in tight spaces off the dribble and on the catch. He has a well-developed sense of how to get open and get to his spots, and makes difficult body-control plays look easy. Allen is a strong athlete who can attack a closeout and keep defenders from playing him too closely. Allen may not be an impactful NBA defender, but he’s certainly not a stiff. He’s tough, competes hard and looks tailored for an NBA role.</p><h3>25. Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 250 | Age: 19 | Last: 27</strong></p><p>McCoy is all tools at this stage, but he’s physically impressive and has surprised with the quality of his production. He can get up and down the floor and goes after the ball well off the glass. His timing and feel are still coming along, but he naturally alters shots and has shown some ability to shoot from the mid-range. Like many teenage bigs, his motor comes and goes, but McCoy has been effective almost in spite of it at times. He’s mobile and talented enough as a legitimate center to warrant first-round consideration.</p><h3>26. Killian Tillie, F/C, Gonzaga | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;10&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 18</strong></p><p>Hyper-efficient around the basket with a natural touch and quick burst off the floor, Tillie has quietly emerged as an intriguing prospect. The Frenchman has shown demonstrable polish and has flashed a nice-looking jump shot. He boxes out well and establishes good position inside, although he needs to add muscle in order to compete at the next level.. He moves well laterally and has some impact defensively, though how he’ll fare on both ends against NBA length remains to be seen.</p><h3>27. Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Senior</h3><p><b>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 180 | Age: 18 | Last: N/A</b></p><p>Currently in midst of a postgrad season at IMG, Simons will be draft-eligible and is considering entering the pool and skipping college. He’s a springy, quick-twitch athlete who is more of a combo guard at this stage of his development. He’s at his best attacking the basket downhill and elevating to finish, and has enviable defensive range that projects well. As he continues to develop as a shooter, he’ll have a chance to be a first-round draftee should he choose to go pro. As a high schooler, Simons obviously needs time, but the former Louisville commit possesses considerable upside and has the NBA intrigued.</p><h3>28. Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Last: 28</strong></p><p>Alkins missed the first chunk of Arizona’s season with a foot fracture, and his energy on both ends of the floor provides a major boost. He has a strong frame, NBA-caliber bounce and has demonstrated willingness to play a role for the benefit of the team. He’s evolved into a reliable defensive player and will have an opportunity to show more on the other end of the floor. He’s undersized at the two, but his ability to get to the rim, make plays and space the floor bode well.</p><h3>29. Tyus Battle, SG, Syracuse | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 20 | Last: 32</strong></p><p>Battle has nice size and skill and has taken a step forward as a versatile scorer. He’s agile and tough, but still has to prove he can create off the dribble and improve as a finisher. It’s unclear yet whether his defensive contributions will catch up to his physical prowess. Scouts will want to see him tap into his versatility and show increased efficiency on the wing.</p><h3>30. Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;2&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 22 | Last: 33</strong></p><p>As the leader of a less-loaded-than-usual Kansas team, Graham’s toughness, scoring and playmaking aren’t going unnoticed. He has a good stroke from three, and also impacts the game as a hard-working on-ball defender. He can struggle getting into the second level of defenses and isn’t elite at any one thing. But as a ball-handler who can potentially contribute quickly, given how well he’s played, the first round is within reach.</p><h3>31. Nick Richards, C, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 26</strong></p><p>Although extremely raw and prone to foul trouble, Richards’s size, rebounding, mobility and shot-blocking potential hold intrigue. He’s well-built, highly agile and can play above the rim. But his feel is lacking, and he’s very old for his class as a 20-year-old freshman. If he becomes a reliable rim-runner and shot blocker, Richards should be able to make an impact, but there are serious questions about his overall floor awareness.</p><h3>32. Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A</strong></p><p>One of college basketball’s breakout players, Thomas’s two-way ability has turned heads. He’s a consistent high-volume outside threat, can play on or off the ball and has defended extremely well, making him an excellent role player candidate at the NBA level. If he can improve creating off the dribble, it’s gravy. His growth this season is truly impressive.</p><h3>33. De’Anthony Melton, G, USC | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 31</strong></p><p>It certainly doesn’t help Melton’s case that he remains out due to the FBI’s college basketball investigation, but he’s a quality prospect just the same. He showed plenty of defensive toughness and offensive skill as a freshman, and remains on the NBA radar as an energy player and defensive presence. If he gets his jumper in order he could be in for a leap, but it&#39;s tricky to peg without him having played a game this season.</p><h3>34. Jaylen Hands, PG, UCLA | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 175 | Age: 18 | Last: 25</strong></p><p>In a weaker draft pool that’s especially thin when it comes to point guard talent, Hands’s highlight-reel explosiveness and end-to-end speed will make him an interesting upside pick if he comes out. He’s still learning how to run a team, but can get to the rim, push in transition and has a workable jumper and nice handle. He does things that are hard to teach. Hands lacks ideal size and strength for the NBA and would benefit from two seasons of college, but has a lot to offer down the line.</p><h3>35. Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 34</strong></p><p>Hachimura has come off the bench to start the year for Gonzaga and needs more opportunities to show his stuff, but he has a chance at the first round if he can string together some good performances. He’s got nice length and strength and has some touch as a shooter. He showed plenty of game playing for Japan over the summer and could evolve into a valuable two-way combo forward in time.</p><h3>36. John Petty, SG, Alabama | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 195 | Age: 18 | Last: 35</strong></p><p>The headlines have belonged to Collin Sexton, but Petty has been impressive playing off of his talented teammate. He’s a gifted perimeter shooter off the catch who can sustain hot streaks and hoist his shot quickly. It may be tricky to assess his well-roundedness given how much of Alabama’s points run through Sexton, but Petty can fill up a box score and has appeal in a 3-and-D role. </p><h3>37. Austin Wiley, C, Auburn | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 250 | Age: 18 | Last: 37</strong></p><p>Wiley continues to sit out due to the FBI corruption investigation, but possesses NBA ability and great size, length and strength. He’s young for his class and is in a pretty good place developmentally, working hard on the glass and showing the makings of a decent jumper. He’ll battle in the post and do the dirty work, but isn’t an elite athlete. He can improve as a finisher and has a history of knee injuries that limit his mobility.</p><h3>38. Rodions Kurucs, G/F, FC Barcelona</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 29</strong></p><p>Though Kurucs&#39;s stock has trended down somewhat after pulling out of last year’s draft and failing to earn minutes with Barcelona’s top team, his mix of size, athleticism and smarts offer appeal on the wing. He will need to improve his production beyond simply showing flashes. The Latvian still has some nice traits and looks like a potentially useful role player.</p><h3>39. Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 39</strong></p><p>Vanderbilt has yet to make his debut as he recovers from a foot injury, and it sounds like there’s a chance he could miss most or all of the season. He has a history of leg injuries and a thinnish lower body, but he’s a good athlete who can handle the ball a little bit and can make an impact on the glass and as a versatile defender with length. He can also make plays for teammates, particularly in the open floor. The health issues are a concern.</p><h3>40. Arnoldas Kulboka, F, Orlandina Basket</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Last: 40</strong></p><p>A productive, athletic wing with shooting potential, Kulboka has nice size at the three and has put up impressive numbers coming up in Germany. He has definite upside as a scorer. A native of Lithuania, he needs to add weight, improve defensively and add a little seasoning. He’s a potential draft-and-stash player if he comes out.</p><h3>41. Andrew Jones, G, Texas | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 38</strong></p><p>Jones is an impressive athlete and transition scorer still learning his craft. He may not evolve into a true point guard, but he has nice quickness and a burst that helps him on both ends. His halfcourt creation skills leave something to be desired and his jumper is a question mark, but Jones is a nice developmental piece with upside. He could still benefit from another year of school.</p><h3>42. Alize Johnson, F, Missouri State | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 42</strong></p><p>After breaking out over the summer at Adidas Nations, Johnson emerged as a unique prospect with guard skills and a high rebounding motor packaged into a combo forward’s body. He can handle the ball and push in transition and has some promise as a shooter, profiling as the sort of positionless-type big that’s in high demand right now. Thanks to his versatility, Johnson will get serious NBA looks as one of the top mid-major prospects around.</p><h3>43. Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;1&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 21 | Last: 46</strong></p><p>The youngest of the three Holiday brothers has proven a tough competitor in his own right. He’s undersized but scrappy, can hit an open three, get to the basket and fight on defense. Holiday will need to sustain a good amount of last season’s shooting numbers, which were abetted by playing alongside Lonzo Ball. But as the de facto veteran leader of a young, talented roster, Holiday continues to leave a nice impression.</p><h3>44. Isaac Bonga, G/F, Fraport Skyliners</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Last: 44</strong></p><p>An oversized ball-handler and talented passer, Bonga could be one of the youngest players in this class and has nice upside given his skill set. His jump shot is the biggest knock on him, but he has nice instincts and vision, particularly at his size. The German prospect needs a lot of time, but could become a two-way playmaker. Bonga’s offense in particular will require a ton of work, but what he might be in two or three years is enticing.</p><h3>45. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Last: 43</strong></p><p>Alexander-Walker is far off from logging actual NBA minutes, but his potential has him on draft radars. He has a nice stroke, the size to guard both guard spots and a generally good sense of the floor playing on and off the ball for Virginia Tech. He’d greatly benefit from a second year of college and needs to work on his body, as he struggles turning the corner against athletic defenders. He’ll be in for a season of ups and downs in the ACC, but has a nice long-term outlook.</p><h3>46. Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 200 | Age: 21 | Last: 48</strong></p><p>A popular sleeper and one of the top players in the Mountain West, Hutchison has 3-and-D potential and an unflashy, effective game. He’s a good off-ball cutter who can get himself open, and shot the ball well last season. He has the size to guard either wing position and contributes on the glass, too. If Hutchison can sustain his outside shooting clip with added volume, he may climb.</p><h3>47. Brandon Randolph, SG, Arizona | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A</strong></p><p>With his ability to put up points in bunches, Randolph has emerged as a useful complementary scorer for the Wildcats. He’s quick, smooth and is comfortable attacking the basket and spotting up off the dribble. He’s carved out a spot in the Arizona rotation and continues to improve at a high rate. He has the length and tools to become a capable defender and is a player worth tracking.</p><h3>48. Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita State | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Last: 41</strong></p><p>Shamet made it back for the start of the season, but he&#39;s now suffered serious injuries in both of his feet. That aside, he’s a gifted scorer who can hit difficult shots and began to come into his own down the stretch last season. He has nice size for a lead guard, changes speeds well and can move and defend passably. He could be in line for another big leap that could put him in the draft conversation.</p><h3>49. Bonzie Colson, PF, Notre Dame | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 220 | Age: 21 | Last: 47</strong></p><p>A truly unorthodox prospect, Colson has great length and a deep bag of offensive moves while standing just 6’5”. He’s been remarkably effective for Notre Dame anyway, and will tempt teams with his history of production and the hope that he can make it all work as a factor in smaller lineups. He can get to the foul line and has been extremely efficient to date. Whether or not he succeeds in the NBA, his situation will make for an interesting case study.</p><h3>50. P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A</strong></p><p>Despite a lack of ideal height, Washington&#39;s 7&#39;3&quot; wingspan gives him a unique physical profile and enables him to defend fours, fives and some threes on the perimeter. He’s a powerful leaper and intelligent player who has begun to make an adjustment to the college game. He may work best as a small-ball center at the next level and needs to prove he can be a shot-blocking presence. Washington’s baseline offensive skill level and shooting potential are also promising.</p><h3>51. Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 46</strong></p><p>Brunson is a heady playmaker who has had success throughout his career and looks tailored for a role as an NBA ball-handler. He doesn’t have great size or strength, but plays and works extremely hard and is often underrated as a scorer. He’s the leader of perhaps the top team in the country. Brunson relies on being crafty, understands how to run a team and has a chance to be drafted, whether this season or the next.</p><h3>52. Bryant Crawford, PG, Wake Forest | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 200 | Age: 20 | Last: 45</strong></p><p>A lesser-known prospect who has quietly developed over the last couple seasons, Crawford’s size and strength on the ball and willingness to defend has piqued NBA interest. He changes speeds well and can create in the halfcourt. Crawford isn’t a knockdown shooter and needs to prove he can be consistent. He will be asked to elevate a mediocre roster this season and could struggle with efficiency. But his experience, length and two-way contributions help set him apart.</p><h3>53. Allonzo Trier, SG, Arizona | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 53</strong></p><p>Trier is a dynamic college scorer who has improved his efficiency from the field, but questions linger over his shot selection and ability to fit into an NBA rotation. He lacks ideal length for a shooting guard and can be a ball-stopper. He’s an offensive-minded talent and consistent shooter from deep, but will be asked to play a supporting role at the next level. Trier may be able to succeed if he commits to defense, works on his body and proves there’s more to his game.</p><h3>54. Kris Wilkes, SF, UCLA | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Last: 30</strong></p><p>Though Wilkes has slowed down after an impressive start to the season, his smooth shooting mechanics, twitchy athleticism and 6’11” wingspan make him a natural fit for a 3-and-D role given time. He can attack a closeout and looks comfortable scoring in transition. Wilkes still has a lot of work to do on his handle and needs to show he can be a consistent threat from deep and impact the game beyond scoring. His game is reminiscent of Tim Hardaway Jr., and his strengths profile nicely down the line.</p><h3>55. Jacob Evans, G/F, Cincinnati | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 20 | Last: 52</strong></p><p>Evans is a tough, defensive-minded guard with shot-making ability who has come on strong as an NBA prospect. He has the chops to be a valuable 3-and-D piece and guard multiple positions. He’s physically impressive, but struggles to create off the dribble and may be better cast as a small forward at the next level. He needs to prove his outside shot is for real. </p><h3>56. Vince Edwards, F, Purdue | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 21 | Last: 50</strong></p><p>Edwards has the athleticism and length to guard several positions passably, and has a nice level of versatility to his game. He could be an ideal fit in smaller lineups with his ability to move the ball, space the floor and get involved on the glass. If you envision him as a glue guy and he shows real improvement as a defender, where he is prone to lapses, he’s not a bad roll of the dice.</p><h3>57. Moritz Wagner, F/C, Michigan | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 20 | Last: 51</strong></p><p>An inside-out scorer with the size to play center, Wagner has offensive talent and can be a tough matchup. He lacks the defensive chops to protect the basket and has holes in his all-around game. He’s begun to rebound the ball better this season, which is a start. Legitimate stretch bigs are tricky to find, and Wagner has the talent to space the floor if he can round out his weaknesses.</p><h2>58. Anas Mahmoud, C, Louisville | Junior</h2><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 22 | Last: 59</strong></p><p>Though old for his class and possessing a slender build, Mahmoud has the size, mobility and length to protect the rim and continues to improve. He’s a strong shot-blocker and showed improvement in his overall feel last year. He’s not much of a scorer and may be limited into a defensive specialist-type role. Any offensive development will help his case.</p><h3>59. Bennie Boatwright, F, USC | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 21 | Last: 54</strong></p><p>As a floor-spacer with size, Boatwright has been on the radar for a while. He’s a deadeye shooter with his feet set and has shown the ability to score off the bounce as well, although he’s not a great athlete or a presence defensively. He’s not especially efficient putting the ball in the basket any other way, but a strong year shooting the ball could put him in the second round.</p><h3>60. Ethan Happ, PF, Wisconsin | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 235 | Age: 21 | Last: 49</strong></p><p>Happ has done nothing but produce at Wisconsin and excels as a finisher and rebounder. He operates mostly in the paint, where he’s always active despite a lack of ideal size at the five. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s a good rebounder, ball-handler and passer and plays bigger than his size. It hurts that he’s not much of a shooter (and poor from the free throw line) but his track record is impressive.</p>
2018 NBA Draft Big Board 2.0: Breakout Stars Rise up the Rankings

With about a month of college games in the bag and plenty of data to pore over, it’s a good time to re-assess the 2018 NBA draft's top 60 prospects as conference play approaches.

While our Mock Draft aims to project what the draft might look like on a given day of the season and factors in team needs, the Big Board serves as our own point of reference for the available player pool. These rankings are based on our own evaluations and conversations with NBA scouts, and establishes how we'd rate prospects in a vacuum (a scenario, of course, that will never actually happen).

Gifted Arizona center DeAndre Ayton remains atop our draft board, with Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley a close second and third, respectively. High-scoring Oklahoma guard Trae Young moves into first-round territory, as does intriguing draft-eligible high schooler Anfernee Simons. The big picture remains extremely fluid. Here’s how we see it.

(Note: Rankings and stats last updated Dec. 11).

1. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona | Freshman

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last Ranking: 1

Elite physical tools, soft touch around the basket and a promising jump shot make Ayton a tantalizing prospect. He has most of the traits you want in a modern center plus the athletic ability to face up and play in space. The college game comes easily to him, and Ayton checks essentially every offensive box for his position. There are fair questions about his defensive comprehension and shot-blocking woes, but with his nimble feet and sheer size and strength, he has the tools to be an above-average presence around the rim. He’s a manchild with crazy-high upside and a potential franchise cornerstone.

2. Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last: 3

At 18, Doncic has become perhaps the top player in the Euroleague and a potential No. 1 pick. He’s comfortable as a lead ball-handler and has become deadly from three-point range. He makes his teammates better and reads the floor beyond his years. While he will face an adjustment to the speed of NBA defenses, there’s not really much to nitpick here, and his strong performances for Slovenia against high-caliber competition round out an impressive résumé. Doncic appears a safe bet to continue on the fast track and contribute at a high level as an NBA playmaker.

3. Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 18 | Last: 2

Known for his aggression on the glass and competitiveness, Bagley manufactures easy baskets and possesses uncommonly fluid athleticism for a guy his size. He should become a versatile defensive piece on the perimeter, but has struggled to guard on the interior thus far. His growth as a scorer in the halfcourt will ultimately make or break him, and his jump shot is a work in progress, but his makeup and base strengths give his value a solid floor. His quick adjustment from reclassifying out of high school to dominating college competition is truly impressive. With his ball-handling and ability to face up, he has considerable room to grow.

4. Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Freshman

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 5

With off-the-charts length and impressive mobility, Bamba is potentially a dominant interior defender. His 7’9” wingspan deserves a sentence of its own. He has a slender frame and continues to round out his offensive skill set, but has shown ability as a jump shooter and is a constant threat to catch lobs. He’s further off from contributing than some of this draft’s other elite prospects, but his best-case scenario is right there with them. Bamba has an opportunity to evolve into a defensive-minded antidote for the young, perimeter-oriented bigs beginning to take over the NBA.

5. Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Freshman

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 4

Porter is a smooth, polished scorer who thrives on the perimeter and should be able to play either forward spot. Shooting is at a premium, and Porter’s ball-handling and perimeter skills give him a chance to contribute immediately. He can be a ball-stopper, and rounding out his game with playmaking and defense are the next steps, but he’s a pretty ideal frontcourt prospect in the pace-and-space era. Following back surgery, concerns over his long-term health and mobility are warranted. Barring major red flags, he won’t fall far.

6. Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C, Michigan State | Freshman

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 6

Jackson boasts NBA bloodlines and an intriguing blend of scoring touch, shot-blocking and three-point shooting potential. On top of that, he’s also producing on the court and competing hard as one of the youngest players in college basketball. His jump shot mechanics are unorthodox, which may limit how much of that specific success translates. As his body fills out, Jackson should become a better finisher around the rim. He has made major all-around strides over the last year or so and is worthy of consideration high in the draft.

7. Robert Williams III, F/C, Texas A&M | Sophomore

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 7

A strong, athletic big with some inside-out scoring ability and a nose for the ball, Williams is a talented rim-runner who catches lobs and does a good job on the offensive glass. Williams is also a good passer with better feel than he’s been given credit for. It’s imperative he finds ways to better involve himself in games as a scorer, but he’s currently cast into a secondary role on a very good team. As a result, his offensive impact can be highly inconsistent. There aren’t many college bigs who play above the rim as easily as Williams can, and he has considerable potential as a Clint Capela-style five-man.

8. Collin Sexton, G, Alabama | Freshman

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 10

Sexton is an aggressive, shoot-first guard whose handle and burst allow him to consistently penetrate defenses and draw fouls. He’s shown some improvement as a three-point shooter and has the ability to be a good defender when locked in. Sexton isn’t a pure point and can improve as a decision maker with the ball, but he has a good chance to become an effective change-of-pace scorer at minimum. He can occasionally struggle to finish around bigs, but his blend of shot-creation and toughness is rare. If he continues to draw fouls at a high rate in the NBA, the outlook should be sunny.

9. Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 12

On an inconsistent, younger-than-usual Kentucky roster, Knox has emerged as John Calipari’s top prospect. He’s developed into a capable three-point shooter and has enviable physical tools, with the size and reach to guard either forward spot and rebound effectively. Knox could stand to be more aggressive attacking the basket, and still has games where he disappears for long stretches. But his body and versatility project well, and he’s still quite far from the player he could eventually become.

10. Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova | Junior

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 23

Bridges has emerged as a lottery-caliber prospect, with an improved offensive game now accompanying the impressive measurables that make him an impact defender. He moves well on the perimeter, can defend four positions, blocks shots and consistently generates steals with his 7’0” wingspan. Bridges’ improved aggressiveness on offense has answered the questons about his motor, and he has the kind of versatility that plays particularly well in a fast-paced game. Continuing to thrive in his increased scoring role will be key.

11. Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | Sophomore

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 8

Bridges competes hard on both ends of the floor, and his oft-spectacular athletic ability suggests he can be an impactful defender and transition threat. But scouts are questioning how much he’s improved since his freshman year, with an inconsistent jump shot and limited ability to create off the dribble. His energy and ability to run the floor should still play in a NBA that favors smaller, faster forwards, but it’s reasonable to wonder about some of his limitations.

12. Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami | Freshman

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 11

Walker checks a lot of boxes for an off-guard. He's able to slash to the basket and score from deep with great length and a nice frame for his position. He has long-term 3-and-D potential as he refines his skills, and learns to play off the ball. Tearing his meniscus over the summer was a setback that might help justify his slow start. He’s still a ways from being pro-ready, and has to prove he can put up the numbers to match his considerable talent.

13. Bruce Brown Jr., G, Miami | Sophomore

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 13

Gifted with size, strength and a relentless approach to the game, Brown continues to transition into playing the point full time and should put up big numbers for Miami. He can defend multiple positions on the perimeter and generate turnovers. On offense, he shoots the ball well but needs more polish as a playmaker and as a scorer off the bounce. His intangibles and versatility make him well-suited for an NBA backcourt.

14. Trevon Duval, PG, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Last: 14

Duval has shown improvement in every area of his gam save for his biggest weakness: his jumper. He has great size and length, can be an elite on-ball defender, makes plays in transition and has begun to slow the game down from a mental standpoint. But he’s essentially a non-factor shooting from the outside at this stage, with a lack of consistency and touch. Duval is talented enough to warrant lottery consideration but could be held back by those struggles.

15. Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette High School (Louisiana)

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: 15

Although Robinson will have had a year off from competitive basketball and enter the draft with no experience past high school, teams still have significant interest in his long frame, athleticism and shot-blocking ability. He’s a serious project with questionable feel for the game and likely won’t benefit from walking away from Western Kentucky. Conversely, there will be less time to pick him apart in workout settings. Robinson remains an intriguing name to file away.

16. Dzanan Musa, G/F, KK Cedevita

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last: 16

Musa is an aggressive scoring wing who shoots well from the outside and can attack effectively off the dribble. He’s an improving playmaker and has stood out for Bosnia with an advanced feel, but he’s very ball-dominant at this stage and may not be athletic enough for that role in the NBA. His body leaves something to be desired, as he’s somewhat thin. He lacks ideal length and has a bit of a hunched posture due to the shape of his back. He’s not much of a defender, either. Still, his ability to put the ball in the basket sets him apart.

17. Wendell Carter Jr., F/C, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 260 | Age: 18 | Last: 9

Carter has a polished offensive game for a freshman, with the ability to score with his back to the basket as well as face up and hit a jump shot. He’s an intelligent player and passer with the size and strength to battle inside and corral rebounds. Although he’s not a bad athlete, he’s not especially explosive and can struggle when defenses collapse on him around the basket and alter his shot. As such, there are concerns about how he’ll adjust to facing elite length. There’s a chance his effectiveness is limited by the pace of the NBA game.

18. Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Freshman

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 19

Most of Brown’s appeal is tied to his long-term potential as an oversized ball-handler and versatile defensive piece. He’s at his best in the open floor and uses his length to attack the basket, see over defenders and make plays for teammates. He’s not a great shooter, but Brown also rebounds well and finds ways to impact the game without scoring. He has the upside to rise into the lottery with continued improvement.

19. Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Freshman

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 55

A gifted perimeter scorer and passer, Young burst out of the gate as one college basketball’s top point guards. His play has elevated a middling Oklahoma roster, and his string of huge performances has become impossible to ignore. He’s not especially big, quick or strong, but has a smooth handle and can create his own shot using his change of pace. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to stay on the floor defensively or be quite as effective creating separation against athletic defenses. Young’s impressive ability to shoot from deep and open things up for teammates have put him firmly on the radar.

20. Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Last: 17

Diallo is a divisive prospect, but nobody can argue with the freakish bounce and length that makes him worthy of first-round looks. He can run and jump with anyone and has enough of a handle to turn the corner and attack the basket, but his jumper needs work and he’s far from a finished product. Beyond easy transition points and his ability to get to the line, there’s not a ton else to Diallo’s game yet. He’s still so athletic that signs of substantive progress could land him in the lottery.

21. Chimezie Metu, F/C, USC | Junior

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 20

A springy big who blocks shots and has shown some touch, Metu has made noticeable strides year-to-year and continues to expand his game. He can make the game look easy at times, and has improved as a finisher who can throw it down in tight spaces. His game-to-game activity can waver, as can his on-court awareness. If he’s able to step out and make threes regularly, his ceiling increases considerably. Demonstrable consistency will take him a long way.

22. Justin Jackson, F, Maryland | Sophomore

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 21

Jackson’s long, well-developed frame makes him a very intriguing two-way forward and potential glue guy. His foot speed and 7’3” wingspan allow him to guard several positions, and he’s a useful rebounder and secondary ball-handler. That said, Jackson lacks a demonstrable offensive calling card right now unless he can somehow sustain last season’s impressive shooting clip. His scoring may come along slowly, but his well-rounded skill set is still worth an investment.

23. Shake Milton, G, SMU | Junior

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 22

Milton’s size, shooting and ability to play on and off the ball make him an intriguing prospect. He’s proven he can score from the outside and is the type of player who could pair well with a variety of backcourt partners. Milton will be the go-to guy for SMU this season and must continue to take care of the ball, play more aggressively and show he can defend at a competent level. He’s begun to turn his potential into production.

24. Grayson Allen, SG, Duke | Senior

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 205 | Age: 22 | Last: 24

Allen is among the top distance shooters in the draft, able to get his jumper off both in tight spaces off the dribble and on the catch. He has a well-developed sense of how to get open and get to his spots, and makes difficult body-control plays look easy. Allen is a strong athlete who can attack a closeout and keep defenders from playing him too closely. Allen may not be an impactful NBA defender, but he’s certainly not a stiff. He’s tough, competes hard and looks tailored for an NBA role.

25. Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV | Freshman

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 250 | Age: 19 | Last: 27

McCoy is all tools at this stage, but he’s physically impressive and has surprised with the quality of his production. He can get up and down the floor and goes after the ball well off the glass. His timing and feel are still coming along, but he naturally alters shots and has shown some ability to shoot from the mid-range. Like many teenage bigs, his motor comes and goes, but McCoy has been effective almost in spite of it at times. He’s mobile and talented enough as a legitimate center to warrant first-round consideration.

26. Killian Tillie, F/C, Gonzaga | Sophomore

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 18

Hyper-efficient around the basket with a natural touch and quick burst off the floor, Tillie has quietly emerged as an intriguing prospect. The Frenchman has shown demonstrable polish and has flashed a nice-looking jump shot. He boxes out well and establishes good position inside, although he needs to add muscle in order to compete at the next level.. He moves well laterally and has some impact defensively, though how he’ll fare on both ends against NBA length remains to be seen.

27. Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Senior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 180 | Age: 18 | Last: N/A

Currently in midst of a postgrad season at IMG, Simons will be draft-eligible and is considering entering the pool and skipping college. He’s a springy, quick-twitch athlete who is more of a combo guard at this stage of his development. He’s at his best attacking the basket downhill and elevating to finish, and has enviable defensive range that projects well. As he continues to develop as a shooter, he’ll have a chance to be a first-round draftee should he choose to go pro. As a high schooler, Simons obviously needs time, but the former Louisville commit possesses considerable upside and has the NBA intrigued.

28. Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Last: 28

Alkins missed the first chunk of Arizona’s season with a foot fracture, and his energy on both ends of the floor provides a major boost. He has a strong frame, NBA-caliber bounce and has demonstrated willingness to play a role for the benefit of the team. He’s evolved into a reliable defensive player and will have an opportunity to show more on the other end of the floor. He’s undersized at the two, but his ability to get to the rim, make plays and space the floor bode well.

29. Tyus Battle, SG, Syracuse | Sophomore

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 20 | Last: 32

Battle has nice size and skill and has taken a step forward as a versatile scorer. He’s agile and tough, but still has to prove he can create off the dribble and improve as a finisher. It’s unclear yet whether his defensive contributions will catch up to his physical prowess. Scouts will want to see him tap into his versatility and show increased efficiency on the wing.

30. Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas | Senior

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 185 | Age: 22 | Last: 33

As the leader of a less-loaded-than-usual Kansas team, Graham’s toughness, scoring and playmaking aren’t going unnoticed. He has a good stroke from three, and also impacts the game as a hard-working on-ball defender. He can struggle getting into the second level of defenses and isn’t elite at any one thing. But as a ball-handler who can potentially contribute quickly, given how well he’s played, the first round is within reach.

31. Nick Richards, C, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 26

Although extremely raw and prone to foul trouble, Richards’s size, rebounding, mobility and shot-blocking potential hold intrigue. He’s well-built, highly agile and can play above the rim. But his feel is lacking, and he’s very old for his class as a 20-year-old freshman. If he becomes a reliable rim-runner and shot blocker, Richards should be able to make an impact, but there are serious questions about his overall floor awareness.

32. Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton | Junior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A

One of college basketball’s breakout players, Thomas’s two-way ability has turned heads. He’s a consistent high-volume outside threat, can play on or off the ball and has defended extremely well, making him an excellent role player candidate at the NBA level. If he can improve creating off the dribble, it’s gravy. His growth this season is truly impressive.

33. De’Anthony Melton, G, USC | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 31

It certainly doesn’t help Melton’s case that he remains out due to the FBI’s college basketball investigation, but he’s a quality prospect just the same. He showed plenty of defensive toughness and offensive skill as a freshman, and remains on the NBA radar as an energy player and defensive presence. If he gets his jumper in order he could be in for a leap, but it's tricky to peg without him having played a game this season.

34. Jaylen Hands, PG, UCLA | Freshman

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 175 | Age: 18 | Last: 25

In a weaker draft pool that’s especially thin when it comes to point guard talent, Hands’s highlight-reel explosiveness and end-to-end speed will make him an interesting upside pick if he comes out. He’s still learning how to run a team, but can get to the rim, push in transition and has a workable jumper and nice handle. He does things that are hard to teach. Hands lacks ideal size and strength for the NBA and would benefit from two seasons of college, but has a lot to offer down the line.

35. Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga | Sophomore

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 34

Hachimura has come off the bench to start the year for Gonzaga and needs more opportunities to show his stuff, but he has a chance at the first round if he can string together some good performances. He’s got nice length and strength and has some touch as a shooter. He showed plenty of game playing for Japan over the summer and could evolve into a valuable two-way combo forward in time.

36. John Petty, SG, Alabama | Freshman

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 195 | Age: 18 | Last: 35

The headlines have belonged to Collin Sexton, but Petty has been impressive playing off of his talented teammate. He’s a gifted perimeter shooter off the catch who can sustain hot streaks and hoist his shot quickly. It may be tricky to assess his well-roundedness given how much of Alabama’s points run through Sexton, but Petty can fill up a box score and has appeal in a 3-and-D role.

37. Austin Wiley, C, Auburn | Sophomore

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 250 | Age: 18 | Last: 37

Wiley continues to sit out due to the FBI corruption investigation, but possesses NBA ability and great size, length and strength. He’s young for his class and is in a pretty good place developmentally, working hard on the glass and showing the makings of a decent jumper. He’ll battle in the post and do the dirty work, but isn’t an elite athlete. He can improve as a finisher and has a history of knee injuries that limit his mobility.

38. Rodions Kurucs, G/F, FC Barcelona

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 29

Though Kurucs's stock has trended down somewhat after pulling out of last year’s draft and failing to earn minutes with Barcelona’s top team, his mix of size, athleticism and smarts offer appeal on the wing. He will need to improve his production beyond simply showing flashes. The Latvian still has some nice traits and looks like a potentially useful role player.

39. Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 39

Vanderbilt has yet to make his debut as he recovers from a foot injury, and it sounds like there’s a chance he could miss most or all of the season. He has a history of leg injuries and a thinnish lower body, but he’s a good athlete who can handle the ball a little bit and can make an impact on the glass and as a versatile defender with length. He can also make plays for teammates, particularly in the open floor. The health issues are a concern.

40. Arnoldas Kulboka, F, Orlandina Basket

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Last: 40

A productive, athletic wing with shooting potential, Kulboka has nice size at the three and has put up impressive numbers coming up in Germany. He has definite upside as a scorer. A native of Lithuania, he needs to add weight, improve defensively and add a little seasoning. He’s a potential draft-and-stash player if he comes out.

41. Andrew Jones, G, Texas | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 38

Jones is an impressive athlete and transition scorer still learning his craft. He may not evolve into a true point guard, but he has nice quickness and a burst that helps him on both ends. His halfcourt creation skills leave something to be desired and his jumper is a question mark, but Jones is a nice developmental piece with upside. He could still benefit from another year of school.

42. Alize Johnson, F, Missouri State | Senior

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 42

After breaking out over the summer at Adidas Nations, Johnson emerged as a unique prospect with guard skills and a high rebounding motor packaged into a combo forward’s body. He can handle the ball and push in transition and has some promise as a shooter, profiling as the sort of positionless-type big that’s in high demand right now. Thanks to his versatility, Johnson will get serious NBA looks as one of the top mid-major prospects around.

43. Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA | Junior

Height: 6'1" | Weight: 185 | Age: 21 | Last: 46

The youngest of the three Holiday brothers has proven a tough competitor in his own right. He’s undersized but scrappy, can hit an open three, get to the basket and fight on defense. Holiday will need to sustain a good amount of last season’s shooting numbers, which were abetted by playing alongside Lonzo Ball. But as the de facto veteran leader of a young, talented roster, Holiday continues to leave a nice impression.

44. Isaac Bonga, G/F, Fraport Skyliners

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Last: 44

An oversized ball-handler and talented passer, Bonga could be one of the youngest players in this class and has nice upside given his skill set. His jump shot is the biggest knock on him, but he has nice instincts and vision, particularly at his size. The German prospect needs a lot of time, but could become a two-way playmaker. Bonga’s offense in particular will require a ton of work, but what he might be in two or three years is enticing.

45. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech | Freshman

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Last: 43

Alexander-Walker is far off from logging actual NBA minutes, but his potential has him on draft radars. He has a nice stroke, the size to guard both guard spots and a generally good sense of the floor playing on and off the ball for Virginia Tech. He’d greatly benefit from a second year of college and needs to work on his body, as he struggles turning the corner against athletic defenders. He’ll be in for a season of ups and downs in the ACC, but has a nice long-term outlook.

46. Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State | Senior

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 200 | Age: 21 | Last: 48

A popular sleeper and one of the top players in the Mountain West, Hutchison has 3-and-D potential and an unflashy, effective game. He’s a good off-ball cutter who can get himself open, and shot the ball well last season. He has the size to guard either wing position and contributes on the glass, too. If Hutchison can sustain his outside shooting clip with added volume, he may climb.

47. Brandon Randolph, SG, Arizona | Freshman

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A

With his ability to put up points in bunches, Randolph has emerged as a useful complementary scorer for the Wildcats. He’s quick, smooth and is comfortable attacking the basket and spotting up off the dribble. He’s carved out a spot in the Arizona rotation and continues to improve at a high rate. He has the length and tools to become a capable defender and is a player worth tracking.

48. Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita State | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Last: 41

Shamet made it back for the start of the season, but he's now suffered serious injuries in both of his feet. That aside, he’s a gifted scorer who can hit difficult shots and began to come into his own down the stretch last season. He has nice size for a lead guard, changes speeds well and can move and defend passably. He could be in line for another big leap that could put him in the draft conversation.

49. Bonzie Colson, PF, Notre Dame | Senior

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 220 | Age: 21 | Last: 47

A truly unorthodox prospect, Colson has great length and a deep bag of offensive moves while standing just 6’5”. He’s been remarkably effective for Notre Dame anyway, and will tempt teams with his history of production and the hope that he can make it all work as a factor in smaller lineups. He can get to the foul line and has been extremely efficient to date. Whether or not he succeeds in the NBA, his situation will make for an interesting case study.

50. P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A

Despite a lack of ideal height, Washington's 7'3" wingspan gives him a unique physical profile and enables him to defend fours, fives and some threes on the perimeter. He’s a powerful leaper and intelligent player who has begun to make an adjustment to the college game. He may work best as a small-ball center at the next level and needs to prove he can be a shot-blocking presence. Washington’s baseline offensive skill level and shooting potential are also promising.

51. Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova | Junior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 46

Brunson is a heady playmaker who has had success throughout his career and looks tailored for a role as an NBA ball-handler. He doesn’t have great size or strength, but plays and works extremely hard and is often underrated as a scorer. He’s the leader of perhaps the top team in the country. Brunson relies on being crafty, understands how to run a team and has a chance to be drafted, whether this season or the next.

52. Bryant Crawford, PG, Wake Forest | Junior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 200 | Age: 20 | Last: 45

A lesser-known prospect who has quietly developed over the last couple seasons, Crawford’s size and strength on the ball and willingness to defend has piqued NBA interest. He changes speeds well and can create in the halfcourt. Crawford isn’t a knockdown shooter and needs to prove he can be consistent. He will be asked to elevate a mediocre roster this season and could struggle with efficiency. But his experience, length and two-way contributions help set him apart.

53. Allonzo Trier, SG, Arizona | Junior

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 53

Trier is a dynamic college scorer who has improved his efficiency from the field, but questions linger over his shot selection and ability to fit into an NBA rotation. He lacks ideal length for a shooting guard and can be a ball-stopper. He’s an offensive-minded talent and consistent shooter from deep, but will be asked to play a supporting role at the next level. Trier may be able to succeed if he commits to defense, works on his body and proves there’s more to his game.

54. Kris Wilkes, SF, UCLA | Freshman

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Last: 30

Though Wilkes has slowed down after an impressive start to the season, his smooth shooting mechanics, twitchy athleticism and 6’11” wingspan make him a natural fit for a 3-and-D role given time. He can attack a closeout and looks comfortable scoring in transition. Wilkes still has a lot of work to do on his handle and needs to show he can be a consistent threat from deep and impact the game beyond scoring. His game is reminiscent of Tim Hardaway Jr., and his strengths profile nicely down the line.

55. Jacob Evans, G/F, Cincinnati | Junior

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 210 | Age: 20 | Last: 52

Evans is a tough, defensive-minded guard with shot-making ability who has come on strong as an NBA prospect. He has the chops to be a valuable 3-and-D piece and guard multiple positions. He’s physically impressive, but struggles to create off the dribble and may be better cast as a small forward at the next level. He needs to prove his outside shot is for real.

56. Vince Edwards, F, Purdue | Senior

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 225 | Age: 21 | Last: 50

Edwards has the athleticism and length to guard several positions passably, and has a nice level of versatility to his game. He could be an ideal fit in smaller lineups with his ability to move the ball, space the floor and get involved on the glass. If you envision him as a glue guy and he shows real improvement as a defender, where he is prone to lapses, he’s not a bad roll of the dice.

57. Moritz Wagner, F/C, Michigan | Junior

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 230 | Age: 20 | Last: 51

An inside-out scorer with the size to play center, Wagner has offensive talent and can be a tough matchup. He lacks the defensive chops to protect the basket and has holes in his all-around game. He’s begun to rebound the ball better this season, which is a start. Legitimate stretch bigs are tricky to find, and Wagner has the talent to space the floor if he can round out his weaknesses.

58. Anas Mahmoud, C, Louisville | Junior

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 215 | Age: 22 | Last: 59

Though old for his class and possessing a slender build, Mahmoud has the size, mobility and length to protect the rim and continues to improve. He’s a strong shot-blocker and showed improvement in his overall feel last year. He’s not much of a scorer and may be limited into a defensive specialist-type role. Any offensive development will help his case.

59. Bennie Boatwright, F, USC | Junior

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 230 | Age: 21 | Last: 54

As a floor-spacer with size, Boatwright has been on the radar for a while. He’s a deadeye shooter with his feet set and has shown the ability to score off the bounce as well, although he’s not a great athlete or a presence defensively. He’s not especially efficient putting the ball in the basket any other way, but a strong year shooting the ball could put him in the second round.

60. Ethan Happ, PF, Wisconsin | Junior

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 235 | Age: 21 | Last: 49

Happ has done nothing but produce at Wisconsin and excels as a finisher and rebounder. He operates mostly in the paint, where he’s always active despite a lack of ideal size at the five. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s a good rebounder, ball-handler and passer and plays bigger than his size. It hurts that he’s not much of a shooter (and poor from the free throw line) but his track record is impressive.

<p>With about a month of college games in the bag and plenty of data to pore over, it’s a good time to re-assess the 2018 NBA draft&#39;s top 60 prospects as conference play approaches.</p><p>While our <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/nba-mock-draft-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Mock Draft" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Mock Draft</a> aims to project what the draft might look like on a given day of the season and factors in team needs, the Big Board serves as our own point of reference for the available player pool. These rankings are based on our own evaluations and conversations with NBA scouts, and establishes how we&#39;d rate prospects in a vacuum (a scenario, of course, that will never actually happen). </p><p>Gifted Arizona center DeAndre Ayton remains atop our draft board, with Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley a close second and third, respectively. High-scoring Oklahoma guard Trae Young moves into first-round territory, as does intriguing draft-eligible high schooler Anfernee Simons. The big picture remains extremely fluid. Here’s how we see it.</p><p><em>(Note: Rankings and stats last updated Dec. 11).</em></p><h3>1. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last Ranking: 1 </strong></p><p>Elite physical tools, soft touch around the basket and a promising jump shot make Ayton a tantalizing prospect. He has most of the traits you want in a modern center plus the athletic ability to face up and play in space. The college game comes easily to him, and Ayton checks essentially every offensive box for his position. There are fair questions about his defensive comprehension and shot-blocking woes, but with his nimble feet and sheer size and strength, he has the tools to be an above-average presence around the rim. He’s a manchild with crazy-high upside and a potential franchise cornerstone.</p><h3>2. Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last: 3</strong></p><p>At 18, Doncic has become perhaps the top player in the Euroleague and a potential No. 1 pick. He’s comfortable as a lead ball-handler and has become deadly from three-point range. He makes his teammates better and reads the floor beyond his years. While he will face an adjustment to the speed of NBA defenses, there’s not really much to nitpick here, and his strong performances for Slovenia against high-caliber competition round out an impressive résumé. Doncic appears a safe bet to continue on the fast track and contribute at a high level as an NBA playmaker.</p><h3>3. Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 235 | Age: 18 | Last: 2</strong></p><p>Known for his aggression on the glass and competitiveness, Bagley manufactures easy baskets and possesses uncommonly fluid athleticism for a guy his size. He should become a versatile defensive piece on the perimeter, but has struggled to guard on the interior thus far. His growth as a scorer in the halfcourt will ultimately make or break him, and his jump shot is a work in progress, but his makeup and base strengths give his value a solid floor. His quick adjustment from reclassifying out of high school to dominating college competition is truly impressive. With his ball-handling and ability to face up, he has considerable room to grow.</p><h3>4. Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 5</strong></p><p>With off-the-charts length and impressive mobility, Bamba is potentially a dominant interior defender. His 7’9” wingspan deserves a sentence of its own. He has a slender frame and continues to round out his offensive skill set, but has shown ability as a jump shooter and is a constant threat to catch lobs. He’s further off from contributing than some of this draft’s other elite prospects, but his best-case scenario is right there with them. Bamba has an opportunity to evolve into a defensive-minded antidote for the young, perimeter-oriented bigs beginning to take over the NBA.</p><h3>5. Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;10&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 4</strong></p><p>Porter is a smooth, polished scorer who thrives on the perimeter and should be able to play either forward spot. Shooting is at a premium, and Porter’s ball-handling and perimeter skills give him a chance to contribute immediately. He can be a ball-stopper, and rounding out his game with playmaking and defense are the next steps, but he’s a pretty ideal frontcourt prospect in the pace-and-space era. Following back surgery, concerns over his long-term health and mobility are warranted. Barring major red flags, he won’t fall far.</p><h3>6. Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C, Michigan State | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 6 </strong></p><p>Jackson boasts NBA bloodlines and an intriguing blend of scoring touch, shot-blocking and three-point shooting potential. On top of that, he’s also producing on the court and competing hard as one of the youngest players in college basketball. His jump shot mechanics are unorthodox, which may limit how much of that specific success translates. As his body fills out, Jackson should become a better finisher around the rim. He has made major all-around strides over the last year or so and is worthy of consideration high in the draft.</p><h3>7. Robert Williams III, F/C, Texas A&#38;M | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 7</strong></p><p>A strong, athletic big with some inside-out scoring ability and a nose for the ball, Williams is a talented rim-runner who catches lobs and does a good job on the offensive glass. Williams is also a good passer with better feel than he’s been given credit for. It’s imperative he finds ways to better involve himself in games as a scorer, but he’s currently cast into a secondary role on a very good team. As a result, his offensive impact can be highly inconsistent. There aren’t many college bigs who play above the rim as easily as Williams can, and he has considerable potential as a Clint Capela-style five-man.</p><h3>8. Collin Sexton, G, Alabama | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;2&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 10</strong></p><p>Sexton is an aggressive, shoot-first guard whose handle and burst allow him to consistently penetrate defenses and draw fouls. He’s shown some improvement as a three-point shooter and has the ability to be a good defender when locked in. Sexton isn’t a pure point and can improve as a decision maker with the ball, but he has a good chance to become an effective change-of-pace scorer at minimum. He can occasionally struggle to finish around bigs, but his blend of shot-creation and toughness is rare. If he continues to draw fouls at a high rate in the NBA, the outlook should be sunny.</p><h3>9. Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 12</strong></p><p>On an inconsistent, younger-than-usual Kentucky roster, Knox has emerged as John Calipari’s top prospect. He’s developed into a capable three-point shooter and has enviable physical tools, with the size and reach to guard either forward spot and rebound effectively. Knox could stand to be more aggressive attacking the basket, and still has games where he disappears for long stretches. But his body and versatility project well, and he’s still quite far from the player he could eventually become.</p><h3>10. Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 23</strong></p><p>Bridges has emerged as a lottery-caliber prospect, with an improved offensive game now accompanying the impressive measurables that make him an impact defender. He moves well on the perimeter, can defend four positions, blocks shots and consistently generates steals with his 7’0” wingspan. Bridges’ improved aggressiveness on offense has answered the questons about his motor, and he has the kind of versatility that plays particularly well in a fast-paced game. Continuing to thrive in his increased scoring role will be key.</p><h3>11. Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 8</strong></p><p>Bridges competes hard on both ends of the floor, and his oft-spectacular athletic ability suggests he can be an impactful defender and transition threat. But scouts are questioning how much he’s improved since his freshman year, with an inconsistent jump shot and limited ability to create off the dribble. His energy and ability to run the floor should still play in a NBA that favors smaller, faster forwards, but it’s reasonable to wonder about some of his limitations.</p><h3>12. Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 11</strong></p><p>Walker checks a lot of boxes for an off-guard. He&#39;s able to slash to the basket and score from deep with great length and a nice frame for his position. He has long-term 3-and-D potential as he refines his skills, and learns to play off the ball. Tearing his meniscus over the summer was a setback that might help justify his slow start. He’s still a ways from being pro-ready, and has to prove he can put up the numbers to match his considerable talent.</p><h3>13. Bruce Brown Jr., G, Miami | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 13</strong></p><p>Gifted with size, strength and a relentless approach to the game, Brown continues to transition into playing the point full time and should put up big numbers for Miami. He can defend multiple positions on the perimeter and generate turnovers. On offense, he shoots the ball well but needs more polish as a playmaker and as a scorer off the bounce. His intangibles and versatility make him well-suited for an NBA backcourt.</p><h3>14. Trevon Duval, PG, Duke | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Last: 14</strong></p><p>Duval has shown improvement in every area of his gam save for his biggest weakness: his jumper. He has great size and length, can be an elite on-ball defender, makes plays in transition and has begun to slow the game down from a mental standpoint. But he’s essentially a non-factor shooting from the outside at this stage, with a lack of consistency and touch. Duval is talented enough to warrant lottery consideration but could be held back by those struggles.</p><h3>15. Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette High School (Louisiana)</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: 15</strong></p><p>Although Robinson will have had a year off from competitive basketball and enter the draft with no experience past high school, teams still have significant interest in his long frame, athleticism and shot-blocking ability. He’s a serious project with questionable feel for the game and likely won’t benefit from walking away from Western Kentucky. Conversely, there will be less time to pick him apart in workout settings. Robinson remains an intriguing name to file away.</p><h3>16. Dzanan Musa, G/F, KK Cedevita</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last: 16</strong></p><p>Musa is an aggressive scoring wing who shoots well from the outside and can attack effectively off the dribble. He’s an improving playmaker and has stood out for Bosnia with an advanced feel, but he’s very ball-dominant at this stage and may not be athletic enough for that role in the NBA. His body leaves something to be desired, as he’s somewhat thin. He lacks ideal length and has a bit of a hunched posture due to the shape of his back. He’s not much of a defender, either. Still, his ability to put the ball in the basket sets him apart.</p><h3>17. Wendell Carter Jr., F/C, Duke | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;10&quot; | Weight: 260 | Age: 18 | Last: 9</strong></p><p>Carter has a polished offensive game for a freshman, with the ability to score with his back to the basket as well as face up and hit a jump shot. He’s an intelligent player and passer with the size and strength to battle inside and corral rebounds. Although he’s not a bad athlete, he’s not especially explosive and can struggle when defenses collapse on him around the basket and alter his shot. As such, there are concerns about how he’ll adjust to facing elite length. There’s a chance his effectiveness is limited by the pace of the NBA game.</p><h3>18. Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 19</strong></p><p>Most of Brown’s appeal is tied to his long-term potential as an oversized ball-handler and versatile defensive piece. He’s at his best in the open floor and uses his length to attack the basket, see over defenders and make plays for teammates. He’s not a great shooter, but Brown also rebounds well and finds ways to impact the game without scoring. He has the upside to rise into the lottery with continued improvement.</p><h3>19. Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;2&quot; | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 55</strong></p><p>A gifted perimeter scorer and passer, Young burst out of the gate as one college basketball’s top point guards. His play has elevated a middling Oklahoma roster, and his string of huge performances has become impossible to ignore. He’s not especially big, quick or strong, but has a smooth handle and can create his own shot using his change of pace. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to stay on the floor defensively or be quite as effective creating separation against athletic defenses. Young’s impressive ability to shoot from deep and open things up for teammates have put him firmly on the radar.</p><h3>20. Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Last: 17</strong></p><p>Diallo is a divisive prospect, but nobody can argue with the freakish bounce and length that makes him worthy of first-round looks. He can run and jump with anyone and has enough of a handle to turn the corner and attack the basket, but his jumper needs work and he’s far from a finished product. Beyond easy transition points and his ability to get to the line, there’s not a ton else to Diallo’s game yet. He’s still so athletic that signs of substantive progress could land him in the lottery.</p><h3>21. Chimezie Metu, F/C, USC | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 20</strong></p><p>A springy big who blocks shots and has shown some touch, Metu has made noticeable strides year-to-year and continues to expand his game. He can make the game look easy at times, and has improved as a finisher who can throw it down in tight spaces. His game-to-game activity can waver, as can his on-court awareness. If he’s able to step out and make threes regularly, his ceiling increases considerably. Demonstrable consistency will take him a long way.</p><h3>22. Justin Jackson, F, Maryland | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 21</strong></p><p>Jackson’s long, well-developed frame makes him a very intriguing two-way forward and potential glue guy. His foot speed and 7’3” wingspan allow him to guard several positions, and he’s a useful rebounder and secondary ball-handler. That said, Jackson lacks a demonstrable offensive calling card right now unless he can somehow sustain last season’s impressive shooting clip. His scoring may come along slowly, but his well-rounded skill set is still worth an investment.</p><h3>23. Shake Milton, G, SMU | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 22</strong></p><p>Milton’s size, shooting and ability to play on and off the ball make him an intriguing prospect. He’s proven he can score from the outside and is the type of player who could pair well with a variety of backcourt partners. Milton will be the go-to guy for SMU this season and must continue to take care of the ball, play more aggressively and show he can defend at a competent level. He’s begun to turn his potential into production.</p><h3>24. Grayson Allen, SG, Duke | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 22 | Last: 24</strong></p><p>Allen is among the top distance shooters in the draft, able to get his jumper off both in tight spaces off the dribble and on the catch. He has a well-developed sense of how to get open and get to his spots, and makes difficult body-control plays look easy. Allen is a strong athlete who can attack a closeout and keep defenders from playing him too closely. Allen may not be an impactful NBA defender, but he’s certainly not a stiff. He’s tough, competes hard and looks tailored for an NBA role.</p><h3>25. Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 250 | Age: 19 | Last: 27</strong></p><p>McCoy is all tools at this stage, but he’s physically impressive and has surprised with the quality of his production. He can get up and down the floor and goes after the ball well off the glass. His timing and feel are still coming along, but he naturally alters shots and has shown some ability to shoot from the mid-range. Like many teenage bigs, his motor comes and goes, but McCoy has been effective almost in spite of it at times. He’s mobile and talented enough as a legitimate center to warrant first-round consideration.</p><h3>26. Killian Tillie, F/C, Gonzaga | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;10&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 18</strong></p><p>Hyper-efficient around the basket with a natural touch and quick burst off the floor, Tillie has quietly emerged as an intriguing prospect. The Frenchman has shown demonstrable polish and has flashed a nice-looking jump shot. He boxes out well and establishes good position inside, although he needs to add muscle in order to compete at the next level.. He moves well laterally and has some impact defensively, though how he’ll fare on both ends against NBA length remains to be seen.</p><h3>27. Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Senior</h3><p><b>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 180 | Age: 18 | Last: N/A</b></p><p>Currently in midst of a postgrad season at IMG, Simons will be draft-eligible and is considering entering the pool and skipping college. He’s a springy, quick-twitch athlete who is more of a combo guard at this stage of his development. He’s at his best attacking the basket downhill and elevating to finish, and has enviable defensive range that projects well. As he continues to develop as a shooter, he’ll have a chance to be a first-round draftee should he choose to go pro. As a high schooler, Simons obviously needs time, but the former Louisville commit possesses considerable upside and has the NBA intrigued.</p><h3>28. Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Last: 28</strong></p><p>Alkins missed the first chunk of Arizona’s season with a foot fracture, and his energy on both ends of the floor provides a major boost. He has a strong frame, NBA-caliber bounce and has demonstrated willingness to play a role for the benefit of the team. He’s evolved into a reliable defensive player and will have an opportunity to show more on the other end of the floor. He’s undersized at the two, but his ability to get to the rim, make plays and space the floor bode well.</p><h3>29. Tyus Battle, SG, Syracuse | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 20 | Last: 32</strong></p><p>Battle has nice size and skill and has taken a step forward as a versatile scorer. He’s agile and tough, but still has to prove he can create off the dribble and improve as a finisher. It’s unclear yet whether his defensive contributions will catch up to his physical prowess. Scouts will want to see him tap into his versatility and show increased efficiency on the wing.</p><h3>30. Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;2&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 22 | Last: 33</strong></p><p>As the leader of a less-loaded-than-usual Kansas team, Graham’s toughness, scoring and playmaking aren’t going unnoticed. He has a good stroke from three, and also impacts the game as a hard-working on-ball defender. He can struggle getting into the second level of defenses and isn’t elite at any one thing. But as a ball-handler who can potentially contribute quickly, given how well he’s played, the first round is within reach.</p><h3>31. Nick Richards, C, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 26</strong></p><p>Although extremely raw and prone to foul trouble, Richards’s size, rebounding, mobility and shot-blocking potential hold intrigue. He’s well-built, highly agile and can play above the rim. But his feel is lacking, and he’s very old for his class as a 20-year-old freshman. If he becomes a reliable rim-runner and shot blocker, Richards should be able to make an impact, but there are serious questions about his overall floor awareness.</p><h3>32. Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A</strong></p><p>One of college basketball’s breakout players, Thomas’s two-way ability has turned heads. He’s a consistent high-volume outside threat, can play on or off the ball and has defended extremely well, making him an excellent role player candidate at the NBA level. If he can improve creating off the dribble, it’s gravy. His growth this season is truly impressive.</p><h3>33. De’Anthony Melton, G, USC | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 31</strong></p><p>It certainly doesn’t help Melton’s case that he remains out due to the FBI’s college basketball investigation, but he’s a quality prospect just the same. He showed plenty of defensive toughness and offensive skill as a freshman, and remains on the NBA radar as an energy player and defensive presence. If he gets his jumper in order he could be in for a leap, but it&#39;s tricky to peg without him having played a game this season.</p><h3>34. Jaylen Hands, PG, UCLA | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 175 | Age: 18 | Last: 25</strong></p><p>In a weaker draft pool that’s especially thin when it comes to point guard talent, Hands’s highlight-reel explosiveness and end-to-end speed will make him an interesting upside pick if he comes out. He’s still learning how to run a team, but can get to the rim, push in transition and has a workable jumper and nice handle. He does things that are hard to teach. Hands lacks ideal size and strength for the NBA and would benefit from two seasons of college, but has a lot to offer down the line.</p><h3>35. Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 34</strong></p><p>Hachimura has come off the bench to start the year for Gonzaga and needs more opportunities to show his stuff, but he has a chance at the first round if he can string together some good performances. He’s got nice length and strength and has some touch as a shooter. He showed plenty of game playing for Japan over the summer and could evolve into a valuable two-way combo forward in time.</p><h3>36. John Petty, SG, Alabama | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 195 | Age: 18 | Last: 35</strong></p><p>The headlines have belonged to Collin Sexton, but Petty has been impressive playing off of his talented teammate. He’s a gifted perimeter shooter off the catch who can sustain hot streaks and hoist his shot quickly. It may be tricky to assess his well-roundedness given how much of Alabama’s points run through Sexton, but Petty can fill up a box score and has appeal in a 3-and-D role. </p><h3>37. Austin Wiley, C, Auburn | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 250 | Age: 18 | Last: 37</strong></p><p>Wiley continues to sit out due to the FBI corruption investigation, but possesses NBA ability and great size, length and strength. He’s young for his class and is in a pretty good place developmentally, working hard on the glass and showing the makings of a decent jumper. He’ll battle in the post and do the dirty work, but isn’t an elite athlete. He can improve as a finisher and has a history of knee injuries that limit his mobility.</p><h3>38. Rodions Kurucs, G/F, FC Barcelona</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 29</strong></p><p>Though Kurucs&#39;s stock has trended down somewhat after pulling out of last year’s draft and failing to earn minutes with Barcelona’s top team, his mix of size, athleticism and smarts offer appeal on the wing. He will need to improve his production beyond simply showing flashes. The Latvian still has some nice traits and looks like a potentially useful role player.</p><h3>39. Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 39</strong></p><p>Vanderbilt has yet to make his debut as he recovers from a foot injury, and it sounds like there’s a chance he could miss most or all of the season. He has a history of leg injuries and a thinnish lower body, but he’s a good athlete who can handle the ball a little bit and can make an impact on the glass and as a versatile defender with length. He can also make plays for teammates, particularly in the open floor. The health issues are a concern.</p><h3>40. Arnoldas Kulboka, F, Orlandina Basket</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Last: 40</strong></p><p>A productive, athletic wing with shooting potential, Kulboka has nice size at the three and has put up impressive numbers coming up in Germany. He has definite upside as a scorer. A native of Lithuania, he needs to add weight, improve defensively and add a little seasoning. He’s a potential draft-and-stash player if he comes out.</p><h3>41. Andrew Jones, G, Texas | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 38</strong></p><p>Jones is an impressive athlete and transition scorer still learning his craft. He may not evolve into a true point guard, but he has nice quickness and a burst that helps him on both ends. His halfcourt creation skills leave something to be desired and his jumper is a question mark, but Jones is a nice developmental piece with upside. He could still benefit from another year of school.</p><h3>42. Alize Johnson, F, Missouri State | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 42</strong></p><p>After breaking out over the summer at Adidas Nations, Johnson emerged as a unique prospect with guard skills and a high rebounding motor packaged into a combo forward’s body. He can handle the ball and push in transition and has some promise as a shooter, profiling as the sort of positionless-type big that’s in high demand right now. Thanks to his versatility, Johnson will get serious NBA looks as one of the top mid-major prospects around.</p><h3>43. Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;1&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 21 | Last: 46</strong></p><p>The youngest of the three Holiday brothers has proven a tough competitor in his own right. He’s undersized but scrappy, can hit an open three, get to the basket and fight on defense. Holiday will need to sustain a good amount of last season’s shooting numbers, which were abetted by playing alongside Lonzo Ball. But as the de facto veteran leader of a young, talented roster, Holiday continues to leave a nice impression.</p><h3>44. Isaac Bonga, G/F, Fraport Skyliners</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Last: 44</strong></p><p>An oversized ball-handler and talented passer, Bonga could be one of the youngest players in this class and has nice upside given his skill set. His jump shot is the biggest knock on him, but he has nice instincts and vision, particularly at his size. The German prospect needs a lot of time, but could become a two-way playmaker. Bonga’s offense in particular will require a ton of work, but what he might be in two or three years is enticing.</p><h3>45. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Last: 43</strong></p><p>Alexander-Walker is far off from logging actual NBA minutes, but his potential has him on draft radars. He has a nice stroke, the size to guard both guard spots and a generally good sense of the floor playing on and off the ball for Virginia Tech. He’d greatly benefit from a second year of college and needs to work on his body, as he struggles turning the corner against athletic defenders. He’ll be in for a season of ups and downs in the ACC, but has a nice long-term outlook.</p><h3>46. Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 200 | Age: 21 | Last: 48</strong></p><p>A popular sleeper and one of the top players in the Mountain West, Hutchison has 3-and-D potential and an unflashy, effective game. He’s a good off-ball cutter who can get himself open, and shot the ball well last season. He has the size to guard either wing position and contributes on the glass, too. If Hutchison can sustain his outside shooting clip with added volume, he may climb.</p><h3>47. Brandon Randolph, SG, Arizona | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A</strong></p><p>With his ability to put up points in bunches, Randolph has emerged as a useful complementary scorer for the Wildcats. He’s quick, smooth and is comfortable attacking the basket and spotting up off the dribble. He’s carved out a spot in the Arizona rotation and continues to improve at a high rate. He has the length and tools to become a capable defender and is a player worth tracking.</p><h3>48. Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita State | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Last: 41</strong></p><p>Shamet made it back for the start of the season, but he&#39;s now suffered serious injuries in both of his feet. That aside, he’s a gifted scorer who can hit difficult shots and began to come into his own down the stretch last season. He has nice size for a lead guard, changes speeds well and can move and defend passably. He could be in line for another big leap that could put him in the draft conversation.</p><h3>49. Bonzie Colson, PF, Notre Dame | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 220 | Age: 21 | Last: 47</strong></p><p>A truly unorthodox prospect, Colson has great length and a deep bag of offensive moves while standing just 6’5”. He’s been remarkably effective for Notre Dame anyway, and will tempt teams with his history of production and the hope that he can make it all work as a factor in smaller lineups. He can get to the foul line and has been extremely efficient to date. Whether or not he succeeds in the NBA, his situation will make for an interesting case study.</p><h3>50. P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A</strong></p><p>Despite a lack of ideal height, Washington&#39;s 7&#39;3&quot; wingspan gives him a unique physical profile and enables him to defend fours, fives and some threes on the perimeter. He’s a powerful leaper and intelligent player who has begun to make an adjustment to the college game. He may work best as a small-ball center at the next level and needs to prove he can be a shot-blocking presence. Washington’s baseline offensive skill level and shooting potential are also promising.</p><h3>51. Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 46</strong></p><p>Brunson is a heady playmaker who has had success throughout his career and looks tailored for a role as an NBA ball-handler. He doesn’t have great size or strength, but plays and works extremely hard and is often underrated as a scorer. He’s the leader of perhaps the top team in the country. Brunson relies on being crafty, understands how to run a team and has a chance to be drafted, whether this season or the next.</p><h3>52. Bryant Crawford, PG, Wake Forest | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 200 | Age: 20 | Last: 45</strong></p><p>A lesser-known prospect who has quietly developed over the last couple seasons, Crawford’s size and strength on the ball and willingness to defend has piqued NBA interest. He changes speeds well and can create in the halfcourt. Crawford isn’t a knockdown shooter and needs to prove he can be consistent. He will be asked to elevate a mediocre roster this season and could struggle with efficiency. But his experience, length and two-way contributions help set him apart.</p><h3>53. Allonzo Trier, SG, Arizona | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 53</strong></p><p>Trier is a dynamic college scorer who has improved his efficiency from the field, but questions linger over his shot selection and ability to fit into an NBA rotation. He lacks ideal length for a shooting guard and can be a ball-stopper. He’s an offensive-minded talent and consistent shooter from deep, but will be asked to play a supporting role at the next level. Trier may be able to succeed if he commits to defense, works on his body and proves there’s more to his game.</p><h3>54. Kris Wilkes, SF, UCLA | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Last: 30</strong></p><p>Though Wilkes has slowed down after an impressive start to the season, his smooth shooting mechanics, twitchy athleticism and 6’11” wingspan make him a natural fit for a 3-and-D role given time. He can attack a closeout and looks comfortable scoring in transition. Wilkes still has a lot of work to do on his handle and needs to show he can be a consistent threat from deep and impact the game beyond scoring. His game is reminiscent of Tim Hardaway Jr., and his strengths profile nicely down the line.</p><h3>55. Jacob Evans, G/F, Cincinnati | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 20 | Last: 52</strong></p><p>Evans is a tough, defensive-minded guard with shot-making ability who has come on strong as an NBA prospect. He has the chops to be a valuable 3-and-D piece and guard multiple positions. He’s physically impressive, but struggles to create off the dribble and may be better cast as a small forward at the next level. He needs to prove his outside shot is for real. </p><h3>56. Vince Edwards, F, Purdue | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 21 | Last: 50</strong></p><p>Edwards has the athleticism and length to guard several positions passably, and has a nice level of versatility to his game. He could be an ideal fit in smaller lineups with his ability to move the ball, space the floor and get involved on the glass. If you envision him as a glue guy and he shows real improvement as a defender, where he is prone to lapses, he’s not a bad roll of the dice.</p><h3>57. Moritz Wagner, F/C, Michigan | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 20 | Last: 51</strong></p><p>An inside-out scorer with the size to play center, Wagner has offensive talent and can be a tough matchup. He lacks the defensive chops to protect the basket and has holes in his all-around game. He’s begun to rebound the ball better this season, which is a start. Legitimate stretch bigs are tricky to find, and Wagner has the talent to space the floor if he can round out his weaknesses.</p><h2>58. Anas Mahmoud, C, Louisville | Junior</h2><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 22 | Last: 59</strong></p><p>Though old for his class and possessing a slender build, Mahmoud has the size, mobility and length to protect the rim and continues to improve. He’s a strong shot-blocker and showed improvement in his overall feel last year. He’s not much of a scorer and may be limited into a defensive specialist-type role. Any offensive development will help his case.</p><h3>59. Bennie Boatwright, F, USC | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 21 | Last: 54</strong></p><p>As a floor-spacer with size, Boatwright has been on the radar for a while. He’s a deadeye shooter with his feet set and has shown the ability to score off the bounce as well, although he’s not a great athlete or a presence defensively. He’s not especially efficient putting the ball in the basket any other way, but a strong year shooting the ball could put him in the second round.</p><h3>60. Ethan Happ, PF, Wisconsin | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 235 | Age: 21 | Last: 49</strong></p><p>Happ has done nothing but produce at Wisconsin and excels as a finisher and rebounder. He operates mostly in the paint, where he’s always active despite a lack of ideal size at the five. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s a good rebounder, ball-handler and passer and plays bigger than his size. It hurts that he’s not much of a shooter (and poor from the free throw line) but his track record is impressive.</p>
2018 NBA Draft Big Board 2.0: Breakout Stars Rise up the Rankings

With about a month of college games in the bag and plenty of data to pore over, it’s a good time to re-assess the 2018 NBA draft's top 60 prospects as conference play approaches.

While our Mock Draft aims to project what the draft might look like on a given day of the season and factors in team needs, the Big Board serves as our own point of reference for the available player pool. These rankings are based on our own evaluations and conversations with NBA scouts, and establishes how we'd rate prospects in a vacuum (a scenario, of course, that will never actually happen).

Gifted Arizona center DeAndre Ayton remains atop our draft board, with Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley a close second and third, respectively. High-scoring Oklahoma guard Trae Young moves into first-round territory, as does intriguing draft-eligible high schooler Anfernee Simons. The big picture remains extremely fluid. Here’s how we see it.

(Note: Rankings and stats last updated Dec. 11).

1. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona | Freshman

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last Ranking: 1

Elite physical tools, soft touch around the basket and a promising jump shot make Ayton a tantalizing prospect. He has most of the traits you want in a modern center plus the athletic ability to face up and play in space. The college game comes easily to him, and Ayton checks essentially every offensive box for his position. There are fair questions about his defensive comprehension and shot-blocking woes, but with his nimble feet and sheer size and strength, he has the tools to be an above-average presence around the rim. He’s a manchild with crazy-high upside and a potential franchise cornerstone.

2. Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last: 3

At 18, Doncic has become perhaps the top player in the Euroleague and a potential No. 1 pick. He’s comfortable as a lead ball-handler and has become deadly from three-point range. He makes his teammates better and reads the floor beyond his years. While he will face an adjustment to the speed of NBA defenses, there’s not really much to nitpick here, and his strong performances for Slovenia against high-caliber competition round out an impressive résumé. Doncic appears a safe bet to continue on the fast track and contribute at a high level as an NBA playmaker.

3. Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 18 | Last: 2

Known for his aggression on the glass and competitiveness, Bagley manufactures easy baskets and possesses uncommonly fluid athleticism for a guy his size. He should become a versatile defensive piece on the perimeter, but has struggled to guard on the interior thus far. His growth as a scorer in the halfcourt will ultimately make or break him, and his jump shot is a work in progress, but his makeup and base strengths give his value a solid floor. His quick adjustment from reclassifying out of high school to dominating college competition is truly impressive. With his ball-handling and ability to face up, he has considerable room to grow.

4. Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Freshman

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 5

With off-the-charts length and impressive mobility, Bamba is potentially a dominant interior defender. His 7’9” wingspan deserves a sentence of its own. He has a slender frame and continues to round out his offensive skill set, but has shown ability as a jump shooter and is a constant threat to catch lobs. He’s further off from contributing than some of this draft’s other elite prospects, but his best-case scenario is right there with them. Bamba has an opportunity to evolve into a defensive-minded antidote for the young, perimeter-oriented bigs beginning to take over the NBA.

5. Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Freshman

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 4

Porter is a smooth, polished scorer who thrives on the perimeter and should be able to play either forward spot. Shooting is at a premium, and Porter’s ball-handling and perimeter skills give him a chance to contribute immediately. He can be a ball-stopper, and rounding out his game with playmaking and defense are the next steps, but he’s a pretty ideal frontcourt prospect in the pace-and-space era. Following back surgery, concerns over his long-term health and mobility are warranted. Barring major red flags, he won’t fall far.

6. Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C, Michigan State | Freshman

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 6

Jackson boasts NBA bloodlines and an intriguing blend of scoring touch, shot-blocking and three-point shooting potential. On top of that, he’s also producing on the court and competing hard as one of the youngest players in college basketball. His jump shot mechanics are unorthodox, which may limit how much of that specific success translates. As his body fills out, Jackson should become a better finisher around the rim. He has made major all-around strides over the last year or so and is worthy of consideration high in the draft.

7. Robert Williams III, F/C, Texas A&M | Sophomore

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 7

A strong, athletic big with some inside-out scoring ability and a nose for the ball, Williams is a talented rim-runner who catches lobs and does a good job on the offensive glass. Williams is also a good passer with better feel than he’s been given credit for. It’s imperative he finds ways to better involve himself in games as a scorer, but he’s currently cast into a secondary role on a very good team. As a result, his offensive impact can be highly inconsistent. There aren’t many college bigs who play above the rim as easily as Williams can, and he has considerable potential as a Clint Capela-style five-man.

8. Collin Sexton, G, Alabama | Freshman

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 10

Sexton is an aggressive, shoot-first guard whose handle and burst allow him to consistently penetrate defenses and draw fouls. He’s shown some improvement as a three-point shooter and has the ability to be a good defender when locked in. Sexton isn’t a pure point and can improve as a decision maker with the ball, but he has a good chance to become an effective change-of-pace scorer at minimum. He can occasionally struggle to finish around bigs, but his blend of shot-creation and toughness is rare. If he continues to draw fouls at a high rate in the NBA, the outlook should be sunny.

9. Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 12

On an inconsistent, younger-than-usual Kentucky roster, Knox has emerged as John Calipari’s top prospect. He’s developed into a capable three-point shooter and has enviable physical tools, with the size and reach to guard either forward spot and rebound effectively. Knox could stand to be more aggressive attacking the basket, and still has games where he disappears for long stretches. But his body and versatility project well, and he’s still quite far from the player he could eventually become.

10. Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova | Junior

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 23

Bridges has emerged as a lottery-caliber prospect, with an improved offensive game now accompanying the impressive measurables that make him an impact defender. He moves well on the perimeter, can defend four positions, blocks shots and consistently generates steals with his 7’0” wingspan. Bridges’ improved aggressiveness on offense has answered the questons about his motor, and he has the kind of versatility that plays particularly well in a fast-paced game. Continuing to thrive in his increased scoring role will be key.

11. Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | Sophomore

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 8

Bridges competes hard on both ends of the floor, and his oft-spectacular athletic ability suggests he can be an impactful defender and transition threat. But scouts are questioning how much he’s improved since his freshman year, with an inconsistent jump shot and limited ability to create off the dribble. His energy and ability to run the floor should still play in a NBA that favors smaller, faster forwards, but it’s reasonable to wonder about some of his limitations.

12. Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami | Freshman

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 11

Walker checks a lot of boxes for an off-guard. He's able to slash to the basket and score from deep with great length and a nice frame for his position. He has long-term 3-and-D potential as he refines his skills, and learns to play off the ball. Tearing his meniscus over the summer was a setback that might help justify his slow start. He’s still a ways from being pro-ready, and has to prove he can put up the numbers to match his considerable talent.

13. Bruce Brown Jr., G, Miami | Sophomore

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 13

Gifted with size, strength and a relentless approach to the game, Brown continues to transition into playing the point full time and should put up big numbers for Miami. He can defend multiple positions on the perimeter and generate turnovers. On offense, he shoots the ball well but needs more polish as a playmaker and as a scorer off the bounce. His intangibles and versatility make him well-suited for an NBA backcourt.

14. Trevon Duval, PG, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Last: 14

Duval has shown improvement in every area of his gam save for his biggest weakness: his jumper. He has great size and length, can be an elite on-ball defender, makes plays in transition and has begun to slow the game down from a mental standpoint. But he’s essentially a non-factor shooting from the outside at this stage, with a lack of consistency and touch. Duval is talented enough to warrant lottery consideration but could be held back by those struggles.

15. Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette High School (Louisiana)

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: 15

Although Robinson will have had a year off from competitive basketball and enter the draft with no experience past high school, teams still have significant interest in his long frame, athleticism and shot-blocking ability. He’s a serious project with questionable feel for the game and likely won’t benefit from walking away from Western Kentucky. Conversely, there will be less time to pick him apart in workout settings. Robinson remains an intriguing name to file away.

16. Dzanan Musa, G/F, KK Cedevita

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last: 16

Musa is an aggressive scoring wing who shoots well from the outside and can attack effectively off the dribble. He’s an improving playmaker and has stood out for Bosnia with an advanced feel, but he’s very ball-dominant at this stage and may not be athletic enough for that role in the NBA. His body leaves something to be desired, as he’s somewhat thin. He lacks ideal length and has a bit of a hunched posture due to the shape of his back. He’s not much of a defender, either. Still, his ability to put the ball in the basket sets him apart.

17. Wendell Carter Jr., F/C, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 260 | Age: 18 | Last: 9

Carter has a polished offensive game for a freshman, with the ability to score with his back to the basket as well as face up and hit a jump shot. He’s an intelligent player and passer with the size and strength to battle inside and corral rebounds. Although he’s not a bad athlete, he’s not especially explosive and can struggle when defenses collapse on him around the basket and alter his shot. As such, there are concerns about how he’ll adjust to facing elite length. There’s a chance his effectiveness is limited by the pace of the NBA game.

18. Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Freshman

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 19

Most of Brown’s appeal is tied to his long-term potential as an oversized ball-handler and versatile defensive piece. He’s at his best in the open floor and uses his length to attack the basket, see over defenders and make plays for teammates. He’s not a great shooter, but Brown also rebounds well and finds ways to impact the game without scoring. He has the upside to rise into the lottery with continued improvement.

19. Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Freshman

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 55

A gifted perimeter scorer and passer, Young burst out of the gate as one college basketball’s top point guards. His play has elevated a middling Oklahoma roster, and his string of huge performances has become impossible to ignore. He’s not especially big, quick or strong, but has a smooth handle and can create his own shot using his change of pace. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to stay on the floor defensively or be quite as effective creating separation against athletic defenses. Young’s impressive ability to shoot from deep and open things up for teammates have put him firmly on the radar.

20. Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Last: 17

Diallo is a divisive prospect, but nobody can argue with the freakish bounce and length that makes him worthy of first-round looks. He can run and jump with anyone and has enough of a handle to turn the corner and attack the basket, but his jumper needs work and he’s far from a finished product. Beyond easy transition points and his ability to get to the line, there’s not a ton else to Diallo’s game yet. He’s still so athletic that signs of substantive progress could land him in the lottery.

21. Chimezie Metu, F/C, USC | Junior

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 20

A springy big who blocks shots and has shown some touch, Metu has made noticeable strides year-to-year and continues to expand his game. He can make the game look easy at times, and has improved as a finisher who can throw it down in tight spaces. His game-to-game activity can waver, as can his on-court awareness. If he’s able to step out and make threes regularly, his ceiling increases considerably. Demonstrable consistency will take him a long way.

22. Justin Jackson, F, Maryland | Sophomore

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 21

Jackson’s long, well-developed frame makes him a very intriguing two-way forward and potential glue guy. His foot speed and 7’3” wingspan allow him to guard several positions, and he’s a useful rebounder and secondary ball-handler. That said, Jackson lacks a demonstrable offensive calling card right now unless he can somehow sustain last season’s impressive shooting clip. His scoring may come along slowly, but his well-rounded skill set is still worth an investment.

23. Shake Milton, G, SMU | Junior

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 22

Milton’s size, shooting and ability to play on and off the ball make him an intriguing prospect. He’s proven he can score from the outside and is the type of player who could pair well with a variety of backcourt partners. Milton will be the go-to guy for SMU this season and must continue to take care of the ball, play more aggressively and show he can defend at a competent level. He’s begun to turn his potential into production.

24. Grayson Allen, SG, Duke | Senior

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 205 | Age: 22 | Last: 24

Allen is among the top distance shooters in the draft, able to get his jumper off both in tight spaces off the dribble and on the catch. He has a well-developed sense of how to get open and get to his spots, and makes difficult body-control plays look easy. Allen is a strong athlete who can attack a closeout and keep defenders from playing him too closely. Allen may not be an impactful NBA defender, but he’s certainly not a stiff. He’s tough, competes hard and looks tailored for an NBA role.

25. Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV | Freshman

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 250 | Age: 19 | Last: 27

McCoy is all tools at this stage, but he’s physically impressive and has surprised with the quality of his production. He can get up and down the floor and goes after the ball well off the glass. His timing and feel are still coming along, but he naturally alters shots and has shown some ability to shoot from the mid-range. Like many teenage bigs, his motor comes and goes, but McCoy has been effective almost in spite of it at times. He’s mobile and talented enough as a legitimate center to warrant first-round consideration.

26. Killian Tillie, F/C, Gonzaga | Sophomore

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 18

Hyper-efficient around the basket with a natural touch and quick burst off the floor, Tillie has quietly emerged as an intriguing prospect. The Frenchman has shown demonstrable polish and has flashed a nice-looking jump shot. He boxes out well and establishes good position inside, although he needs to add muscle in order to compete at the next level.. He moves well laterally and has some impact defensively, though how he’ll fare on both ends against NBA length remains to be seen.

27. Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Senior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 180 | Age: 18 | Last: N/A

Currently in midst of a postgrad season at IMG, Simons will be draft-eligible and is considering entering the pool and skipping college. He’s a springy, quick-twitch athlete who is more of a combo guard at this stage of his development. He’s at his best attacking the basket downhill and elevating to finish, and has enviable defensive range that projects well. As he continues to develop as a shooter, he’ll have a chance to be a first-round draftee should he choose to go pro. As a high schooler, Simons obviously needs time, but the former Louisville commit possesses considerable upside and has the NBA intrigued.

28. Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Last: 28

Alkins missed the first chunk of Arizona’s season with a foot fracture, and his energy on both ends of the floor provides a major boost. He has a strong frame, NBA-caliber bounce and has demonstrated willingness to play a role for the benefit of the team. He’s evolved into a reliable defensive player and will have an opportunity to show more on the other end of the floor. He’s undersized at the two, but his ability to get to the rim, make plays and space the floor bode well.

29. Tyus Battle, SG, Syracuse | Sophomore

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 20 | Last: 32

Battle has nice size and skill and has taken a step forward as a versatile scorer. He’s agile and tough, but still has to prove he can create off the dribble and improve as a finisher. It’s unclear yet whether his defensive contributions will catch up to his physical prowess. Scouts will want to see him tap into his versatility and show increased efficiency on the wing.

30. Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas | Senior

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 185 | Age: 22 | Last: 33

As the leader of a less-loaded-than-usual Kansas team, Graham’s toughness, scoring and playmaking aren’t going unnoticed. He has a good stroke from three, and also impacts the game as a hard-working on-ball defender. He can struggle getting into the second level of defenses and isn’t elite at any one thing. But as a ball-handler who can potentially contribute quickly, given how well he’s played, the first round is within reach.

31. Nick Richards, C, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 26

Although extremely raw and prone to foul trouble, Richards’s size, rebounding, mobility and shot-blocking potential hold intrigue. He’s well-built, highly agile and can play above the rim. But his feel is lacking, and he’s very old for his class as a 20-year-old freshman. If he becomes a reliable rim-runner and shot blocker, Richards should be able to make an impact, but there are serious questions about his overall floor awareness.

32. Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton | Junior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A

One of college basketball’s breakout players, Thomas’s two-way ability has turned heads. He’s a consistent high-volume outside threat, can play on or off the ball and has defended extremely well, making him an excellent role player candidate at the NBA level. If he can improve creating off the dribble, it’s gravy. His growth this season is truly impressive.

33. De’Anthony Melton, G, USC | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 31

It certainly doesn’t help Melton’s case that he remains out due to the FBI’s college basketball investigation, but he’s a quality prospect just the same. He showed plenty of defensive toughness and offensive skill as a freshman, and remains on the NBA radar as an energy player and defensive presence. If he gets his jumper in order he could be in for a leap, but it's tricky to peg without him having played a game this season.

34. Jaylen Hands, PG, UCLA | Freshman

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 175 | Age: 18 | Last: 25

In a weaker draft pool that’s especially thin when it comes to point guard talent, Hands’s highlight-reel explosiveness and end-to-end speed will make him an interesting upside pick if he comes out. He’s still learning how to run a team, but can get to the rim, push in transition and has a workable jumper and nice handle. He does things that are hard to teach. Hands lacks ideal size and strength for the NBA and would benefit from two seasons of college, but has a lot to offer down the line.

35. Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga | Sophomore

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 34

Hachimura has come off the bench to start the year for Gonzaga and needs more opportunities to show his stuff, but he has a chance at the first round if he can string together some good performances. He’s got nice length and strength and has some touch as a shooter. He showed plenty of game playing for Japan over the summer and could evolve into a valuable two-way combo forward in time.

36. John Petty, SG, Alabama | Freshman

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 195 | Age: 18 | Last: 35

The headlines have belonged to Collin Sexton, but Petty has been impressive playing off of his talented teammate. He’s a gifted perimeter shooter off the catch who can sustain hot streaks and hoist his shot quickly. It may be tricky to assess his well-roundedness given how much of Alabama’s points run through Sexton, but Petty can fill up a box score and has appeal in a 3-and-D role.

37. Austin Wiley, C, Auburn | Sophomore

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 250 | Age: 18 | Last: 37

Wiley continues to sit out due to the FBI corruption investigation, but possesses NBA ability and great size, length and strength. He’s young for his class and is in a pretty good place developmentally, working hard on the glass and showing the makings of a decent jumper. He’ll battle in the post and do the dirty work, but isn’t an elite athlete. He can improve as a finisher and has a history of knee injuries that limit his mobility.

38. Rodions Kurucs, G/F, FC Barcelona

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 29

Though Kurucs's stock has trended down somewhat after pulling out of last year’s draft and failing to earn minutes with Barcelona’s top team, his mix of size, athleticism and smarts offer appeal on the wing. He will need to improve his production beyond simply showing flashes. The Latvian still has some nice traits and looks like a potentially useful role player.

39. Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 39

Vanderbilt has yet to make his debut as he recovers from a foot injury, and it sounds like there’s a chance he could miss most or all of the season. He has a history of leg injuries and a thinnish lower body, but he’s a good athlete who can handle the ball a little bit and can make an impact on the glass and as a versatile defender with length. He can also make plays for teammates, particularly in the open floor. The health issues are a concern.

40. Arnoldas Kulboka, F, Orlandina Basket

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Last: 40

A productive, athletic wing with shooting potential, Kulboka has nice size at the three and has put up impressive numbers coming up in Germany. He has definite upside as a scorer. A native of Lithuania, he needs to add weight, improve defensively and add a little seasoning. He’s a potential draft-and-stash player if he comes out.

41. Andrew Jones, G, Texas | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 38

Jones is an impressive athlete and transition scorer still learning his craft. He may not evolve into a true point guard, but he has nice quickness and a burst that helps him on both ends. His halfcourt creation skills leave something to be desired and his jumper is a question mark, but Jones is a nice developmental piece with upside. He could still benefit from another year of school.

42. Alize Johnson, F, Missouri State | Senior

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 42

After breaking out over the summer at Adidas Nations, Johnson emerged as a unique prospect with guard skills and a high rebounding motor packaged into a combo forward’s body. He can handle the ball and push in transition and has some promise as a shooter, profiling as the sort of positionless-type big that’s in high demand right now. Thanks to his versatility, Johnson will get serious NBA looks as one of the top mid-major prospects around.

43. Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA | Junior

Height: 6'1" | Weight: 185 | Age: 21 | Last: 46

The youngest of the three Holiday brothers has proven a tough competitor in his own right. He’s undersized but scrappy, can hit an open three, get to the basket and fight on defense. Holiday will need to sustain a good amount of last season’s shooting numbers, which were abetted by playing alongside Lonzo Ball. But as the de facto veteran leader of a young, talented roster, Holiday continues to leave a nice impression.

44. Isaac Bonga, G/F, Fraport Skyliners

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Last: 44

An oversized ball-handler and talented passer, Bonga could be one of the youngest players in this class and has nice upside given his skill set. His jump shot is the biggest knock on him, but he has nice instincts and vision, particularly at his size. The German prospect needs a lot of time, but could become a two-way playmaker. Bonga’s offense in particular will require a ton of work, but what he might be in two or three years is enticing.

45. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech | Freshman

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Last: 43

Alexander-Walker is far off from logging actual NBA minutes, but his potential has him on draft radars. He has a nice stroke, the size to guard both guard spots and a generally good sense of the floor playing on and off the ball for Virginia Tech. He’d greatly benefit from a second year of college and needs to work on his body, as he struggles turning the corner against athletic defenders. He’ll be in for a season of ups and downs in the ACC, but has a nice long-term outlook.

46. Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State | Senior

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 200 | Age: 21 | Last: 48

A popular sleeper and one of the top players in the Mountain West, Hutchison has 3-and-D potential and an unflashy, effective game. He’s a good off-ball cutter who can get himself open, and shot the ball well last season. He has the size to guard either wing position and contributes on the glass, too. If Hutchison can sustain his outside shooting clip with added volume, he may climb.

47. Brandon Randolph, SG, Arizona | Freshman

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A

With his ability to put up points in bunches, Randolph has emerged as a useful complementary scorer for the Wildcats. He’s quick, smooth and is comfortable attacking the basket and spotting up off the dribble. He’s carved out a spot in the Arizona rotation and continues to improve at a high rate. He has the length and tools to become a capable defender and is a player worth tracking.

48. Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita State | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Last: 41

Shamet made it back for the start of the season, but he's now suffered serious injuries in both of his feet. That aside, he’s a gifted scorer who can hit difficult shots and began to come into his own down the stretch last season. He has nice size for a lead guard, changes speeds well and can move and defend passably. He could be in line for another big leap that could put him in the draft conversation.

49. Bonzie Colson, PF, Notre Dame | Senior

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 220 | Age: 21 | Last: 47

A truly unorthodox prospect, Colson has great length and a deep bag of offensive moves while standing just 6’5”. He’s been remarkably effective for Notre Dame anyway, and will tempt teams with his history of production and the hope that he can make it all work as a factor in smaller lineups. He can get to the foul line and has been extremely efficient to date. Whether or not he succeeds in the NBA, his situation will make for an interesting case study.

50. P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A

Despite a lack of ideal height, Washington's 7'3" wingspan gives him a unique physical profile and enables him to defend fours, fives and some threes on the perimeter. He’s a powerful leaper and intelligent player who has begun to make an adjustment to the college game. He may work best as a small-ball center at the next level and needs to prove he can be a shot-blocking presence. Washington’s baseline offensive skill level and shooting potential are also promising.

51. Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova | Junior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 46

Brunson is a heady playmaker who has had success throughout his career and looks tailored for a role as an NBA ball-handler. He doesn’t have great size or strength, but plays and works extremely hard and is often underrated as a scorer. He’s the leader of perhaps the top team in the country. Brunson relies on being crafty, understands how to run a team and has a chance to be drafted, whether this season or the next.

52. Bryant Crawford, PG, Wake Forest | Junior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 200 | Age: 20 | Last: 45

A lesser-known prospect who has quietly developed over the last couple seasons, Crawford’s size and strength on the ball and willingness to defend has piqued NBA interest. He changes speeds well and can create in the halfcourt. Crawford isn’t a knockdown shooter and needs to prove he can be consistent. He will be asked to elevate a mediocre roster this season and could struggle with efficiency. But his experience, length and two-way contributions help set him apart.

53. Allonzo Trier, SG, Arizona | Junior

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 53

Trier is a dynamic college scorer who has improved his efficiency from the field, but questions linger over his shot selection and ability to fit into an NBA rotation. He lacks ideal length for a shooting guard and can be a ball-stopper. He’s an offensive-minded talent and consistent shooter from deep, but will be asked to play a supporting role at the next level. Trier may be able to succeed if he commits to defense, works on his body and proves there’s more to his game.

54. Kris Wilkes, SF, UCLA | Freshman

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Last: 30

Though Wilkes has slowed down after an impressive start to the season, his smooth shooting mechanics, twitchy athleticism and 6’11” wingspan make him a natural fit for a 3-and-D role given time. He can attack a closeout and looks comfortable scoring in transition. Wilkes still has a lot of work to do on his handle and needs to show he can be a consistent threat from deep and impact the game beyond scoring. His game is reminiscent of Tim Hardaway Jr., and his strengths profile nicely down the line.

55. Jacob Evans, G/F, Cincinnati | Junior

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 210 | Age: 20 | Last: 52

Evans is a tough, defensive-minded guard with shot-making ability who has come on strong as an NBA prospect. He has the chops to be a valuable 3-and-D piece and guard multiple positions. He’s physically impressive, but struggles to create off the dribble and may be better cast as a small forward at the next level. He needs to prove his outside shot is for real.

56. Vince Edwards, F, Purdue | Senior

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 225 | Age: 21 | Last: 50

Edwards has the athleticism and length to guard several positions passably, and has a nice level of versatility to his game. He could be an ideal fit in smaller lineups with his ability to move the ball, space the floor and get involved on the glass. If you envision him as a glue guy and he shows real improvement as a defender, where he is prone to lapses, he’s not a bad roll of the dice.

57. Moritz Wagner, F/C, Michigan | Junior

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 230 | Age: 20 | Last: 51

An inside-out scorer with the size to play center, Wagner has offensive talent and can be a tough matchup. He lacks the defensive chops to protect the basket and has holes in his all-around game. He’s begun to rebound the ball better this season, which is a start. Legitimate stretch bigs are tricky to find, and Wagner has the talent to space the floor if he can round out his weaknesses.

58. Anas Mahmoud, C, Louisville | Junior

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 215 | Age: 22 | Last: 59

Though old for his class and possessing a slender build, Mahmoud has the size, mobility and length to protect the rim and continues to improve. He’s a strong shot-blocker and showed improvement in his overall feel last year. He’s not much of a scorer and may be limited into a defensive specialist-type role. Any offensive development will help his case.

59. Bennie Boatwright, F, USC | Junior

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 230 | Age: 21 | Last: 54

As a floor-spacer with size, Boatwright has been on the radar for a while. He’s a deadeye shooter with his feet set and has shown the ability to score off the bounce as well, although he’s not a great athlete or a presence defensively. He’s not especially efficient putting the ball in the basket any other way, but a strong year shooting the ball could put him in the second round.

60. Ethan Happ, PF, Wisconsin | Junior

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 235 | Age: 21 | Last: 49

Happ has done nothing but produce at Wisconsin and excels as a finisher and rebounder. He operates mostly in the paint, where he’s always active despite a lack of ideal size at the five. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s a good rebounder, ball-handler and passer and plays bigger than his size. It hurts that he’s not much of a shooter (and poor from the free throw line) but his track record is impressive.

<p>With about a month of college games in the bag and plenty of data to pore over, it’s a good time to re-assess the 2018 NBA draft&#39;s top 60 prospects as conference play approaches.</p><p>While our <a href="https://www.si.com/nba/nba-mock-draft-2018" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Mock Draft" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Mock Draft</a> aims to project what the draft might look like on a given day of the season and factors in team needs, the Big Board serves as our own point of reference for the available player pool. These rankings are based on our own evaluations and conversations with NBA scouts, and establishes how we&#39;d rate prospects in a vacuum (a scenario, of course, that will never actually happen). </p><p>Gifted Arizona center DeAndre Ayton remains atop our draft board, with Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley a close second and third, respectively. High-scoring Oklahoma guard Trae Young moves into first-round territory, as does intriguing draft-eligible high schooler Anfernee Simons. The big picture remains extremely fluid. Here’s how we see it.</p><p><em>(Note: Rankings and stats last updated Dec. 11).</em></p><h3>1. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last Ranking: 1 </strong></p><p>Elite physical tools, soft touch around the basket and a promising jump shot make Ayton a tantalizing prospect. He has most of the traits you want in a modern center plus the athletic ability to face up and play in space. The college game comes easily to him, and Ayton checks essentially every offensive box for his position. There are fair questions about his defensive comprehension and shot-blocking woes, but with his nimble feet and sheer size and strength, he has the tools to be an above-average presence around the rim. He’s a manchild with crazy-high upside and a potential franchise cornerstone.</p><h3>2. Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last: 3</strong></p><p>At 18, Doncic has become perhaps the top player in the Euroleague and a potential No. 1 pick. He’s comfortable as a lead ball-handler and has become deadly from three-point range. He makes his teammates better and reads the floor beyond his years. While he will face an adjustment to the speed of NBA defenses, there’s not really much to nitpick here, and his strong performances for Slovenia against high-caliber competition round out an impressive résumé. Doncic appears a safe bet to continue on the fast track and contribute at a high level as an NBA playmaker.</p><h3>3. Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 235 | Age: 18 | Last: 2</strong></p><p>Known for his aggression on the glass and competitiveness, Bagley manufactures easy baskets and possesses uncommonly fluid athleticism for a guy his size. He should become a versatile defensive piece on the perimeter, but has struggled to guard on the interior thus far. His growth as a scorer in the halfcourt will ultimately make or break him, and his jump shot is a work in progress, but his makeup and base strengths give his value a solid floor. His quick adjustment from reclassifying out of high school to dominating college competition is truly impressive. With his ball-handling and ability to face up, he has considerable room to grow.</p><h3>4. Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 5</strong></p><p>With off-the-charts length and impressive mobility, Bamba is potentially a dominant interior defender. His 7’9” wingspan deserves a sentence of its own. He has a slender frame and continues to round out his offensive skill set, but has shown ability as a jump shooter and is a constant threat to catch lobs. He’s further off from contributing than some of this draft’s other elite prospects, but his best-case scenario is right there with them. Bamba has an opportunity to evolve into a defensive-minded antidote for the young, perimeter-oriented bigs beginning to take over the NBA.</p><h3>5. Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;10&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 4</strong></p><p>Porter is a smooth, polished scorer who thrives on the perimeter and should be able to play either forward spot. Shooting is at a premium, and Porter’s ball-handling and perimeter skills give him a chance to contribute immediately. He can be a ball-stopper, and rounding out his game with playmaking and defense are the next steps, but he’s a pretty ideal frontcourt prospect in the pace-and-space era. Following back surgery, concerns over his long-term health and mobility are warranted. Barring major red flags, he won’t fall far.</p><h3>6. Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C, Michigan State | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 6 </strong></p><p>Jackson boasts NBA bloodlines and an intriguing blend of scoring touch, shot-blocking and three-point shooting potential. On top of that, he’s also producing on the court and competing hard as one of the youngest players in college basketball. His jump shot mechanics are unorthodox, which may limit how much of that specific success translates. As his body fills out, Jackson should become a better finisher around the rim. He has made major all-around strides over the last year or so and is worthy of consideration high in the draft.</p><h3>7. Robert Williams III, F/C, Texas A&#38;M | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 7</strong></p><p>A strong, athletic big with some inside-out scoring ability and a nose for the ball, Williams is a talented rim-runner who catches lobs and does a good job on the offensive glass. Williams is also a good passer with better feel than he’s been given credit for. It’s imperative he finds ways to better involve himself in games as a scorer, but he’s currently cast into a secondary role on a very good team. As a result, his offensive impact can be highly inconsistent. There aren’t many college bigs who play above the rim as easily as Williams can, and he has considerable potential as a Clint Capela-style five-man.</p><h3>8. Collin Sexton, G, Alabama | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;2&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 10</strong></p><p>Sexton is an aggressive, shoot-first guard whose handle and burst allow him to consistently penetrate defenses and draw fouls. He’s shown some improvement as a three-point shooter and has the ability to be a good defender when locked in. Sexton isn’t a pure point and can improve as a decision maker with the ball, but he has a good chance to become an effective change-of-pace scorer at minimum. He can occasionally struggle to finish around bigs, but his blend of shot-creation and toughness is rare. If he continues to draw fouls at a high rate in the NBA, the outlook should be sunny.</p><h3>9. Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 12</strong></p><p>On an inconsistent, younger-than-usual Kentucky roster, Knox has emerged as John Calipari’s top prospect. He’s developed into a capable three-point shooter and has enviable physical tools, with the size and reach to guard either forward spot and rebound effectively. Knox could stand to be more aggressive attacking the basket, and still has games where he disappears for long stretches. But his body and versatility project well, and he’s still quite far from the player he could eventually become.</p><h3>10. Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 23</strong></p><p>Bridges has emerged as a lottery-caliber prospect, with an improved offensive game now accompanying the impressive measurables that make him an impact defender. He moves well on the perimeter, can defend four positions, blocks shots and consistently generates steals with his 7’0” wingspan. Bridges’ improved aggressiveness on offense has answered the questons about his motor, and he has the kind of versatility that plays particularly well in a fast-paced game. Continuing to thrive in his increased scoring role will be key.</p><h3>11. Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 8</strong></p><p>Bridges competes hard on both ends of the floor, and his oft-spectacular athletic ability suggests he can be an impactful defender and transition threat. But scouts are questioning how much he’s improved since his freshman year, with an inconsistent jump shot and limited ability to create off the dribble. His energy and ability to run the floor should still play in a NBA that favors smaller, faster forwards, but it’s reasonable to wonder about some of his limitations.</p><h3>12. Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 11</strong></p><p>Walker checks a lot of boxes for an off-guard. He&#39;s able to slash to the basket and score from deep with great length and a nice frame for his position. He has long-term 3-and-D potential as he refines his skills, and learns to play off the ball. Tearing his meniscus over the summer was a setback that might help justify his slow start. He’s still a ways from being pro-ready, and has to prove he can put up the numbers to match his considerable talent.</p><h3>13. Bruce Brown Jr., G, Miami | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 13</strong></p><p>Gifted with size, strength and a relentless approach to the game, Brown continues to transition into playing the point full time and should put up big numbers for Miami. He can defend multiple positions on the perimeter and generate turnovers. On offense, he shoots the ball well but needs more polish as a playmaker and as a scorer off the bounce. His intangibles and versatility make him well-suited for an NBA backcourt.</p><h3>14. Trevon Duval, PG, Duke | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Last: 14</strong></p><p>Duval has shown improvement in every area of his gam save for his biggest weakness: his jumper. He has great size and length, can be an elite on-ball defender, makes plays in transition and has begun to slow the game down from a mental standpoint. But he’s essentially a non-factor shooting from the outside at this stage, with a lack of consistency and touch. Duval is talented enough to warrant lottery consideration but could be held back by those struggles.</p><h3>15. Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette High School (Louisiana)</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: 15</strong></p><p>Although Robinson will have had a year off from competitive basketball and enter the draft with no experience past high school, teams still have significant interest in his long frame, athleticism and shot-blocking ability. He’s a serious project with questionable feel for the game and likely won’t benefit from walking away from Western Kentucky. Conversely, there will be less time to pick him apart in workout settings. Robinson remains an intriguing name to file away.</p><h3>16. Dzanan Musa, G/F, KK Cedevita</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last: 16</strong></p><p>Musa is an aggressive scoring wing who shoots well from the outside and can attack effectively off the dribble. He’s an improving playmaker and has stood out for Bosnia with an advanced feel, but he’s very ball-dominant at this stage and may not be athletic enough for that role in the NBA. His body leaves something to be desired, as he’s somewhat thin. He lacks ideal length and has a bit of a hunched posture due to the shape of his back. He’s not much of a defender, either. Still, his ability to put the ball in the basket sets him apart.</p><h3>17. Wendell Carter Jr., F/C, Duke | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;10&quot; | Weight: 260 | Age: 18 | Last: 9</strong></p><p>Carter has a polished offensive game for a freshman, with the ability to score with his back to the basket as well as face up and hit a jump shot. He’s an intelligent player and passer with the size and strength to battle inside and corral rebounds. Although he’s not a bad athlete, he’s not especially explosive and can struggle when defenses collapse on him around the basket and alter his shot. As such, there are concerns about how he’ll adjust to facing elite length. There’s a chance his effectiveness is limited by the pace of the NBA game.</p><h3>18. Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 19</strong></p><p>Most of Brown’s appeal is tied to his long-term potential as an oversized ball-handler and versatile defensive piece. He’s at his best in the open floor and uses his length to attack the basket, see over defenders and make plays for teammates. He’s not a great shooter, but Brown also rebounds well and finds ways to impact the game without scoring. He has the upside to rise into the lottery with continued improvement.</p><h3>19. Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;2&quot; | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 55</strong></p><p>A gifted perimeter scorer and passer, Young burst out of the gate as one college basketball’s top point guards. His play has elevated a middling Oklahoma roster, and his string of huge performances has become impossible to ignore. He’s not especially big, quick or strong, but has a smooth handle and can create his own shot using his change of pace. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to stay on the floor defensively or be quite as effective creating separation against athletic defenses. Young’s impressive ability to shoot from deep and open things up for teammates have put him firmly on the radar.</p><h3>20. Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Last: 17</strong></p><p>Diallo is a divisive prospect, but nobody can argue with the freakish bounce and length that makes him worthy of first-round looks. He can run and jump with anyone and has enough of a handle to turn the corner and attack the basket, but his jumper needs work and he’s far from a finished product. Beyond easy transition points and his ability to get to the line, there’s not a ton else to Diallo’s game yet. He’s still so athletic that signs of substantive progress could land him in the lottery.</p><h3>21. Chimezie Metu, F/C, USC | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 20</strong></p><p>A springy big who blocks shots and has shown some touch, Metu has made noticeable strides year-to-year and continues to expand his game. He can make the game look easy at times, and has improved as a finisher who can throw it down in tight spaces. His game-to-game activity can waver, as can his on-court awareness. If he’s able to step out and make threes regularly, his ceiling increases considerably. Demonstrable consistency will take him a long way.</p><h3>22. Justin Jackson, F, Maryland | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 21</strong></p><p>Jackson’s long, well-developed frame makes him a very intriguing two-way forward and potential glue guy. His foot speed and 7’3” wingspan allow him to guard several positions, and he’s a useful rebounder and secondary ball-handler. That said, Jackson lacks a demonstrable offensive calling card right now unless he can somehow sustain last season’s impressive shooting clip. His scoring may come along slowly, but his well-rounded skill set is still worth an investment.</p><h3>23. Shake Milton, G, SMU | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 22</strong></p><p>Milton’s size, shooting and ability to play on and off the ball make him an intriguing prospect. He’s proven he can score from the outside and is the type of player who could pair well with a variety of backcourt partners. Milton will be the go-to guy for SMU this season and must continue to take care of the ball, play more aggressively and show he can defend at a competent level. He’s begun to turn his potential into production.</p><h3>24. Grayson Allen, SG, Duke | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 22 | Last: 24</strong></p><p>Allen is among the top distance shooters in the draft, able to get his jumper off both in tight spaces off the dribble and on the catch. He has a well-developed sense of how to get open and get to his spots, and makes difficult body-control plays look easy. Allen is a strong athlete who can attack a closeout and keep defenders from playing him too closely. Allen may not be an impactful NBA defender, but he’s certainly not a stiff. He’s tough, competes hard and looks tailored for an NBA role.</p><h3>25. Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 250 | Age: 19 | Last: 27</strong></p><p>McCoy is all tools at this stage, but he’s physically impressive and has surprised with the quality of his production. He can get up and down the floor and goes after the ball well off the glass. His timing and feel are still coming along, but he naturally alters shots and has shown some ability to shoot from the mid-range. Like many teenage bigs, his motor comes and goes, but McCoy has been effective almost in spite of it at times. He’s mobile and talented enough as a legitimate center to warrant first-round consideration.</p><h3>26. Killian Tillie, F/C, Gonzaga | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;10&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 18</strong></p><p>Hyper-efficient around the basket with a natural touch and quick burst off the floor, Tillie has quietly emerged as an intriguing prospect. The Frenchman has shown demonstrable polish and has flashed a nice-looking jump shot. He boxes out well and establishes good position inside, although he needs to add muscle in order to compete at the next level.. He moves well laterally and has some impact defensively, though how he’ll fare on both ends against NBA length remains to be seen.</p><h3>27. Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Senior</h3><p><b>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 180 | Age: 18 | Last: N/A</b></p><p>Currently in midst of a postgrad season at IMG, Simons will be draft-eligible and is considering entering the pool and skipping college. He’s a springy, quick-twitch athlete who is more of a combo guard at this stage of his development. He’s at his best attacking the basket downhill and elevating to finish, and has enviable defensive range that projects well. As he continues to develop as a shooter, he’ll have a chance to be a first-round draftee should he choose to go pro. As a high schooler, Simons obviously needs time, but the former Louisville commit possesses considerable upside and has the NBA intrigued.</p><h3>28. Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Last: 28</strong></p><p>Alkins missed the first chunk of Arizona’s season with a foot fracture, and his energy on both ends of the floor provides a major boost. He has a strong frame, NBA-caliber bounce and has demonstrated willingness to play a role for the benefit of the team. He’s evolved into a reliable defensive player and will have an opportunity to show more on the other end of the floor. He’s undersized at the two, but his ability to get to the rim, make plays and space the floor bode well.</p><h3>29. Tyus Battle, SG, Syracuse | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 20 | Last: 32</strong></p><p>Battle has nice size and skill and has taken a step forward as a versatile scorer. He’s agile and tough, but still has to prove he can create off the dribble and improve as a finisher. It’s unclear yet whether his defensive contributions will catch up to his physical prowess. Scouts will want to see him tap into his versatility and show increased efficiency on the wing.</p><h3>30. Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;2&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 22 | Last: 33</strong></p><p>As the leader of a less-loaded-than-usual Kansas team, Graham’s toughness, scoring and playmaking aren’t going unnoticed. He has a good stroke from three, and also impacts the game as a hard-working on-ball defender. He can struggle getting into the second level of defenses and isn’t elite at any one thing. But as a ball-handler who can potentially contribute quickly, given how well he’s played, the first round is within reach.</p><h3>31. Nick Richards, C, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 26</strong></p><p>Although extremely raw and prone to foul trouble, Richards’s size, rebounding, mobility and shot-blocking potential hold intrigue. He’s well-built, highly agile and can play above the rim. But his feel is lacking, and he’s very old for his class as a 20-year-old freshman. If he becomes a reliable rim-runner and shot blocker, Richards should be able to make an impact, but there are serious questions about his overall floor awareness.</p><h3>32. Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A</strong></p><p>One of college basketball’s breakout players, Thomas’s two-way ability has turned heads. He’s a consistent high-volume outside threat, can play on or off the ball and has defended extremely well, making him an excellent role player candidate at the NBA level. If he can improve creating off the dribble, it’s gravy. His growth this season is truly impressive.</p><h3>33. De’Anthony Melton, G, USC | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 31</strong></p><p>It certainly doesn’t help Melton’s case that he remains out due to the FBI’s college basketball investigation, but he’s a quality prospect just the same. He showed plenty of defensive toughness and offensive skill as a freshman, and remains on the NBA radar as an energy player and defensive presence. If he gets his jumper in order he could be in for a leap, but it&#39;s tricky to peg without him having played a game this season.</p><h3>34. Jaylen Hands, PG, UCLA | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 175 | Age: 18 | Last: 25</strong></p><p>In a weaker draft pool that’s especially thin when it comes to point guard talent, Hands’s highlight-reel explosiveness and end-to-end speed will make him an interesting upside pick if he comes out. He’s still learning how to run a team, but can get to the rim, push in transition and has a workable jumper and nice handle. He does things that are hard to teach. Hands lacks ideal size and strength for the NBA and would benefit from two seasons of college, but has a lot to offer down the line.</p><h3>35. Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 34</strong></p><p>Hachimura has come off the bench to start the year for Gonzaga and needs more opportunities to show his stuff, but he has a chance at the first round if he can string together some good performances. He’s got nice length and strength and has some touch as a shooter. He showed plenty of game playing for Japan over the summer and could evolve into a valuable two-way combo forward in time.</p><h3>36. John Petty, SG, Alabama | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 195 | Age: 18 | Last: 35</strong></p><p>The headlines have belonged to Collin Sexton, but Petty has been impressive playing off of his talented teammate. He’s a gifted perimeter shooter off the catch who can sustain hot streaks and hoist his shot quickly. It may be tricky to assess his well-roundedness given how much of Alabama’s points run through Sexton, but Petty can fill up a box score and has appeal in a 3-and-D role. </p><h3>37. Austin Wiley, C, Auburn | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 250 | Age: 18 | Last: 37</strong></p><p>Wiley continues to sit out due to the FBI corruption investigation, but possesses NBA ability and great size, length and strength. He’s young for his class and is in a pretty good place developmentally, working hard on the glass and showing the makings of a decent jumper. He’ll battle in the post and do the dirty work, but isn’t an elite athlete. He can improve as a finisher and has a history of knee injuries that limit his mobility.</p><h3>38. Rodions Kurucs, G/F, FC Barcelona</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 29</strong></p><p>Though Kurucs&#39;s stock has trended down somewhat after pulling out of last year’s draft and failing to earn minutes with Barcelona’s top team, his mix of size, athleticism and smarts offer appeal on the wing. He will need to improve his production beyond simply showing flashes. The Latvian still has some nice traits and looks like a potentially useful role player.</p><h3>39. Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 39</strong></p><p>Vanderbilt has yet to make his debut as he recovers from a foot injury, and it sounds like there’s a chance he could miss most or all of the season. He has a history of leg injuries and a thinnish lower body, but he’s a good athlete who can handle the ball a little bit and can make an impact on the glass and as a versatile defender with length. He can also make plays for teammates, particularly in the open floor. The health issues are a concern.</p><h3>40. Arnoldas Kulboka, F, Orlandina Basket</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Last: 40</strong></p><p>A productive, athletic wing with shooting potential, Kulboka has nice size at the three and has put up impressive numbers coming up in Germany. He has definite upside as a scorer. A native of Lithuania, he needs to add weight, improve defensively and add a little seasoning. He’s a potential draft-and-stash player if he comes out.</p><h3>41. Andrew Jones, G, Texas | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 38</strong></p><p>Jones is an impressive athlete and transition scorer still learning his craft. He may not evolve into a true point guard, but he has nice quickness and a burst that helps him on both ends. His halfcourt creation skills leave something to be desired and his jumper is a question mark, but Jones is a nice developmental piece with upside. He could still benefit from another year of school.</p><h3>42. Alize Johnson, F, Missouri State | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 42</strong></p><p>After breaking out over the summer at Adidas Nations, Johnson emerged as a unique prospect with guard skills and a high rebounding motor packaged into a combo forward’s body. He can handle the ball and push in transition and has some promise as a shooter, profiling as the sort of positionless-type big that’s in high demand right now. Thanks to his versatility, Johnson will get serious NBA looks as one of the top mid-major prospects around.</p><h3>43. Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;1&quot; | Weight: 185 | Age: 21 | Last: 46</strong></p><p>The youngest of the three Holiday brothers has proven a tough competitor in his own right. He’s undersized but scrappy, can hit an open three, get to the basket and fight on defense. Holiday will need to sustain a good amount of last season’s shooting numbers, which were abetted by playing alongside Lonzo Ball. But as the de facto veteran leader of a young, talented roster, Holiday continues to leave a nice impression.</p><h3>44. Isaac Bonga, G/F, Fraport Skyliners</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Last: 44</strong></p><p>An oversized ball-handler and talented passer, Bonga could be one of the youngest players in this class and has nice upside given his skill set. His jump shot is the biggest knock on him, but he has nice instincts and vision, particularly at his size. The German prospect needs a lot of time, but could become a two-way playmaker. Bonga’s offense in particular will require a ton of work, but what he might be in two or three years is enticing.</p><h3>45. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Last: 43</strong></p><p>Alexander-Walker is far off from logging actual NBA minutes, but his potential has him on draft radars. He has a nice stroke, the size to guard both guard spots and a generally good sense of the floor playing on and off the ball for Virginia Tech. He’d greatly benefit from a second year of college and needs to work on his body, as he struggles turning the corner against athletic defenders. He’ll be in for a season of ups and downs in the ACC, but has a nice long-term outlook.</p><h3>46. Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 200 | Age: 21 | Last: 48</strong></p><p>A popular sleeper and one of the top players in the Mountain West, Hutchison has 3-and-D potential and an unflashy, effective game. He’s a good off-ball cutter who can get himself open, and shot the ball well last season. He has the size to guard either wing position and contributes on the glass, too. If Hutchison can sustain his outside shooting clip with added volume, he may climb.</p><h3>47. Brandon Randolph, SG, Arizona | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A</strong></p><p>With his ability to put up points in bunches, Randolph has emerged as a useful complementary scorer for the Wildcats. He’s quick, smooth and is comfortable attacking the basket and spotting up off the dribble. He’s carved out a spot in the Arizona rotation and continues to improve at a high rate. He has the length and tools to become a capable defender and is a player worth tracking.</p><h3>48. Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita State | Sophomore</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;4&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Last: 41</strong></p><p>Shamet made it back for the start of the season, but he&#39;s now suffered serious injuries in both of his feet. That aside, he’s a gifted scorer who can hit difficult shots and began to come into his own down the stretch last season. He has nice size for a lead guard, changes speeds well and can move and defend passably. He could be in line for another big leap that could put him in the draft conversation.</p><h3>49. Bonzie Colson, PF, Notre Dame | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 220 | Age: 21 | Last: 47</strong></p><p>A truly unorthodox prospect, Colson has great length and a deep bag of offensive moves while standing just 6’5”. He’s been remarkably effective for Notre Dame anyway, and will tempt teams with his history of production and the hope that he can make it all work as a factor in smaller lineups. He can get to the foul line and has been extremely efficient to date. Whether or not he succeeds in the NBA, his situation will make for an interesting case study.</p><h3>50. P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;7&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A</strong></p><p>Despite a lack of ideal height, Washington&#39;s 7&#39;3&quot; wingspan gives him a unique physical profile and enables him to defend fours, fives and some threes on the perimeter. He’s a powerful leaper and intelligent player who has begun to make an adjustment to the college game. He may work best as a small-ball center at the next level and needs to prove he can be a shot-blocking presence. Washington’s baseline offensive skill level and shooting potential are also promising.</p><h3>51. Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 46</strong></p><p>Brunson is a heady playmaker who has had success throughout his career and looks tailored for a role as an NBA ball-handler. He doesn’t have great size or strength, but plays and works extremely hard and is often underrated as a scorer. He’s the leader of perhaps the top team in the country. Brunson relies on being crafty, understands how to run a team and has a chance to be drafted, whether this season or the next.</p><h3>52. Bryant Crawford, PG, Wake Forest | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;3&quot; | Weight: 200 | Age: 20 | Last: 45</strong></p><p>A lesser-known prospect who has quietly developed over the last couple seasons, Crawford’s size and strength on the ball and willingness to defend has piqued NBA interest. He changes speeds well and can create in the halfcourt. Crawford isn’t a knockdown shooter and needs to prove he can be consistent. He will be asked to elevate a mediocre roster this season and could struggle with efficiency. But his experience, length and two-way contributions help set him apart.</p><h3>53. Allonzo Trier, SG, Arizona | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;5&quot; | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 53</strong></p><p>Trier is a dynamic college scorer who has improved his efficiency from the field, but questions linger over his shot selection and ability to fit into an NBA rotation. He lacks ideal length for a shooting guard and can be a ball-stopper. He’s an offensive-minded talent and consistent shooter from deep, but will be asked to play a supporting role at the next level. Trier may be able to succeed if he commits to defense, works on his body and proves there’s more to his game.</p><h3>54. Kris Wilkes, SF, UCLA | Freshman</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Last: 30</strong></p><p>Though Wilkes has slowed down after an impressive start to the season, his smooth shooting mechanics, twitchy athleticism and 6’11” wingspan make him a natural fit for a 3-and-D role given time. He can attack a closeout and looks comfortable scoring in transition. Wilkes still has a lot of work to do on his handle and needs to show he can be a consistent threat from deep and impact the game beyond scoring. His game is reminiscent of Tim Hardaway Jr., and his strengths profile nicely down the line.</p><h3>55. Jacob Evans, G/F, Cincinnati | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;6&quot; | Weight: 210 | Age: 20 | Last: 52</strong></p><p>Evans is a tough, defensive-minded guard with shot-making ability who has come on strong as an NBA prospect. He has the chops to be a valuable 3-and-D piece and guard multiple positions. He’s physically impressive, but struggles to create off the dribble and may be better cast as a small forward at the next level. He needs to prove his outside shot is for real. </p><h3>56. Vince Edwards, F, Purdue | Senior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;8&quot; | Weight: 225 | Age: 21 | Last: 50</strong></p><p>Edwards has the athleticism and length to guard several positions passably, and has a nice level of versatility to his game. He could be an ideal fit in smaller lineups with his ability to move the ball, space the floor and get involved on the glass. If you envision him as a glue guy and he shows real improvement as a defender, where he is prone to lapses, he’s not a bad roll of the dice.</p><h3>57. Moritz Wagner, F/C, Michigan | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;11&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 20 | Last: 51</strong></p><p>An inside-out scorer with the size to play center, Wagner has offensive talent and can be a tough matchup. He lacks the defensive chops to protect the basket and has holes in his all-around game. He’s begun to rebound the ball better this season, which is a start. Legitimate stretch bigs are tricky to find, and Wagner has the talent to space the floor if he can round out his weaknesses.</p><h2>58. Anas Mahmoud, C, Louisville | Junior</h2><p><strong>Height: 7&#39;0&quot; | Weight: 215 | Age: 22 | Last: 59</strong></p><p>Though old for his class and possessing a slender build, Mahmoud has the size, mobility and length to protect the rim and continues to improve. He’s a strong shot-blocker and showed improvement in his overall feel last year. He’s not much of a scorer and may be limited into a defensive specialist-type role. Any offensive development will help his case.</p><h3>59. Bennie Boatwright, F, USC | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 230 | Age: 21 | Last: 54</strong></p><p>As a floor-spacer with size, Boatwright has been on the radar for a while. He’s a deadeye shooter with his feet set and has shown the ability to score off the bounce as well, although he’s not a great athlete or a presence defensively. He’s not especially efficient putting the ball in the basket any other way, but a strong year shooting the ball could put him in the second round.</p><h3>60. Ethan Happ, PF, Wisconsin | Junior</h3><p><strong>Height: 6&#39;9&quot; | Weight: 235 | Age: 21 | Last: 49</strong></p><p>Happ has done nothing but produce at Wisconsin and excels as a finisher and rebounder. He operates mostly in the paint, where he’s always active despite a lack of ideal size at the five. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s a good rebounder, ball-handler and passer and plays bigger than his size. It hurts that he’s not much of a shooter (and poor from the free throw line) but his track record is impressive.</p>
2018 NBA Draft Big Board 2.0: Breakout Stars Rise up the Rankings

With about a month of college games in the bag and plenty of data to pore over, it’s a good time to re-assess the 2018 NBA draft's top 60 prospects as conference play approaches.

While our Mock Draft aims to project what the draft might look like on a given day of the season and factors in team needs, the Big Board serves as our own point of reference for the available player pool. These rankings are based on our own evaluations and conversations with NBA scouts, and establishes how we'd rate prospects in a vacuum (a scenario, of course, that will never actually happen).

Gifted Arizona center DeAndre Ayton remains atop our draft board, with Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley a close second and third, respectively. High-scoring Oklahoma guard Trae Young moves into first-round territory, as does intriguing draft-eligible high schooler Anfernee Simons. The big picture remains extremely fluid. Here’s how we see it.

(Note: Rankings and stats last updated Dec. 11).

1. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona | Freshman

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 260 pounds | Age: 19 | Last Ranking: 1

Elite physical tools, soft touch around the basket and a promising jump shot make Ayton a tantalizing prospect. He has most of the traits you want in a modern center plus the athletic ability to face up and play in space. The college game comes easily to him, and Ayton checks essentially every offensive box for his position. There are fair questions about his defensive comprehension and shot-blocking woes, but with his nimble feet and sheer size and strength, he has the tools to be an above-average presence around the rim. He’s a manchild with crazy-high upside and a potential franchise cornerstone.

2. Luka Doncic, G, Real Madrid

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 220 | Age: 18 | Last: 3

At 18, Doncic has become perhaps the top player in the Euroleague and a potential No. 1 pick. He’s comfortable as a lead ball-handler and has become deadly from three-point range. He makes his teammates better and reads the floor beyond his years. While he will face an adjustment to the speed of NBA defenses, there’s not really much to nitpick here, and his strong performances for Slovenia against high-caliber competition round out an impressive résumé. Doncic appears a safe bet to continue on the fast track and contribute at a high level as an NBA playmaker.

3. Marvin Bagley III, F/C, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 235 | Age: 18 | Last: 2

Known for his aggression on the glass and competitiveness, Bagley manufactures easy baskets and possesses uncommonly fluid athleticism for a guy his size. He should become a versatile defensive piece on the perimeter, but has struggled to guard on the interior thus far. His growth as a scorer in the halfcourt will ultimately make or break him, and his jump shot is a work in progress, but his makeup and base strengths give his value a solid floor. His quick adjustment from reclassifying out of high school to dominating college competition is truly impressive. With his ball-handling and ability to face up, he has considerable room to grow.

4. Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas | Freshman

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 5

With off-the-charts length and impressive mobility, Bamba is potentially a dominant interior defender. His 7’9” wingspan deserves a sentence of its own. He has a slender frame and continues to round out his offensive skill set, but has shown ability as a jump shooter and is a constant threat to catch lobs. He’s further off from contributing than some of this draft’s other elite prospects, but his best-case scenario is right there with them. Bamba has an opportunity to evolve into a defensive-minded antidote for the young, perimeter-oriented bigs beginning to take over the NBA.

5. Michael Porter Jr., F, Missouri | Freshman

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 4

Porter is a smooth, polished scorer who thrives on the perimeter and should be able to play either forward spot. Shooting is at a premium, and Porter’s ball-handling and perimeter skills give him a chance to contribute immediately. He can be a ball-stopper, and rounding out his game with playmaking and defense are the next steps, but he’s a pretty ideal frontcourt prospect in the pace-and-space era. Following back surgery, concerns over his long-term health and mobility are warranted. Barring major red flags, he won’t fall far.

6. Jaren Jackson Jr., F/C, Michigan State | Freshman

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 18 | Last: 6

Jackson boasts NBA bloodlines and an intriguing blend of scoring touch, shot-blocking and three-point shooting potential. On top of that, he’s also producing on the court and competing hard as one of the youngest players in college basketball. His jump shot mechanics are unorthodox, which may limit how much of that specific success translates. As his body fills out, Jackson should become a better finisher around the rim. He has made major all-around strides over the last year or so and is worthy of consideration high in the draft.

7. Robert Williams III, F/C, Texas A&M | Sophomore

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 7

A strong, athletic big with some inside-out scoring ability and a nose for the ball, Williams is a talented rim-runner who catches lobs and does a good job on the offensive glass. Williams is also a good passer with better feel than he’s been given credit for. It’s imperative he finds ways to better involve himself in games as a scorer, but he’s currently cast into a secondary role on a very good team. As a result, his offensive impact can be highly inconsistent. There aren’t many college bigs who play above the rim as easily as Williams can, and he has considerable potential as a Clint Capela-style five-man.

8. Collin Sexton, G, Alabama | Freshman

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 10

Sexton is an aggressive, shoot-first guard whose handle and burst allow him to consistently penetrate defenses and draw fouls. He’s shown some improvement as a three-point shooter and has the ability to be a good defender when locked in. Sexton isn’t a pure point and can improve as a decision maker with the ball, but he has a good chance to become an effective change-of-pace scorer at minimum. He can occasionally struggle to finish around bigs, but his blend of shot-creation and toughness is rare. If he continues to draw fouls at a high rate in the NBA, the outlook should be sunny.

9. Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 12

On an inconsistent, younger-than-usual Kentucky roster, Knox has emerged as John Calipari’s top prospect. He’s developed into a capable three-point shooter and has enviable physical tools, with the size and reach to guard either forward spot and rebound effectively. Knox could stand to be more aggressive attacking the basket, and still has games where he disappears for long stretches. But his body and versatility project well, and he’s still quite far from the player he could eventually become.

10. Mikal Bridges, F, Villanova | Junior

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 23

Bridges has emerged as a lottery-caliber prospect, with an improved offensive game now accompanying the impressive measurables that make him an impact defender. He moves well on the perimeter, can defend four positions, blocks shots and consistently generates steals with his 7’0” wingspan. Bridges’ improved aggressiveness on offense has answered the questons about his motor, and he has the kind of versatility that plays particularly well in a fast-paced game. Continuing to thrive in his increased scoring role will be key.

11. Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State | Sophomore

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 8

Bridges competes hard on both ends of the floor, and his oft-spectacular athletic ability suggests he can be an impactful defender and transition threat. But scouts are questioning how much he’s improved since his freshman year, with an inconsistent jump shot and limited ability to create off the dribble. His energy and ability to run the floor should still play in a NBA that favors smaller, faster forwards, but it’s reasonable to wonder about some of his limitations.

12. Lonnie Walker IV, SG, Miami | Freshman

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 18 | Last: 11

Walker checks a lot of boxes for an off-guard. He's able to slash to the basket and score from deep with great length and a nice frame for his position. He has long-term 3-and-D potential as he refines his skills, and learns to play off the ball. Tearing his meniscus over the summer was a setback that might help justify his slow start. He’s still a ways from being pro-ready, and has to prove he can put up the numbers to match his considerable talent.

13. Bruce Brown Jr., G, Miami | Sophomore

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 13

Gifted with size, strength and a relentless approach to the game, Brown continues to transition into playing the point full time and should put up big numbers for Miami. He can defend multiple positions on the perimeter and generate turnovers. On offense, he shoots the ball well but needs more polish as a playmaker and as a scorer off the bounce. His intangibles and versatility make him well-suited for an NBA backcourt.

14. Trevon Duval, PG, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 185 | Age: 19 | Last: 14

Duval has shown improvement in every area of his gam save for his biggest weakness: his jumper. He has great size and length, can be an elite on-ball defender, makes plays in transition and has begun to slow the game down from a mental standpoint. But he’s essentially a non-factor shooting from the outside at this stage, with a lack of consistency and touch. Duval is talented enough to warrant lottery consideration but could be held back by those struggles.

15. Mitchell Robinson, C, Chalmette High School (Louisiana)

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: 15

Although Robinson will have had a year off from competitive basketball and enter the draft with no experience past high school, teams still have significant interest in his long frame, athleticism and shot-blocking ability. He’s a serious project with questionable feel for the game and likely won’t benefit from walking away from Western Kentucky. Conversely, there will be less time to pick him apart in workout settings. Robinson remains an intriguing name to file away.

16. Dzanan Musa, G/F, KK Cedevita

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 185 | Age: 18 | Last: 16

Musa is an aggressive scoring wing who shoots well from the outside and can attack effectively off the dribble. He’s an improving playmaker and has stood out for Bosnia with an advanced feel, but he’s very ball-dominant at this stage and may not be athletic enough for that role in the NBA. His body leaves something to be desired, as he’s somewhat thin. He lacks ideal length and has a bit of a hunched posture due to the shape of his back. He’s not much of a defender, either. Still, his ability to put the ball in the basket sets him apart.

17. Wendell Carter Jr., F/C, Duke | Freshman

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 260 | Age: 18 | Last: 9

Carter has a polished offensive game for a freshman, with the ability to score with his back to the basket as well as face up and hit a jump shot. He’s an intelligent player and passer with the size and strength to battle inside and corral rebounds. Although he’s not a bad athlete, he’s not especially explosive and can struggle when defenses collapse on him around the basket and alter his shot. As such, there are concerns about how he’ll adjust to facing elite length. There’s a chance his effectiveness is limited by the pace of the NBA game.

18. Troy Brown, G/F, Oregon | Freshman

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 19

Most of Brown’s appeal is tied to his long-term potential as an oversized ball-handler and versatile defensive piece. He’s at his best in the open floor and uses his length to attack the basket, see over defenders and make plays for teammates. He’s not a great shooter, but Brown also rebounds well and finds ways to impact the game without scoring. He has the upside to rise into the lottery with continued improvement.

19. Trae Young, PG, Oklahoma | Freshman

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: 55

A gifted perimeter scorer and passer, Young burst out of the gate as one college basketball’s top point guards. His play has elevated a middling Oklahoma roster, and his string of huge performances has become impossible to ignore. He’s not especially big, quick or strong, but has a smooth handle and can create his own shot using his change of pace. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to stay on the floor defensively or be quite as effective creating separation against athletic defenses. Young’s impressive ability to shoot from deep and open things up for teammates have put him firmly on the radar.

20. Hamidou Diallo, SG, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 200 | Age: 19 | Last: 17

Diallo is a divisive prospect, but nobody can argue with the freakish bounce and length that makes him worthy of first-round looks. He can run and jump with anyone and has enough of a handle to turn the corner and attack the basket, but his jumper needs work and he’s far from a finished product. Beyond easy transition points and his ability to get to the line, there’s not a ton else to Diallo’s game yet. He’s still so athletic that signs of substantive progress could land him in the lottery.

21. Chimezie Metu, F/C, USC | Junior

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 20

A springy big who blocks shots and has shown some touch, Metu has made noticeable strides year-to-year and continues to expand his game. He can make the game look easy at times, and has improved as a finisher who can throw it down in tight spaces. His game-to-game activity can waver, as can his on-court awareness. If he’s able to step out and make threes regularly, his ceiling increases considerably. Demonstrable consistency will take him a long way.

22. Justin Jackson, F, Maryland | Sophomore

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 225 | Age: 20 | Last: 21

Jackson’s long, well-developed frame makes him a very intriguing two-way forward and potential glue guy. His foot speed and 7’3” wingspan allow him to guard several positions, and he’s a useful rebounder and secondary ball-handler. That said, Jackson lacks a demonstrable offensive calling card right now unless he can somehow sustain last season’s impressive shooting clip. His scoring may come along slowly, but his well-rounded skill set is still worth an investment.

23. Shake Milton, G, SMU | Junior

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 22

Milton’s size, shooting and ability to play on and off the ball make him an intriguing prospect. He’s proven he can score from the outside and is the type of player who could pair well with a variety of backcourt partners. Milton will be the go-to guy for SMU this season and must continue to take care of the ball, play more aggressively and show he can defend at a competent level. He’s begun to turn his potential into production.

24. Grayson Allen, SG, Duke | Senior

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 205 | Age: 22 | Last: 24

Allen is among the top distance shooters in the draft, able to get his jumper off both in tight spaces off the dribble and on the catch. He has a well-developed sense of how to get open and get to his spots, and makes difficult body-control plays look easy. Allen is a strong athlete who can attack a closeout and keep defenders from playing him too closely. Allen may not be an impactful NBA defender, but he’s certainly not a stiff. He’s tough, competes hard and looks tailored for an NBA role.

25. Brandon McCoy, C, UNLV | Freshman

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 250 | Age: 19 | Last: 27

McCoy is all tools at this stage, but he’s physically impressive and has surprised with the quality of his production. He can get up and down the floor and goes after the ball well off the glass. His timing and feel are still coming along, but he naturally alters shots and has shown some ability to shoot from the mid-range. Like many teenage bigs, his motor comes and goes, but McCoy has been effective almost in spite of it at times. He’s mobile and talented enough as a legitimate center to warrant first-round consideration.

26. Killian Tillie, F/C, Gonzaga | Sophomore

Height: 6'10" | Weight: 215 | Age: 19 | Last: 18

Hyper-efficient around the basket with a natural touch and quick burst off the floor, Tillie has quietly emerged as an intriguing prospect. The Frenchman has shown demonstrable polish and has flashed a nice-looking jump shot. He boxes out well and establishes good position inside, although he needs to add muscle in order to compete at the next level.. He moves well laterally and has some impact defensively, though how he’ll fare on both ends against NBA length remains to be seen.

27. Anfernee Simons, G, IMG Academy | HS Senior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 180 | Age: 18 | Last: N/A

Currently in midst of a postgrad season at IMG, Simons will be draft-eligible and is considering entering the pool and skipping college. He’s a springy, quick-twitch athlete who is more of a combo guard at this stage of his development. He’s at his best attacking the basket downhill and elevating to finish, and has enviable defensive range that projects well. As he continues to develop as a shooter, he’ll have a chance to be a first-round draftee should he choose to go pro. As a high schooler, Simons obviously needs time, but the former Louisville commit possesses considerable upside and has the NBA intrigued.

28. Rawle Alkins, SG, Arizona | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 220 | Age: 20 | Last: 28

Alkins missed the first chunk of Arizona’s season with a foot fracture, and his energy on both ends of the floor provides a major boost. He has a strong frame, NBA-caliber bounce and has demonstrated willingness to play a role for the benefit of the team. He’s evolved into a reliable defensive player and will have an opportunity to show more on the other end of the floor. He’s undersized at the two, but his ability to get to the rim, make plays and space the floor bode well.

29. Tyus Battle, SG, Syracuse | Sophomore

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 205 | Age: 20 | Last: 32

Battle has nice size and skill and has taken a step forward as a versatile scorer. He’s agile and tough, but still has to prove he can create off the dribble and improve as a finisher. It’s unclear yet whether his defensive contributions will catch up to his physical prowess. Scouts will want to see him tap into his versatility and show increased efficiency on the wing.

30. Devonte’ Graham, PG, Kansas | Senior

Height: 6'2" | Weight: 185 | Age: 22 | Last: 33

As the leader of a less-loaded-than-usual Kansas team, Graham’s toughness, scoring and playmaking aren’t going unnoticed. He has a good stroke from three, and also impacts the game as a hard-working on-ball defender. He can struggle getting into the second level of defenses and isn’t elite at any one thing. But as a ball-handler who can potentially contribute quickly, given how well he’s played, the first round is within reach.

31. Nick Richards, C, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 240 | Age: 20 | Last: 26

Although extremely raw and prone to foul trouble, Richards’s size, rebounding, mobility and shot-blocking potential hold intrigue. He’s well-built, highly agile and can play above the rim. But his feel is lacking, and he’s very old for his class as a 20-year-old freshman. If he becomes a reliable rim-runner and shot blocker, Richards should be able to make an impact, but there are serious questions about his overall floor awareness.

32. Khyri Thomas, G, Creighton | Junior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: N/A

One of college basketball’s breakout players, Thomas’s two-way ability has turned heads. He’s a consistent high-volume outside threat, can play on or off the ball and has defended extremely well, making him an excellent role player candidate at the NBA level. If he can improve creating off the dribble, it’s gravy. His growth this season is truly impressive.

33. De’Anthony Melton, G, USC | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 31

It certainly doesn’t help Melton’s case that he remains out due to the FBI’s college basketball investigation, but he’s a quality prospect just the same. He showed plenty of defensive toughness and offensive skill as a freshman, and remains on the NBA radar as an energy player and defensive presence. If he gets his jumper in order he could be in for a leap, but it's tricky to peg without him having played a game this season.

34. Jaylen Hands, PG, UCLA | Freshman

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 175 | Age: 18 | Last: 25

In a weaker draft pool that’s especially thin when it comes to point guard talent, Hands’s highlight-reel explosiveness and end-to-end speed will make him an interesting upside pick if he comes out. He’s still learning how to run a team, but can get to the rim, push in transition and has a workable jumper and nice handle. He does things that are hard to teach. Hands lacks ideal size and strength for the NBA and would benefit from two seasons of college, but has a lot to offer down the line.

35. Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga | Sophomore

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 225 | Age: 19 | Last: 34

Hachimura has come off the bench to start the year for Gonzaga and needs more opportunities to show his stuff, but he has a chance at the first round if he can string together some good performances. He’s got nice length and strength and has some touch as a shooter. He showed plenty of game playing for Japan over the summer and could evolve into a valuable two-way combo forward in time.

36. John Petty, SG, Alabama | Freshman

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 195 | Age: 18 | Last: 35

The headlines have belonged to Collin Sexton, but Petty has been impressive playing off of his talented teammate. He’s a gifted perimeter shooter off the catch who can sustain hot streaks and hoist his shot quickly. It may be tricky to assess his well-roundedness given how much of Alabama’s points run through Sexton, but Petty can fill up a box score and has appeal in a 3-and-D role.

37. Austin Wiley, C, Auburn | Sophomore

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 250 | Age: 18 | Last: 37

Wiley continues to sit out due to the FBI corruption investigation, but possesses NBA ability and great size, length and strength. He’s young for his class and is in a pretty good place developmentally, working hard on the glass and showing the makings of a decent jumper. He’ll battle in the post and do the dirty work, but isn’t an elite athlete. He can improve as a finisher and has a history of knee injuries that limit his mobility.

38. Rodions Kurucs, G/F, FC Barcelona

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 29

Though Kurucs's stock has trended down somewhat after pulling out of last year’s draft and failing to earn minutes with Barcelona’s top team, his mix of size, athleticism and smarts offer appeal on the wing. He will need to improve his production beyond simply showing flashes. The Latvian still has some nice traits and looks like a potentially useful role player.

39. Jarred Vanderbilt, F, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 215 | Age: 18 | Last: 39

Vanderbilt has yet to make his debut as he recovers from a foot injury, and it sounds like there’s a chance he could miss most or all of the season. He has a history of leg injuries and a thinnish lower body, but he’s a good athlete who can handle the ball a little bit and can make an impact on the glass and as a versatile defender with length. He can also make plays for teammates, particularly in the open floor. The health issues are a concern.

40. Arnoldas Kulboka, F, Orlandina Basket

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 205 | Age: 19 | Last: 40

A productive, athletic wing with shooting potential, Kulboka has nice size at the three and has put up impressive numbers coming up in Germany. He has definite upside as a scorer. A native of Lithuania, he needs to add weight, improve defensively and add a little seasoning. He’s a potential draft-and-stash player if he comes out.

41. Andrew Jones, G, Texas | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 19 | Last: 38

Jones is an impressive athlete and transition scorer still learning his craft. He may not evolve into a true point guard, but he has nice quickness and a burst that helps him on both ends. His halfcourt creation skills leave something to be desired and his jumper is a question mark, but Jones is a nice developmental piece with upside. He could still benefit from another year of school.

42. Alize Johnson, F, Missouri State | Senior

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 210 | Age: 21 | Last: 42

After breaking out over the summer at Adidas Nations, Johnson emerged as a unique prospect with guard skills and a high rebounding motor packaged into a combo forward’s body. He can handle the ball and push in transition and has some promise as a shooter, profiling as the sort of positionless-type big that’s in high demand right now. Thanks to his versatility, Johnson will get serious NBA looks as one of the top mid-major prospects around.

43. Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA | Junior

Height: 6'1" | Weight: 185 | Age: 21 | Last: 46

The youngest of the three Holiday brothers has proven a tough competitor in his own right. He’s undersized but scrappy, can hit an open three, get to the basket and fight on defense. Holiday will need to sustain a good amount of last season’s shooting numbers, which were abetted by playing alongside Lonzo Ball. But as the de facto veteran leader of a young, talented roster, Holiday continues to leave a nice impression.

44. Isaac Bonga, G/F, Fraport Skyliners

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 205 | Age: 18 | Last: 44

An oversized ball-handler and talented passer, Bonga could be one of the youngest players in this class and has nice upside given his skill set. His jump shot is the biggest knock on him, but he has nice instincts and vision, particularly at his size. The German prospect needs a lot of time, but could become a two-way playmaker. Bonga’s offense in particular will require a ton of work, but what he might be in two or three years is enticing.

45. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech | Freshman

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 210 | Age: 19 | Last: 43

Alexander-Walker is far off from logging actual NBA minutes, but his potential has him on draft radars. He has a nice stroke, the size to guard both guard spots and a generally good sense of the floor playing on and off the ball for Virginia Tech. He’d greatly benefit from a second year of college and needs to work on his body, as he struggles turning the corner against athletic defenders. He’ll be in for a season of ups and downs in the ACC, but has a nice long-term outlook.

46. Chandler Hutchison, G/F, Boise State | Senior

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 200 | Age: 21 | Last: 48

A popular sleeper and one of the top players in the Mountain West, Hutchison has 3-and-D potential and an unflashy, effective game. He’s a good off-ball cutter who can get himself open, and shot the ball well last season. He has the size to guard either wing position and contributes on the glass, too. If Hutchison can sustain his outside shooting clip with added volume, he may climb.

47. Brandon Randolph, SG, Arizona | Freshman

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 180 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A

With his ability to put up points in bunches, Randolph has emerged as a useful complementary scorer for the Wildcats. He’s quick, smooth and is comfortable attacking the basket and spotting up off the dribble. He’s carved out a spot in the Arizona rotation and continues to improve at a high rate. He has the length and tools to become a capable defender and is a player worth tracking.

48. Landry Shamet, PG, Wichita State | Sophomore

Height: 6'4" | Weight: 190 | Age: 20 | Last: 41

Shamet made it back for the start of the season, but he's now suffered serious injuries in both of his feet. That aside, he’s a gifted scorer who can hit difficult shots and began to come into his own down the stretch last season. He has nice size for a lead guard, changes speeds well and can move and defend passably. He could be in line for another big leap that could put him in the draft conversation.

49. Bonzie Colson, PF, Notre Dame | Senior

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 220 | Age: 21 | Last: 47

A truly unorthodox prospect, Colson has great length and a deep bag of offensive moves while standing just 6’5”. He’s been remarkably effective for Notre Dame anyway, and will tempt teams with his history of production and the hope that he can make it all work as a factor in smaller lineups. He can get to the foul line and has been extremely efficient to date. Whether or not he succeeds in the NBA, his situation will make for an interesting case study.

50. P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky | Freshman

Height: 6'7" | Weight: 230 | Age: 19 | Last: N/A

Despite a lack of ideal height, Washington's 7'3" wingspan gives him a unique physical profile and enables him to defend fours, fives and some threes on the perimeter. He’s a powerful leaper and intelligent player who has begun to make an adjustment to the college game. He may work best as a small-ball center at the next level and needs to prove he can be a shot-blocking presence. Washington’s baseline offensive skill level and shooting potential are also promising.

51. Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova | Junior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 190 | Age: 21 | Last: 46

Brunson is a heady playmaker who has had success throughout his career and looks tailored for a role as an NBA ball-handler. He doesn’t have great size or strength, but plays and works extremely hard and is often underrated as a scorer. He’s the leader of perhaps the top team in the country. Brunson relies on being crafty, understands how to run a team and has a chance to be drafted, whether this season or the next.

52. Bryant Crawford, PG, Wake Forest | Junior

Height: 6'3" | Weight: 200 | Age: 20 | Last: 45

A lesser-known prospect who has quietly developed over the last couple seasons, Crawford’s size and strength on the ball and willingness to defend has piqued NBA interest. He changes speeds well and can create in the halfcourt. Crawford isn’t a knockdown shooter and needs to prove he can be consistent. He will be asked to elevate a mediocre roster this season and could struggle with efficiency. But his experience, length and two-way contributions help set him apart.

53. Allonzo Trier, SG, Arizona | Junior

Height: 6'5" | Weight: 205 | Age: 21 | Last: 53

Trier is a dynamic college scorer who has improved his efficiency from the field, but questions linger over his shot selection and ability to fit into an NBA rotation. He lacks ideal length for a shooting guard and can be a ball-stopper. He’s an offensive-minded talent and consistent shooter from deep, but will be asked to play a supporting role at the next level. Trier may be able to succeed if he commits to defense, works on his body and proves there’s more to his game.

54. Kris Wilkes, SF, UCLA | Freshman

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 195 | Age: 19 | Last: 30

Though Wilkes has slowed down after an impressive start to the season, his smooth shooting mechanics, twitchy athleticism and 6’11” wingspan make him a natural fit for a 3-and-D role given time. He can attack a closeout and looks comfortable scoring in transition. Wilkes still has a lot of work to do on his handle and needs to show he can be a consistent threat from deep and impact the game beyond scoring. His game is reminiscent of Tim Hardaway Jr., and his strengths profile nicely down the line.

55. Jacob Evans, G/F, Cincinnati | Junior

Height: 6'6" | Weight: 210 | Age: 20 | Last: 52

Evans is a tough, defensive-minded guard with shot-making ability who has come on strong as an NBA prospect. He has the chops to be a valuable 3-and-D piece and guard multiple positions. He’s physically impressive, but struggles to create off the dribble and may be better cast as a small forward at the next level. He needs to prove his outside shot is for real.

56. Vince Edwards, F, Purdue | Senior

Height: 6'8" | Weight: 225 | Age: 21 | Last: 50

Edwards has the athleticism and length to guard several positions passably, and has a nice level of versatility to his game. He could be an ideal fit in smaller lineups with his ability to move the ball, space the floor and get involved on the glass. If you envision him as a glue guy and he shows real improvement as a defender, where he is prone to lapses, he’s not a bad roll of the dice.

57. Moritz Wagner, F/C, Michigan | Junior

Height: 6'11" | Weight: 230 | Age: 20 | Last: 51

An inside-out scorer with the size to play center, Wagner has offensive talent and can be a tough matchup. He lacks the defensive chops to protect the basket and has holes in his all-around game. He’s begun to rebound the ball better this season, which is a start. Legitimate stretch bigs are tricky to find, and Wagner has the talent to space the floor if he can round out his weaknesses.

58. Anas Mahmoud, C, Louisville | Junior

Height: 7'0" | Weight: 215 | Age: 22 | Last: 59

Though old for his class and possessing a slender build, Mahmoud has the size, mobility and length to protect the rim and continues to improve. He’s a strong shot-blocker and showed improvement in his overall feel last year. He’s not much of a scorer and may be limited into a defensive specialist-type role. Any offensive development will help his case.

59. Bennie Boatwright, F, USC | Junior

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 230 | Age: 21 | Last: 54

As a floor-spacer with size, Boatwright has been on the radar for a while. He’s a deadeye shooter with his feet set and has shown the ability to score off the bounce as well, although he’s not a great athlete or a presence defensively. He’s not especially efficient putting the ball in the basket any other way, but a strong year shooting the ball could put him in the second round.

60. Ethan Happ, PF, Wisconsin | Junior

Height: 6'9" | Weight: 235 | Age: 21 | Last: 49

Happ has done nothing but produce at Wisconsin and excels as a finisher and rebounder. He operates mostly in the paint, where he’s always active despite a lack of ideal size at the five. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s a good rebounder, ball-handler and passer and plays bigger than his size. It hurts that he’s not much of a shooter (and poor from the free throw line) but his track record is impressive.

<p>NEW YORK — About three hours before he’d be named this college football season’s most outstanding player, Baker Mayfield acted like he didn’t know what was coming. Dressed in a royal blue suit with a crimson tie and seated to the left of Stanford running back Bryce Love and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson—the two other finalists for the honor—during a news conference inside a spacious sixth-floor ballroom at the Marriott Marquis hotel here, Mayfield was asked about his anticipation heading into the Heisman Trophy ceremony on Saturday night. He responded with what sounded like a pre-recorded sequence of platitudes.</p><p>“I’m really happy to be here,” Mayfield said. “It’s an honor to be here. It’s an honor to be around these guys, be around past winners.” A few minutes later, at a question-and-answer session with reporters, Mayfield rejected an opportunity to acknowledge the obvious. “You can’t listen to it,” he said when queried on the media coverage anointing him the overwhelming Heisman frontrunner, before pivoting to a comparison with his preferred team-wide approach to the weekly College Football Playoff rankings. “You can’t listen to the outside noise,” Mayfield added.</p><p>The noise was deafening, though. Mayfield is the 83rd winner of the Heisman, and as much as he tried in the hours before the announcement to maintain the pretense that the outcome of the race was in doubt—including by revealing that he’d waited until Saturday to put together his acceptance speech—pretty much everyone knew he’d finish on top long before it became official. “This is unbelievable for me,” Mayfield said after taking the stage at the PlayStation Theater to greet past victors, reel off a list of shoutouts and clutch the bronze trophy.</p><p>This was one of the most anticlimactic Heisman chases in recent memory. Mayfield had been viewed as the favorite since early in the final month of the regular season, after he lit up Oklahoma State’s defense in a 10-point win at Oklahoma State on Nov. 4. From there, Mayfield guided Oklahoma to four consecutive wins, a Big 12 championship and a berth in the playoff as the No. 2 seed. (The Sooners will take on No. 3 seed Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.) His edge over the rest of the field was so convincing that by the time the voting closed, the biggest knock on Mayfield’s candidacy was his sideline comportment during a blowout victory over a conference doormat.</p><p>The most notable aspect of Mayfield’s run to claim college sports’s most prestigious individual honor was his passing precision. Blend a gifted thrower at the top of his game, an uptempo scheme geared to make the most of his ability to rifle balls in tight windows, a head coach (Lincoln Riley) who’d spent the two previous years sharpening that thrower’s skill set, a deep cast of skill-position playmakers and this is what you get: Mayfield completing a nation-high 71% of his passes, placing second in the country with 41 touchdown passes, breaking his own single-season record for passer rating (203.8) and setting a single-season high for passing yards per attempt (11.8).</p><p>Mayfield, who walked on at Texas Tech and played eight games for the Red Raiders as a freshman in 2013 before transferring to Oklahoma and walking on again, is the first walk-on to win the Heisman. He’s also the first senior (fifth-year) since Ohio State quarterback Troy Brown in 2006. Mayfield garnered 732 first-place votes, the fifth-most ever, and he received the third-highest percent of total possible points, with 2,398 (86%). The four players who’ve drawn more first-place votes are USC’s O.J. Simpson (855, 1968), Smith (801, 2006), Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (788, 2014) and Florida State’s Charlie Ward (740, 1993), and the two players who’ve registered higher points percentages are Smith (91.63%) and Mariota (90.92%).</p><p>The second-place finisher this season, Stanford’s Love, amassed 75 first-place votes and 1,300 points, while the third-place finisher, Louisville’s Jackson, totaled 47 first-place votes and 793 points. Love’s runner-up placement must have evoked a familiar feeling in Cardinal fans. Stanford now has produced six second-place finishes in the Heisman voting, more than any other program.</p><p>Like Stanford, Oklahoma had five runners-up before Saturday. Unlike Stanford, it also had five winners. Mayfield joins these Sooners: quarterback Sam Bradford (2008), quarterback Jason White (2003), running back Billy Sims (1978), running back Steve Owens (1969) and running back Billy Vessels (1952). Mayfield’s victory also jibes with the Heisman’s recent positional history: He’s the second straight quarterback to take home the award, and the 15th signal-caller since 2000. (The only two non-QBs this century were Alabama running backs, Derrick Henry in 2015 and Mark Ingram in 2009.)</p><p>This is not a career achievement award for Mayfield, although there is some surface-level evidence to back up that notion. As pointed out by Heisman historian Chris Huston in an interview, Mayfield is one of only seven players to finish in the top five of the voting three times, climbing from fourth in 2015 to third in 2016 to first in 2017. He began his college career before the advent of the playoff, and he’s since led Oklahoma to it twice, in non-successive years. There’s a persistence to Mayfield’s star power that’s uncommon at a time in which the number of NFL draft early entrants has spiked.</p><p>The eighth-year-senior vibe Mayfield gives off does not owe exclusively to his ability to throw a football with remarkable accuracy over the course of several seasons. He’s become college football’s main magnet for controversy. There was the offseason arrest over an incident in Fayetteville, Ark., in which released footage showed police tackling a drunken Mayfield into a wall, the midfield flag <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/09/09/baker-mayfield-oklahoma-flag-ohio-state-win" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:wave-and-spear into the Ohio State logo" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">wave-and-spear into the Ohio State logo</a> after a 31–16 win over the Buckeyes in September, the Big 12 walk-on transfer eligibility rule reversal and, of course, <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/18/baker-mayfield-curses-grabs-crotch-oklahoma-kansas-video" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the triple F--- you! and crotch grab" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the triple F--- you! and crotch grab</a> during a game at Kansas last month.</p><p>• <strong><a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/photo/2017/12/07/all-america-teams-baker-mayfield-bryce-love" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Baker Mayfield leads SI&#39;s 2017 All-America Teams" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Baker Mayfield leads SI&#39;s 2017 All-America Teams</a></strong></p><p>None of it obscured a peerless on-field track record that includes 14,320 passing yards, 129 passing touchdowns, three All-Big 12 First Team nominations, two conference offensive player of the year awards and culminated with a resplendent 2017 season. Mayfield’s challenge as a Heisman contender entering this fall was straightforward but immense. With his top receiver, Dede Westbrook, off to the NFL, Mayfield needed to be better than the player who shattered the record for passing efficiency and checked in behind only Louisville’s Jackson and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson on the ballot a year ago.</p><p>That said, the Heisman electorate’s familiarity with Mayfield probably helped him more than it hurt him in the end. “There’s a large body of evidence for certain players who have had good seasons over the course of their career,” Huston says of voters. “And so, whereas the player who comes out of nowhere and has a big year—there might be a little bit of thinking that, ‘Is this a one-time thing? Is this a fluke?’ Having those multiple years definitely establishes the person as a quality player. And so, they don’t really have to deal with that apprehension if someone comes out of nowhere.”</p><p>The first big sign that Mayfield would end up back in New York in 2017 came during Oklahoma’s 15-point victory over Ohio State in September. A year after being whipped, 45–24, in Norman by the Buckeyes, the Sooners went into the Horseshoe and notched one of the best nonconference Ws of the season. Mayfield buried the Buckeyes with 386 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions on 27-of-25 passing while upstaging then-Heisman candidate J.T. Barrett, who finished 19-of-35 with 183 yards and a pick. Oklahoma may not have needed the Ohio State win to make the playoff, but at the time it resonated as a towering triumph.</p><p>The reputationally defense-averse Big 12 didn’t have many more answers for Mayfield than Ohio State did. Against conference competition, he topped all Big 12 quarterbacks by connecting on 69.3% of his throws; his yards per attempt mark, 11.5, was more than two YPA higher than the Big 12 quarterback who placed second in that category (Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph); he tossed a league-high 31 touchdowns against only five interceptions despite ranking sixth among Big 12 signal-callers in attempts per game; and he powered the Sooners to a league-high 44.1 points per contest.</p><p>Not even TCU, the Big 12’s only top-15 Football Bowl Subdivision defense, according to Football Outsiders S&#38;P+ ratings, stood much of a chance trying to bottle up Mayfield. Three weeks after carving up the Horned Frogs’ D’ to the tune of 333 passing yards and three touchdowns at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 11, he tore it asunder on a neutral field, hitting on 15 of his 23 throws for 243 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 41–17 Big 12 championship game victory at AT&#38;T Stadium to seal Oklahoma’s second berth into the final four in three years.</p><p>Mayfield didn’t deliver quite as many signature moments as many recent winners, but one tilt seemed to turn the race in his favor. In a Bedlam matchup billed as the Big 12’s game of the year, Mayfield unloaded on in-state rival Oklahoma State in a scoreboard-shaking thrill ride, passing for a school-record 598 yards and five touchdowns and rushing for one score to push Oklahoma past the Cowboys, 62–52, in Stillwater. Mayfield probably didn’t recognize it in the moment, but during that game he offered a <a href="https://twitter.com/OU_Football/status/927331903732150277" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:photo-worthy" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">photo-worthy</a> Heisman pose while clutching the ball with his right arm and extending his left for a stiff arm.</p><p>The only significant on-field blemish on Mayfield’s Heisman CV was a seven-point home loss to Iowa State in early October that had faded into the rearview once it came time for voters to submit their ballots. The defeat aged well, too, with the Cyclones rounding into a more formidable outfit than they seemed at the time. The Kansas-game outburst undoubtedly rubbed a lot of media members the wrong way, but realistically, given the lead Mayfield had already opened up by that point, it was never going to cost him enough votes to jeopardize his position at the front of the pack.</p><p>When Mayfield surged toward the end of the season, no one from the rest of the Heisman field mounted a serious challenge. USC’s Sam Darnold fizzed out early. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley put on his superman cape in a win at Iowa in late September, only to be leapfrogged later on by other backs. Love didn’t receive the attention he likely would have with fewer late-night kick offs. Arizona’s Khalil Tate couldn’t sustain his torrid October pace. Jackson’s repeat bid fell way short. Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson was low on preseason hype and couldn’t make up for it with a second-half push.</p><p>That is an incomplete list of candidacies that just didn’t have enough juice to create any uncertainty in the lead-up to the unveil on Saturday, but Mayfield did sound relieved to put the formality behind him. “It’s a dream right now,” Mayfield said. “And I’m just trying to enjoy it.” This was a predictable coronation of a player who’d clearly separated himself from every other contender, who’d not only distinguished himself as this season’s premier performer but one of the greatest ever at his position, regardless of how his college career ends. The absence of serious competitors for the award should not diminish what Mayfield did to earn it. Mayfield did not back into a Heisman win. He was so good that no one else managed to keep up.</p>
Baker Mayfield's Decisive Heisman Win a Testament to His Superb Senior Season

NEW YORK — About three hours before he’d be named this college football season’s most outstanding player, Baker Mayfield acted like he didn’t know what was coming. Dressed in a royal blue suit with a crimson tie and seated to the left of Stanford running back Bryce Love and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson—the two other finalists for the honor—during a news conference inside a spacious sixth-floor ballroom at the Marriott Marquis hotel here, Mayfield was asked about his anticipation heading into the Heisman Trophy ceremony on Saturday night. He responded with what sounded like a pre-recorded sequence of platitudes.

“I’m really happy to be here,” Mayfield said. “It’s an honor to be here. It’s an honor to be around these guys, be around past winners.” A few minutes later, at a question-and-answer session with reporters, Mayfield rejected an opportunity to acknowledge the obvious. “You can’t listen to it,” he said when queried on the media coverage anointing him the overwhelming Heisman frontrunner, before pivoting to a comparison with his preferred team-wide approach to the weekly College Football Playoff rankings. “You can’t listen to the outside noise,” Mayfield added.

The noise was deafening, though. Mayfield is the 83rd winner of the Heisman, and as much as he tried in the hours before the announcement to maintain the pretense that the outcome of the race was in doubt—including by revealing that he’d waited until Saturday to put together his acceptance speech—pretty much everyone knew he’d finish on top long before it became official. “This is unbelievable for me,” Mayfield said after taking the stage at the PlayStation Theater to greet past victors, reel off a list of shoutouts and clutch the bronze trophy.

This was one of the most anticlimactic Heisman chases in recent memory. Mayfield had been viewed as the favorite since early in the final month of the regular season, after he lit up Oklahoma State’s defense in a 10-point win at Oklahoma State on Nov. 4. From there, Mayfield guided Oklahoma to four consecutive wins, a Big 12 championship and a berth in the playoff as the No. 2 seed. (The Sooners will take on No. 3 seed Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day.) His edge over the rest of the field was so convincing that by the time the voting closed, the biggest knock on Mayfield’s candidacy was his sideline comportment during a blowout victory over a conference doormat.

The most notable aspect of Mayfield’s run to claim college sports’s most prestigious individual honor was his passing precision. Blend a gifted thrower at the top of his game, an uptempo scheme geared to make the most of his ability to rifle balls in tight windows, a head coach (Lincoln Riley) who’d spent the two previous years sharpening that thrower’s skill set, a deep cast of skill-position playmakers and this is what you get: Mayfield completing a nation-high 71% of his passes, placing second in the country with 41 touchdown passes, breaking his own single-season record for passer rating (203.8) and setting a single-season high for passing yards per attempt (11.8).

Mayfield, who walked on at Texas Tech and played eight games for the Red Raiders as a freshman in 2013 before transferring to Oklahoma and walking on again, is the first walk-on to win the Heisman. He’s also the first senior (fifth-year) since Ohio State quarterback Troy Brown in 2006. Mayfield garnered 732 first-place votes, the fifth-most ever, and he received the third-highest percent of total possible points, with 2,398 (86%). The four players who’ve drawn more first-place votes are USC’s O.J. Simpson (855, 1968), Smith (801, 2006), Oregon’s Marcus Mariota (788, 2014) and Florida State’s Charlie Ward (740, 1993), and the two players who’ve registered higher points percentages are Smith (91.63%) and Mariota (90.92%).

The second-place finisher this season, Stanford’s Love, amassed 75 first-place votes and 1,300 points, while the third-place finisher, Louisville’s Jackson, totaled 47 first-place votes and 793 points. Love’s runner-up placement must have evoked a familiar feeling in Cardinal fans. Stanford now has produced six second-place finishes in the Heisman voting, more than any other program.

Like Stanford, Oklahoma had five runners-up before Saturday. Unlike Stanford, it also had five winners. Mayfield joins these Sooners: quarterback Sam Bradford (2008), quarterback Jason White (2003), running back Billy Sims (1978), running back Steve Owens (1969) and running back Billy Vessels (1952). Mayfield’s victory also jibes with the Heisman’s recent positional history: He’s the second straight quarterback to take home the award, and the 15th signal-caller since 2000. (The only two non-QBs this century were Alabama running backs, Derrick Henry in 2015 and Mark Ingram in 2009.)

This is not a career achievement award for Mayfield, although there is some surface-level evidence to back up that notion. As pointed out by Heisman historian Chris Huston in an interview, Mayfield is one of only seven players to finish in the top five of the voting three times, climbing from fourth in 2015 to third in 2016 to first in 2017. He began his college career before the advent of the playoff, and he’s since led Oklahoma to it twice, in non-successive years. There’s a persistence to Mayfield’s star power that’s uncommon at a time in which the number of NFL draft early entrants has spiked.

The eighth-year-senior vibe Mayfield gives off does not owe exclusively to his ability to throw a football with remarkable accuracy over the course of several seasons. He’s become college football’s main magnet for controversy. There was the offseason arrest over an incident in Fayetteville, Ark., in which released footage showed police tackling a drunken Mayfield into a wall, the midfield flag wave-and-spear into the Ohio State logo after a 31–16 win over the Buckeyes in September, the Big 12 walk-on transfer eligibility rule reversal and, of course, the triple F--- you! and crotch grab during a game at Kansas last month.

Baker Mayfield leads SI's 2017 All-America Teams

None of it obscured a peerless on-field track record that includes 14,320 passing yards, 129 passing touchdowns, three All-Big 12 First Team nominations, two conference offensive player of the year awards and culminated with a resplendent 2017 season. Mayfield’s challenge as a Heisman contender entering this fall was straightforward but immense. With his top receiver, Dede Westbrook, off to the NFL, Mayfield needed to be better than the player who shattered the record for passing efficiency and checked in behind only Louisville’s Jackson and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson on the ballot a year ago.

That said, the Heisman electorate’s familiarity with Mayfield probably helped him more than it hurt him in the end. “There’s a large body of evidence for certain players who have had good seasons over the course of their career,” Huston says of voters. “And so, whereas the player who comes out of nowhere and has a big year—there might be a little bit of thinking that, ‘Is this a one-time thing? Is this a fluke?’ Having those multiple years definitely establishes the person as a quality player. And so, they don’t really have to deal with that apprehension if someone comes out of nowhere.”

The first big sign that Mayfield would end up back in New York in 2017 came during Oklahoma’s 15-point victory over Ohio State in September. A year after being whipped, 45–24, in Norman by the Buckeyes, the Sooners went into the Horseshoe and notched one of the best nonconference Ws of the season. Mayfield buried the Buckeyes with 386 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions on 27-of-25 passing while upstaging then-Heisman candidate J.T. Barrett, who finished 19-of-35 with 183 yards and a pick. Oklahoma may not have needed the Ohio State win to make the playoff, but at the time it resonated as a towering triumph.

The reputationally defense-averse Big 12 didn’t have many more answers for Mayfield than Ohio State did. Against conference competition, he topped all Big 12 quarterbacks by connecting on 69.3% of his throws; his yards per attempt mark, 11.5, was more than two YPA higher than the Big 12 quarterback who placed second in that category (Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph); he tossed a league-high 31 touchdowns against only five interceptions despite ranking sixth among Big 12 signal-callers in attempts per game; and he powered the Sooners to a league-high 44.1 points per contest.

Not even TCU, the Big 12’s only top-15 Football Bowl Subdivision defense, according to Football Outsiders S&P+ ratings, stood much of a chance trying to bottle up Mayfield. Three weeks after carving up the Horned Frogs’ D’ to the tune of 333 passing yards and three touchdowns at Memorial Stadium on Nov. 11, he tore it asunder on a neutral field, hitting on 15 of his 23 throws for 243 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 41–17 Big 12 championship game victory at AT&T Stadium to seal Oklahoma’s second berth into the final four in three years.

Mayfield didn’t deliver quite as many signature moments as many recent winners, but one tilt seemed to turn the race in his favor. In a Bedlam matchup billed as the Big 12’s game of the year, Mayfield unloaded on in-state rival Oklahoma State in a scoreboard-shaking thrill ride, passing for a school-record 598 yards and five touchdowns and rushing for one score to push Oklahoma past the Cowboys, 62–52, in Stillwater. Mayfield probably didn’t recognize it in the moment, but during that game he offered a photo-worthy Heisman pose while clutching the ball with his right arm and extending his left for a stiff arm.

The only significant on-field blemish on Mayfield’s Heisman CV was a seven-point home loss to Iowa State in early October that had faded into the rearview once it came time for voters to submit their ballots. The defeat aged well, too, with the Cyclones rounding into a more formidable outfit than they seemed at the time. The Kansas-game outburst undoubtedly rubbed a lot of media members the wrong way, but realistically, given the lead Mayfield had already opened up by that point, it was never going to cost him enough votes to jeopardize his position at the front of the pack.

When Mayfield surged toward the end of the season, no one from the rest of the Heisman field mounted a serious challenge. USC’s Sam Darnold fizzed out early. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley put on his superman cape in a win at Iowa in late September, only to be leapfrogged later on by other backs. Love didn’t receive the attention he likely would have with fewer late-night kick offs. Arizona’s Khalil Tate couldn’t sustain his torrid October pace. Jackson’s repeat bid fell way short. Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson was low on preseason hype and couldn’t make up for it with a second-half push.

That is an incomplete list of candidacies that just didn’t have enough juice to create any uncertainty in the lead-up to the unveil on Saturday, but Mayfield did sound relieved to put the formality behind him. “It’s a dream right now,” Mayfield said. “And I’m just trying to enjoy it.” This was a predictable coronation of a player who’d clearly separated himself from every other contender, who’d not only distinguished himself as this season’s premier performer but one of the greatest ever at his position, regardless of how his college career ends. The absence of serious competitors for the award should not diminish what Mayfield did to earn it. Mayfield did not back into a Heisman win. He was so good that no one else managed to keep up.

<p>The Heisman Trophy is given out to the most outstanding player in college football.</p><p>First awarded in 1935, the Heisman has become one of the most coveted trophies in all of sports.</p><p><em>Below is a list of every winner:</em></p><p>1935 – Jay Berwanger, running back, Chicago<br>1936 – Larry Kelley, end, Yale<br>1937 – Clint Frank, quarterback, Yale<br>1938 – Davey O&#39;Brien, quarterback, TCU<br>1939 – Nile Kinnick, running back, Iowa<br>1940 – Tom Harmon, running back, Michigan<br>1941 – Bruce Smith, running back, Minnesota<br>1942 – Frank Sinkwich, running back, Georgia<br>1943 – Angelo Bertelli, quarterback, Notre Dame<br>1944 – Les Horvath, quarterback, Ohio State<br>1945 – Doc Blanchard, fullback, Army<br>1946 – Glenn Davis, running back, Army<br>1947 – John Lujack, quarterback, Notre Dame<br>1948 – Doak Walker, running back, Southern Methodist<br>1949 – Leon Hart, end, Notre Dame<br>1950 – Vic Janowicz, running back, Ohio State<br>1951 – Dick Kazmaier, running back, Princeton<br>1952 – Billy Vessels, running back, Oklahoma<br>1953 – John Lattner, running back, Notre Dame<br>1954 – Alan Ameche, fullback, Wisconsin<br>1955 – Howard Cassady, running back, Ohio State<br>1956 – Paul Hornung, quarterback, Notre Dame<br>1957 – John David Crow, running back, Texas A&#38;M<br>1958 – Pete Dawkins, running back, Army<br>1959 – Billy Cannon, running back, Louisiana State<br>1960 – Joe Bellino, running back, Navy<br>1961 – Ernie Davis, running back, Syracuse<br>1962 – Terry Baker, quarterback, Oregon State<br>1963 – Roger Staubach, quarterback, Navy<br>1964 – John Huarte, quarterback, Notre Dame<br>1965 – Mike Garrett, running back, USC<br>1966 – Steve Spurrier, quarterback, Florida<br>1967 – Gary Beban, quarterback, UCLA<br>1968 – O.J. Simpson, running back, USC<br>1969 – Steve Owens, fullback, Oklahoma<br>1970 – Jim Plunkett, quarterback, Stanford<br>1971 – Pat Sullivan, quarterback, Auburn<br>1972 – Johnny Rodgers, running back, Nebraska<br>1973 – John Cappelletti, running back, Penn State<br>1974 – Archie Griffin, running back, Ohio State<br>1975 – Archie Griffin, running back, Ohio State<br>1976 – Tony Dorsett, running back, Pittsburgh<br>1977 – Earl Campbell, running back, Texas<br>1978 – Billy Sims, running back, Oklahoma<br>1979 – Charles White, running back, USC<br>1980 – George Rogers, running back, South Carolina<br>1981 – Marcus Allen, running back, USC<br>1982 – Herschel Walker, running back, Georgia<br>1983 – Mike Rozier, running back, Nebraska<br>1984 – Doug Flutie, quarterback, Boston College<br>1985 – Bo Jackson, running back, Auburn<br>1986 – Vinny Testaverde, quarterback, Miami (Fla.)<br>1987 – Tim Brown, wide receiver, Notre Dame<br>1988 – Barry Sanders, running back, Oklahoma State<br>1989 – Andre Ware, quarterback, Houston<br>1990 – Ty Detmer, quarterback, Brigham Young<br>1991 – Desmond Howard, wide receiver, Michigan<br>1992 – Gino Torretta, quarterback, Miami (Fla.)<br>1993 – Charlie Ward, quarterback, Florida State<br>1994 – Rashaan Salaam, running back, Colorado<br>1995 – Eddie George, running back, Ohio State<br>1996 – Danny Wuerffel, quarterback, Florida<br>1997 – Charles Woodson, cornerback, Michigan<br>1998 – Ricky Williams, running back, Texas<br>1999 – Ron Dayne, running back, Wisconsin<br>2000 – Chris Weinke, quarterback, Florida State<br>2001 – Eric Crouch, quarterback, Nebraska<br>2002 – Carson Palmer, quarterback, USC<br>2003 – Jason White, quarterback, Oklahoma<br>2004 – Matt Leinart, quarterback, USC<br>2005 – Reggie Bush, running back, USC<br>2006 – Troy Smith, quarterback, Ohio State<br>2007 – Tim Tebow, quarterback, Florida<br>2008 – Sam Bradford, quarterback, Oklahoma<br>2009 – Mark Ingram, running back, Alabama<br>2010 – Cameron Newton, quarterback, Auburn<br>2011 – Robert Griffin, quarterback, Baylor<br>2012 – Johnny Manziel, quarterback, Texas A&#38;M<br>2013 – Jameis Winston, quarterback, Florida State<br>2014 – Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Oregon<br>2015 – Derrick Henry, running back, Alabama<br>2016 – Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Louisville</p>
List of All Heisman Trophy Winners

The Heisman Trophy is given out to the most outstanding player in college football.

First awarded in 1935, the Heisman has become one of the most coveted trophies in all of sports.

Below is a list of every winner:

1935 – Jay Berwanger, running back, Chicago
1936 – Larry Kelley, end, Yale
1937 – Clint Frank, quarterback, Yale
1938 – Davey O'Brien, quarterback, TCU
1939 – Nile Kinnick, running back, Iowa
1940 – Tom Harmon, running back, Michigan
1941 – Bruce Smith, running back, Minnesota
1942 – Frank Sinkwich, running back, Georgia
1943 – Angelo Bertelli, quarterback, Notre Dame
1944 – Les Horvath, quarterback, Ohio State
1945 – Doc Blanchard, fullback, Army
1946 – Glenn Davis, running back, Army
1947 – John Lujack, quarterback, Notre Dame
1948 – Doak Walker, running back, Southern Methodist
1949 – Leon Hart, end, Notre Dame
1950 – Vic Janowicz, running back, Ohio State
1951 – Dick Kazmaier, running back, Princeton
1952 – Billy Vessels, running back, Oklahoma
1953 – John Lattner, running back, Notre Dame
1954 – Alan Ameche, fullback, Wisconsin
1955 – Howard Cassady, running back, Ohio State
1956 – Paul Hornung, quarterback, Notre Dame
1957 – John David Crow, running back, Texas A&M
1958 – Pete Dawkins, running back, Army
1959 – Billy Cannon, running back, Louisiana State
1960 – Joe Bellino, running back, Navy
1961 – Ernie Davis, running back, Syracuse
1962 – Terry Baker, quarterback, Oregon State
1963 – Roger Staubach, quarterback, Navy
1964 – John Huarte, quarterback, Notre Dame
1965 – Mike Garrett, running back, USC
1966 – Steve Spurrier, quarterback, Florida
1967 – Gary Beban, quarterback, UCLA
1968 – O.J. Simpson, running back, USC
1969 – Steve Owens, fullback, Oklahoma
1970 – Jim Plunkett, quarterback, Stanford
1971 – Pat Sullivan, quarterback, Auburn
1972 – Johnny Rodgers, running back, Nebraska
1973 – John Cappelletti, running back, Penn State
1974 – Archie Griffin, running back, Ohio State
1975 – Archie Griffin, running back, Ohio State
1976 – Tony Dorsett, running back, Pittsburgh
1977 – Earl Campbell, running back, Texas
1978 – Billy Sims, running back, Oklahoma
1979 – Charles White, running back, USC
1980 – George Rogers, running back, South Carolina
1981 – Marcus Allen, running back, USC
1982 – Herschel Walker, running back, Georgia
1983 – Mike Rozier, running back, Nebraska
1984 – Doug Flutie, quarterback, Boston College
1985 – Bo Jackson, running back, Auburn
1986 – Vinny Testaverde, quarterback, Miami (Fla.)
1987 – Tim Brown, wide receiver, Notre Dame
1988 – Barry Sanders, running back, Oklahoma State
1989 – Andre Ware, quarterback, Houston
1990 – Ty Detmer, quarterback, Brigham Young
1991 – Desmond Howard, wide receiver, Michigan
1992 – Gino Torretta, quarterback, Miami (Fla.)
1993 – Charlie Ward, quarterback, Florida State
1994 – Rashaan Salaam, running back, Colorado
1995 – Eddie George, running back, Ohio State
1996 – Danny Wuerffel, quarterback, Florida
1997 – Charles Woodson, cornerback, Michigan
1998 – Ricky Williams, running back, Texas
1999 – Ron Dayne, running back, Wisconsin
2000 – Chris Weinke, quarterback, Florida State
2001 – Eric Crouch, quarterback, Nebraska
2002 – Carson Palmer, quarterback, USC
2003 – Jason White, quarterback, Oklahoma
2004 – Matt Leinart, quarterback, USC
2005 – Reggie Bush, running back, USC
2006 – Troy Smith, quarterback, Ohio State
2007 – Tim Tebow, quarterback, Florida
2008 – Sam Bradford, quarterback, Oklahoma
2009 – Mark Ingram, running back, Alabama
2010 – Cameron Newton, quarterback, Auburn
2011 – Robert Griffin, quarterback, Baylor
2012 – Johnny Manziel, quarterback, Texas A&M
2013 – Jameis Winston, quarterback, Florida State
2014 – Marcus Mariota, quarterback, Oregon
2015 – Derrick Henry, running back, Alabama
2016 – Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Louisville

FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2017, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban walks the field before the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game against Auburn, in Auburn, Ala. Write-in votes could help decide Alabamas Senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. Saban often gets write-in votes in state elections. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
Column: 4-team playoff is fine, but 8 would be perfect
FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2017, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban walks the field before the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game against Auburn, in Auburn, Ala. Write-in votes could help decide Alabamas Senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. Saban often gets write-in votes in state elections. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
<p>No. 2 Oklahoma is 8–0 straight up over its last eight games and 5–1 against the spread over their last six. The Sooners will try to extend their winning streak and advance to the national championship with a win in the Rose Bowl over No. 3 Georgia.</p><p>Oklahoma <a href="http://www.oddsshark.com/ncaaf/georgia-oklahoma-odds-january-1-2018-932472" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:is a 1.5-point underdog in Pasadena" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">is a 1.5-point underdog in Pasadena</a> at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Georgia bounced back from a road loss to Auburn with a 3–0 record against the spread in a three-win run to end the regular season, outscoring its opponents 108–27 over that stretch, capped off by a 28–7 win over Auburn in the SEC championship game. This should be an exciting matchup between one of the nation&#39;s best quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and one of the nation&#39;s best defenses.</p><p>No. 4 Alabama will try to avenge its loss in the national title game last year when it heads to the Sugar Bowl <a href="http://www.oddsshark.com/ncaaf/odds" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:as 2.5-point favorites against No. 1 Clemson" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">as 2.5-point favorites against No. 1 Clemson</a>. The Tigers were the underdog in each of the last two playoff games between these two teams and covered the spread in both of them. The Tigers are 3–1 straight up and 4–0 against the spread in their last four games played on a Monday.</p><p>Both of these semifinal matchups will be played on New Year&#39;s Day. Earlier in the day, No. 12 UCF will face No. 7 Auburn (-9.5) in the Peach Bowl, and No. 14 Notre Dame will take on No. 17 LSU (-3) in the Citrus Bowl. Notre Dame was one of the hottest teams in the country, riding a 6–0 run against the spread the month of November, but the Fighting Irish are just 2–2 over their last four games and 0–4 against the spread, per the <a href="http://www.oddsshark.com/ncaaf/database" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:OddsShark College Football Database" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">OddsShark College Football Database</a>.</p><p>On Dec. 29, No. 5 Ohio State (-6.5) squares off with No. 8 USC in the Cotton Bowl. Since the start of the 2015 season, USC is just 1–7 straight up and against the spread in its last eight games as a betting underdog. Saturday, Dec. 30 will include a Fiesta Bowl matchup between No. 9 Penn State (-3) and No. 11 Washington, and the Orange Bowl featuring No. 6 Wisconsin (-6.5) and No. 10 Miami.</p><p><em>For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on </em><a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/oddsshark-sports-betting-podcast/id1262011131?mt=2" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:iTunes" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>iTunes</em></a><em>, or check it out at </em><em><a href="http://oddsshark.libsyn.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:OddsShark.libsyn.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">OddsShark.libsyn.com</a>.</em></p>
2017 College Football Bowl Odds: Early Lines for the Biggest Games

No. 2 Oklahoma is 8–0 straight up over its last eight games and 5–1 against the spread over their last six. The Sooners will try to extend their winning streak and advance to the national championship with a win in the Rose Bowl over No. 3 Georgia.

Oklahoma is a 1.5-point underdog in Pasadena at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Georgia bounced back from a road loss to Auburn with a 3–0 record against the spread in a three-win run to end the regular season, outscoring its opponents 108–27 over that stretch, capped off by a 28–7 win over Auburn in the SEC championship game. This should be an exciting matchup between one of the nation's best quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and one of the nation's best defenses.

No. 4 Alabama will try to avenge its loss in the national title game last year when it heads to the Sugar Bowl as 2.5-point favorites against No. 1 Clemson. The Tigers were the underdog in each of the last two playoff games between these two teams and covered the spread in both of them. The Tigers are 3–1 straight up and 4–0 against the spread in their last four games played on a Monday.

Both of these semifinal matchups will be played on New Year's Day. Earlier in the day, No. 12 UCF will face No. 7 Auburn (-9.5) in the Peach Bowl, and No. 14 Notre Dame will take on No. 17 LSU (-3) in the Citrus Bowl. Notre Dame was one of the hottest teams in the country, riding a 6–0 run against the spread the month of November, but the Fighting Irish are just 2–2 over their last four games and 0–4 against the spread, per the OddsShark College Football Database.

On Dec. 29, No. 5 Ohio State (-6.5) squares off with No. 8 USC in the Cotton Bowl. Since the start of the 2015 season, USC is just 1–7 straight up and against the spread in its last eight games as a betting underdog. Saturday, Dec. 30 will include a Fiesta Bowl matchup between No. 9 Penn State (-3) and No. 11 Washington, and the Orange Bowl featuring No. 6 Wisconsin (-6.5) and No. 10 Miami.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2017, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban walks the field before the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game against Auburn, in Auburn, Ala. Write-in votes could help decide Alabama’s Senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. Saban often gets write-in votes in state elections. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2017, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban walks the field before the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game against Auburn, in Auburn, Ala. Write-in votes could help decide Alabama’s Senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. Saban often gets write-in votes in state elections. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 25, 2017, file photo, Alabama head coach Nick Saban walks the field before the Iron Bowl NCAA college football game against Auburn, in Auburn, Ala. Write-in votes could help decide Alabama’s Senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. Saban often gets write-in votes in state elections. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
<p>NEW YORK — The best non-conference tournaments took place during Feast Week. The PK80, Battle 4 Atlantis and other events pitted national championship contenders on neutral courts and offered fans in food-coma recovery mode an early look at some of the top players in the country. The Jimmy V Classic is not staged in a tropical locale and coaches didn’t go <a href="https://twitter.com/rmginn/status/933183528023576576?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&#38;ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fthebiglead.com%2F2017%2F11%2F21%2Fmike-brey-outfit-twitter-shorts-maui%2F" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:full-on Mike Brey" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">full-on Mike Brey</a> with their sideline attire, but it nonetheless did convene four big-name programs in an iconic venue for an entertaining night of basketball. In a doubleheader on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, Villanova beat Gonzaga 88–72 before Syracuse toppled Connecticut 72–63. <em>Sports Illustrated</em> was on hand to observe those four teams and assess their outlooks for the rest of the season. This is the third version of a weekly column analyzing four college hoops topics bound by some underlying narrative thread. If there’s something you’d like to see in this space, <a href="https://twitter.com/bychrisjohnson" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:don’t hesitate to reach out to me." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">don’t hesitate to reach out to me.</a></p><h3>Connecticut</h3><p><em>Record: 6–3</em><br><em>Best win: Oregon</em></p><p>By April, four years will have passed since UConn cut down the nets at AT&#38;T Stadium after beating Kentucky in the national championship game. Since then, the Huskies have recorded only one NCAA tournament victory, and last season they both failed to qualify for the Big Dance and, with a 16–17 record, finished below .500 for the first time since 1986–87, Jim Calhoun’s first year as coach. UConn looks better than it did in early in 2016–17, when it opened with back-to-back home losses to Wagner and Northeastern, but a tourney bid feels like a long shot.</p><p>The Huskies’ most important nonconference event this season, the PK80, started off in promising fashion, with an eight-point win over Oregon in which UConn limited the Ducks to only 0.86 points per possession. Then things got ugly. In two subsequent games in Portland, against Michigan State and Arkansas, the Huskies were outscored 179–124, including a 102–67 beatdown at the hands of a Razorbacks team media members voted sixth in the SEC in the preseason. (Even the Oregon victory has lost some luster, with the Ducks also falling recently to Oklahoma and Boise State.)</p><p>UConn followed that up by being taken to overtime at home by low-majors Columbia and Monmouth. The Huskies will need to clean things up on both ends of the court to get themselves within shouting distance of an at-large bid, but one obvious issue is their inability to consistently score the ball at an efficient clip. The Huskies have sank only 47.3% of their two-point shots and 31% from beyond the arc, and they currently rank 260th in Division I in points scored per 100 possessions.</p><p>Tuesday night’s Old Big East tilt with Syracuse didn’t put to rest UConn’s shooting concerns. It turned the ball over on a fourth of its trips down the floor and managed only 0.93 PPP against the Orange’s zone, and it couldn’t keep them off the offensive glass: Syracuse snared 42.4% of its missed shots.</p><p>UConn will have an opportunity in late January to bolster its CV against another one of the teams that played here on Tuesday night, Villanova. The Huskies also have upcoming trips to Arizona and Auburn, plus ample chances to prove themselves in the American Athletic Conference. The addition of Wichita State will help in that regard. But a handful of other teams in the league are more compelling bets to challenge the Shockers and Cincinnati for real estate near the top of the standings, regardless of how much time redshirt freshman guard Alterique Gilbert misses with a shoulder injury. (He hasn’t appeared in UConn’s last three games.)</p><p>The Huskies’ talented perimeter corps is cause for optimism, especially sophomore Christian Vital’s early scoring uptick, as is the return of 6&#39;8&quot; redshirt junior forward Terry Larrier after he missed almost all of last season with a torn ACL. But getting buckets this season against the Shockers and the Bearcats, likely the two best wins available in the AAC, is going to be a chore for high-powered offenses with high-percentage interior finishers and perimeter snipers. UConn’s falls well short of that.</p><h3>Gonzaga</h3><p><em>Record: 7–2</em><br><em>Best win: Texas</em></p><p>Few elite teams were expected to suffer a larger fall from last season to this one than Gonzaga. After winning 37 games and coming up six points short against North Carolina in the program’s first national championship game, the Zags lost three of their top five scorers, including one who was named the West Coast Conference’s Player of the Year (point guard Nigel Williams-Goss) and another (center Zach Collins) who was picked in the lottery of the NBA draft last July.</p><p>Gonzaga opened the season at No. 18 in the AP Top 25 Poll, and coaches picked Saint Mary’s to win the WCC in the preseason. That may turn out to be the right choice, but the Zags look better equipped to withstand their personnel churn than it appeared before the season began. Prior to Tuesday, head coach Mark Few’s bunch had picked up wins over Ohio State, Texas and Creighton, and it gave SEC challenger Florida everything it could handle before falling by six points in double overtime.</p><p>Tuesday night’s matchup with Villanova was a step up, and Gonzaga wasn’t ready to make it. “When you schedule like this and play games like this,” Few said afterward. “I mean, you, for lack of a better term, expose your—you’re putting your team out there.” Few’s right. The loss was revealing in that it indicated the Zags probably don’t belong in the same tier as a legitimate title contender like Villanova, but they’re also unlikely to face a team this good at any point the rest of this season.</p><p>One double-digit defeat to an outfit that’s tracking toward a No. 1 seed on a not-that-neutral neutral court shouldn’t obscure how well Gonzaga has reloaded. Few has stocked his roster with talented youngsters to complement junior Josh Perkins and seniors Johnathan Williams and Silas Melson. Sophomore Killian Tillie, a 6&#39;10&quot; forward from Paris, has increased his scoring on a per-40-minute basis, thanks in large part to improved two-point shooting accuracy, and he’s playing about twice as much as he did last season. Tillie’s also an agile, switchable defender who can offer some rim protection. He posted a career-high 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting against Creighton last Friday. “When he’s out there, usually we flow better,” Few said of Tillie. “And good things happen.”</p><p>Freshmen Corey Kispert and Zach Norvell and sophomore Rui Hachimura are three other underclassmen who’ve solidified the Zags’ rotation during a challenging non-conference schedule. (Although Kispert, a four-star recruit from Seattle, is dealing with an ankle injury that caused him to sit out Tuesday night against the Wildcats, as well as the matchup with the Bluejays.) All told, with Gonzaga playing four freshmen or sophomores at least 18 minutes per game, it ranks 250th in Division I in Ken Pomeroy’s Experience metric.</p><p>The Zags are hitting a remarkably high percentage of their shots from inside the arc, ranking 12th nationally in 2PFG%, and Tuesday night’s 6-of-22 showing from behind it was an outlier from their otherwise high-level deep marksmanship. And Gonzaga’s defense should improve as opponents cool off from downtown. (They’ve made 39.5% of their threes against Gonzaga, with Villanova, alone, going 10-of-21 from distance.) The Zags have thrown into doubt Saint Mary’s status as the WCC frontrunner. This team almost certainly won’t make it back to the title game, but that wasn’t a realistic expectation before the season.</p><h3>Syracuse</h3><p><em>Record: 7–1</em><br><em>Best win: Maryland</em></p><p>When word dropped this summer that Taurean Thompson had withdrawn from Syracuse and was enrolling at Seton Hall, it felt like another damaging defection for a roster that couldn’t afford it, having already lost three starters from a team that failed to qualify for the NCAAs last season. After the news broke, longtime Orange reporter Mike Waters penned an article asking the question, “Is Taurean Thompson the most impactful transfer ever for Syracuse basketball?”</p><p>If he is, that hasn’t been apparent so far. Tuesday’s win moved the Orange to 7–1, and their only loss came last Saturday against Final Four threat Kansas. (Yes, the Jayhawks still deserve that description even after losing to Washington on Wednesday.) Syracuse’s non-league slate is thin on quality opponents, though it did beat Maryland at home in late November. In any case, the Orange should open ACC play in decent position to get in the conversation for an at-large bid. That didn’t seem likely before the season, when <em>Sports Illustrated</em> projected them as the league’s No. 9 team.</p><p>In his lone season at Syracuse, Thompson was an effective offensive rebounder and shot-blocker, but the combined efforts of freshmen Oshae Brissett, Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj, sophomore Matthew Moyer and junior Paschal Chukwu have enabled the Orange to hold up really well in both of those areas without Thompson. They’ve grabbed 42.4% of their misses to date, good for second in the country, and they’re swatting 21.6% of teams’ two-point attempts, which ranks first.</p><p>Top-level rim defense and second-chance creation will go a long way for Syracuse in the ACC, but it’s difficult to put too much faith in a team with such a shaky backcourt. The recent announcement that South Florida graduate transfer Geno Thorpe had departed the program for personal reasons leaves Syracuse with only three scholarship guards: junior Frank Howard, sophomore Tyus Battle and freshman Howard Washington, who has yet to play more than 10 minutes in a game this season.</p><p>Simply playing Washington more often would help—although he’s logged only nine minutes combined in two games since Thorpe left, including just one on Tuesday against the Huskies—and Battle, Brissett and Moyer can be moved up or down the lineup to accommodate whoever else is on the floor. Syracuse can use the five upcoming games against mostly manageable competition to sort out its perimeter rotation before beginning its conference slate with a home matchup against Virginia Tech on New Year’s Eve.</p><h3>Villanova</h3><p><em>Record: 9–0</em><br><em>Best win: Gonzaga</em></p><p>The book on the Big East is the same as it’s been since the conference morphed into its Catholic Seven plus Butler, Creighton, Xavier iteration. The Wildcats have since won four consecutive regular-season league championships and they were picked to do that again in 2017–18 in a preseason poll even though they lost three senior starters (Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds), including one who drew deserved National Player of the Year buzz and went on to become a first-round draft pick (Hart), during the offseason.</p><p>The preseason optimism on Villanova was warranted. Through nine games, point guard Jalen Brunson is scoring at a far more efficient clip than he did as a freshman and sophomore, and he’s also managed to slash his turnover rate while upping his assists on a per-40-minute basis. Brunson almost definitely won’t keep making 51.7% of his three-point shots, but while he’s not getting the same mock draft love as PGs like Alabama’s Collin Sexton, Duke’s Trevon Duval or Oklahoma’s Trae Young, it would be hard to come up with another college floor general you’d rather have running your offense right now.</p><p>Then there’s Mikal Bridges, who looks ready to play his way to a lottery selection on draft night this summer. The junior wing is shouldering a bigger offensive workload so far this season, but that hasn’t depressed his efficiency: His offensive rating is about nine points higher than it was last season, when it ranked 22nd in Division I, according to Kenpom.com. Bridges can be just as valuable on defense because of his activity as a shot-blocker/ball-stealer and ability to switch assignments.</p><p>On Tuesday, he went off for a game-high 28 points on 8-of-14 shooting, and with just over eight minutes remaining in the second half, he submitted a strong early nomination for dunk-and-swat sequence of the year. After rising for a one-handed slam over 6&#39;11&quot; Gonzaga redshirt freshman Jacob Larsen, Bridges scampered down the court to get in position to reject Bulldogs junior Josh Perkins’s layup attempt. “He’s playing with a lot more freedom, a lot more aggressiveness,” head coach Jay Wright said of Bridges afterward. Wright added, “He just knows it’s his turn, and he’s ready for it.”</p><p>The Wildcats don’t have a lot of size in their rotation, but with the exception of Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado, there aren’t many Big East big men capable of punishing them because of it. That said, Villanova will need Omari Spellman—who sat out last season as an academic redshirt—to supply reliable inside scoring. He’s connected on only 37.7% of his shots from two-point range and 41.4% at the rim this season, according to <a href="http://hoop-math.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:hoop-math.com" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">hoop-math.com</a>. (Spellman has hit 45.5% of his 22 three-point attempts so far.)</p><p>There are only two teams that look like credible challengers to Villanova in the Big East: Seton Hall and Xavier. Both squads notched a pair of big-time wins in succession over the last 10 days (the Pirates over Texas Tech and Louisville, the Musketeers over Baylor and Cincinnati), while the Wildcats, <a href="https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2017/11/30/arizona-purdue-seton-hall-st-marys-problems" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:through no fault of their own" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">through no fault of their own</a>, didn’t come away from the Battle 4 Atlantis last month with any signature victories. Villanova got one Tuesday that will glow in March, and it still holds pole position in the chase for the conference crown.</p>
Jimmy V Classic Lessons: Where All Four Teams Go From Here

NEW YORK — The best non-conference tournaments took place during Feast Week. The PK80, Battle 4 Atlantis and other events pitted national championship contenders on neutral courts and offered fans in food-coma recovery mode an early look at some of the top players in the country. The Jimmy V Classic is not staged in a tropical locale and coaches didn’t go full-on Mike Brey with their sideline attire, but it nonetheless did convene four big-name programs in an iconic venue for an entertaining night of basketball. In a doubleheader on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, Villanova beat Gonzaga 88–72 before Syracuse toppled Connecticut 72–63. Sports Illustrated was on hand to observe those four teams and assess their outlooks for the rest of the season. This is the third version of a weekly column analyzing four college hoops topics bound by some underlying narrative thread. If there’s something you’d like to see in this space, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Connecticut

Record: 6–3
Best win: Oregon

By April, four years will have passed since UConn cut down the nets at AT&T Stadium after beating Kentucky in the national championship game. Since then, the Huskies have recorded only one NCAA tournament victory, and last season they both failed to qualify for the Big Dance and, with a 16–17 record, finished below .500 for the first time since 1986–87, Jim Calhoun’s first year as coach. UConn looks better than it did in early in 2016–17, when it opened with back-to-back home losses to Wagner and Northeastern, but a tourney bid feels like a long shot.

The Huskies’ most important nonconference event this season, the PK80, started off in promising fashion, with an eight-point win over Oregon in which UConn limited the Ducks to only 0.86 points per possession. Then things got ugly. In two subsequent games in Portland, against Michigan State and Arkansas, the Huskies were outscored 179–124, including a 102–67 beatdown at the hands of a Razorbacks team media members voted sixth in the SEC in the preseason. (Even the Oregon victory has lost some luster, with the Ducks also falling recently to Oklahoma and Boise State.)

UConn followed that up by being taken to overtime at home by low-majors Columbia and Monmouth. The Huskies will need to clean things up on both ends of the court to get themselves within shouting distance of an at-large bid, but one obvious issue is their inability to consistently score the ball at an efficient clip. The Huskies have sank only 47.3% of their two-point shots and 31% from beyond the arc, and they currently rank 260th in Division I in points scored per 100 possessions.

Tuesday night’s Old Big East tilt with Syracuse didn’t put to rest UConn’s shooting concerns. It turned the ball over on a fourth of its trips down the floor and managed only 0.93 PPP against the Orange’s zone, and it couldn’t keep them off the offensive glass: Syracuse snared 42.4% of its missed shots.

UConn will have an opportunity in late January to bolster its CV against another one of the teams that played here on Tuesday night, Villanova. The Huskies also have upcoming trips to Arizona and Auburn, plus ample chances to prove themselves in the American Athletic Conference. The addition of Wichita State will help in that regard. But a handful of other teams in the league are more compelling bets to challenge the Shockers and Cincinnati for real estate near the top of the standings, regardless of how much time redshirt freshman guard Alterique Gilbert misses with a shoulder injury. (He hasn’t appeared in UConn’s last three games.)

The Huskies’ talented perimeter corps is cause for optimism, especially sophomore Christian Vital’s early scoring uptick, as is the return of 6'8" redshirt junior forward Terry Larrier after he missed almost all of last season with a torn ACL. But getting buckets this season against the Shockers and the Bearcats, likely the two best wins available in the AAC, is going to be a chore for high-powered offenses with high-percentage interior finishers and perimeter snipers. UConn’s falls well short of that.

Gonzaga

Record: 7–2
Best win: Texas

Few elite teams were expected to suffer a larger fall from last season to this one than Gonzaga. After winning 37 games and coming up six points short against North Carolina in the program’s first national championship game, the Zags lost three of their top five scorers, including one who was named the West Coast Conference’s Player of the Year (point guard Nigel Williams-Goss) and another (center Zach Collins) who was picked in the lottery of the NBA draft last July.

Gonzaga opened the season at No. 18 in the AP Top 25 Poll, and coaches picked Saint Mary’s to win the WCC in the preseason. That may turn out to be the right choice, but the Zags look better equipped to withstand their personnel churn than it appeared before the season began. Prior to Tuesday, head coach Mark Few’s bunch had picked up wins over Ohio State, Texas and Creighton, and it gave SEC challenger Florida everything it could handle before falling by six points in double overtime.

Tuesday night’s matchup with Villanova was a step up, and Gonzaga wasn’t ready to make it. “When you schedule like this and play games like this,” Few said afterward. “I mean, you, for lack of a better term, expose your—you’re putting your team out there.” Few’s right. The loss was revealing in that it indicated the Zags probably don’t belong in the same tier as a legitimate title contender like Villanova, but they’re also unlikely to face a team this good at any point the rest of this season.

One double-digit defeat to an outfit that’s tracking toward a No. 1 seed on a not-that-neutral neutral court shouldn’t obscure how well Gonzaga has reloaded. Few has stocked his roster with talented youngsters to complement junior Josh Perkins and seniors Johnathan Williams and Silas Melson. Sophomore Killian Tillie, a 6'10" forward from Paris, has increased his scoring on a per-40-minute basis, thanks in large part to improved two-point shooting accuracy, and he’s playing about twice as much as he did last season. Tillie’s also an agile, switchable defender who can offer some rim protection. He posted a career-high 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting against Creighton last Friday. “When he’s out there, usually we flow better,” Few said of Tillie. “And good things happen.”

Freshmen Corey Kispert and Zach Norvell and sophomore Rui Hachimura are three other underclassmen who’ve solidified the Zags’ rotation during a challenging non-conference schedule. (Although Kispert, a four-star recruit from Seattle, is dealing with an ankle injury that caused him to sit out Tuesday night against the Wildcats, as well as the matchup with the Bluejays.) All told, with Gonzaga playing four freshmen or sophomores at least 18 minutes per game, it ranks 250th in Division I in Ken Pomeroy’s Experience metric.

The Zags are hitting a remarkably high percentage of their shots from inside the arc, ranking 12th nationally in 2PFG%, and Tuesday night’s 6-of-22 showing from behind it was an outlier from their otherwise high-level deep marksmanship. And Gonzaga’s defense should improve as opponents cool off from downtown. (They’ve made 39.5% of their threes against Gonzaga, with Villanova, alone, going 10-of-21 from distance.) The Zags have thrown into doubt Saint Mary’s status as the WCC frontrunner. This team almost certainly won’t make it back to the title game, but that wasn’t a realistic expectation before the season.

Syracuse

Record: 7–1
Best win: Maryland

When word dropped this summer that Taurean Thompson had withdrawn from Syracuse and was enrolling at Seton Hall, it felt like another damaging defection for a roster that couldn’t afford it, having already lost three starters from a team that failed to qualify for the NCAAs last season. After the news broke, longtime Orange reporter Mike Waters penned an article asking the question, “Is Taurean Thompson the most impactful transfer ever for Syracuse basketball?”

If he is, that hasn’t been apparent so far. Tuesday’s win moved the Orange to 7–1, and their only loss came last Saturday against Final Four threat Kansas. (Yes, the Jayhawks still deserve that description even after losing to Washington on Wednesday.) Syracuse’s non-league slate is thin on quality opponents, though it did beat Maryland at home in late November. In any case, the Orange should open ACC play in decent position to get in the conversation for an at-large bid. That didn’t seem likely before the season, when Sports Illustrated projected them as the league’s No. 9 team.

In his lone season at Syracuse, Thompson was an effective offensive rebounder and shot-blocker, but the combined efforts of freshmen Oshae Brissett, Bourama Sidibe and Marek Dolezaj, sophomore Matthew Moyer and junior Paschal Chukwu have enabled the Orange to hold up really well in both of those areas without Thompson. They’ve grabbed 42.4% of their misses to date, good for second in the country, and they’re swatting 21.6% of teams’ two-point attempts, which ranks first.

Top-level rim defense and second-chance creation will go a long way for Syracuse in the ACC, but it’s difficult to put too much faith in a team with such a shaky backcourt. The recent announcement that South Florida graduate transfer Geno Thorpe had departed the program for personal reasons leaves Syracuse with only three scholarship guards: junior Frank Howard, sophomore Tyus Battle and freshman Howard Washington, who has yet to play more than 10 minutes in a game this season.

Simply playing Washington more often would help—although he’s logged only nine minutes combined in two games since Thorpe left, including just one on Tuesday against the Huskies—and Battle, Brissett and Moyer can be moved up or down the lineup to accommodate whoever else is on the floor. Syracuse can use the five upcoming games against mostly manageable competition to sort out its perimeter rotation before beginning its conference slate with a home matchup against Virginia Tech on New Year’s Eve.

Villanova

Record: 9–0
Best win: Gonzaga

The book on the Big East is the same as it’s been since the conference morphed into its Catholic Seven plus Butler, Creighton, Xavier iteration. The Wildcats have since won four consecutive regular-season league championships and they were picked to do that again in 2017–18 in a preseason poll even though they lost three senior starters (Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds), including one who drew deserved National Player of the Year buzz and went on to become a first-round draft pick (Hart), during the offseason.

The preseason optimism on Villanova was warranted. Through nine games, point guard Jalen Brunson is scoring at a far more efficient clip than he did as a freshman and sophomore, and he’s also managed to slash his turnover rate while upping his assists on a per-40-minute basis. Brunson almost definitely won’t keep making 51.7% of his three-point shots, but while he’s not getting the same mock draft love as PGs like Alabama’s Collin Sexton, Duke’s Trevon Duval or Oklahoma’s Trae Young, it would be hard to come up with another college floor general you’d rather have running your offense right now.

Then there’s Mikal Bridges, who looks ready to play his way to a lottery selection on draft night this summer. The junior wing is shouldering a bigger offensive workload so far this season, but that hasn’t depressed his efficiency: His offensive rating is about nine points higher than it was last season, when it ranked 22nd in Division I, according to Kenpom.com. Bridges can be just as valuable on defense because of his activity as a shot-blocker/ball-stealer and ability to switch assignments.

On Tuesday, he went off for a game-high 28 points on 8-of-14 shooting, and with just over eight minutes remaining in the second half, he submitted a strong early nomination for dunk-and-swat sequence of the year. After rising for a one-handed slam over 6'11" Gonzaga redshirt freshman Jacob Larsen, Bridges scampered down the court to get in position to reject Bulldogs junior Josh Perkins’s layup attempt. “He’s playing with a lot more freedom, a lot more aggressiveness,” head coach Jay Wright said of Bridges afterward. Wright added, “He just knows it’s his turn, and he’s ready for it.”

The Wildcats don’t have a lot of size in their rotation, but with the exception of Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado, there aren’t many Big East big men capable of punishing them because of it. That said, Villanova will need Omari Spellman—who sat out last season as an academic redshirt—to supply reliable inside scoring. He’s connected on only 37.7% of his shots from two-point range and 41.4% at the rim this season, according to hoop-math.com. (Spellman has hit 45.5% of his 22 three-point attempts so far.)

There are only two teams that look like credible challengers to Villanova in the Big East: Seton Hall and Xavier. Both squads notched a pair of big-time wins in succession over the last 10 days (the Pirates over Texas Tech and Louisville, the Musketeers over Baylor and Cincinnati), while the Wildcats, through no fault of their own, didn’t come away from the Battle 4 Atlantis last month with any signature victories. Villanova got one Tuesday that will glow in March, and it still holds pole position in the chase for the conference crown.

<p><a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/27/greg-schiano-tennessee-coach-protest-penn-state" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The ReVOLution" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">The ReVOLution</a> rejected the idea of hiring a defensive coordinator from one of the nation’s best programs. Tennessee fans revolted last week—it only <em>feels</em> like a year ago—when now-former Tennessee athletic director John Currie tried to hire Ohio State’s Greg Schiano. The hire was nearly consummated, but the Volunteers ultimately backed off. On Thursday, Tennessee finally hired its coach. And the man the Vols hired was … the defensive coordinator from one of the nation’s best programs.</p><p>So why didn’t the hiring of Alabama’s Jeremy Pruitt also inspire a revolt? Two reasons. First, Tennessee fans know Pruitt is one of the best recruiters on Nick Saban’s staff, and the only way a head coach can succeed in today’s SEC is by being his program’s ace recruiter. If Pruitt can bring the kind of talent to Knoxville that he brought to Tuscaloosa, then Tennessee has a chance to compete for the titles those fans crave.</p><p>Second, those fans trust the man who made this hire to understand the job better because he held the job for 16 years. Former Vols coach Phillip Fulmer, who replaced Currie last week, put a national title trophy in the case at Tennessee and will get the benefit of the doubt because of it.</p><p>Fulmer also will get shredded if this doesn’t work. And hiring Pruitt is a risk. He has never been a head coach at any level, and it’s impossible to know how a person will handle CEO duties until he has to perform them. But unless a school is hiring Saban or Urban Meyer or Dabo Swinney, hiring a sitting head coach carries many of the same risks because each job is so different. And Fulmer made an excellent point last week in a press conference. He also hadn’t been a head coach when Tennessee put him in charge of the Vols’ program. (After a coup to unseat Johnny Majors that wasn’t dissimilar to the one that landed Fulmer in the AD chair last week.) A look at the teams in the College Football Playoff offers more positive feedback. Saban had been head coach at Toledo, Michigan State, LSU and with the Miami Dolphins before taking over Alabama, but he’s the outlier in the group. Swinney was Clemson’s receivers coach before he took over the program. Georgia’s Kirby Smart was Alabama’s defensive coordinator two years ago. Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley was the Sooners’ offensive coordinator at this time last year.</p><p>Tennessee has tried to Sabanize before with disastrous results. Derek Dooley, who worked with Saban at LSU, replaced Lane Kiffin after Kiffin left for USC in 2010 and proceeded to run Tennessee’s program into the ground before getting fired following the 2012 season. His final recruiting class, which included zero offensive linemen, is a case study in how not to stock a program. The recruiting piece is the biggest indicator that Pruitt’s hire could work. Take it from the Heisman Trophy winner that Pruitt (as Alabama’s defensive backs coach) landed just before he left Alabama to become Florida State’s defensive coordinator. </p><p>The reason it might not work is Pruitt hasn’t always been the easiest coach to work with. As Georgia’s defensive coordinator in 2014 and ’15, he clashed with more entrenched members of Mark Richt’s staff. Chemistry suffered. But Pruitt’s defenses were the best aspects of those teams, finishing 17th and 13th in yards per play allowed. Perhaps he was trying to push many of the changes that his former co-worker Smart eventually enacted when he took over for Richt. This could be a non-issue now that Pruitt will be free to staff his team with like-minded people. But it is something to watch as he enters an athletic department for which dysfunctional would be a kind description.</p><p>What makes this hire the most fascinating is that Pruitt is the first to come fully through Saban’s mega-staffing machine and emerge as a head coach. For college football fans between the ages of 30 and 40, the first exposure to Pruitt didn’t come on ESPN. It came on MTV. </p><p>In the mid-aughts, the Hoover (Ala.) High defensive coordinator was one of the stars of <em>Two-a-Days</em>, a show that probably came into being when some producer said “Why don’t we make another <em>Laguna Beach</em>, but this time set it in a wealthy southern suburb?” Pruitt didn’t know it at the time, but his life was about to change—and that change would have nothing to do with his air time on a reality show. He was about to start down a path that eventually would lead him to Knoxville as Tennessee’s new head coach.</p><p>When Nick Saban got hired at Alabama in 2007, he decided to stock the recruiting office with connected former high school coaches. These people couldn’t recruit off campus, but they could stay in touch with all their friends and get all sorts of information Alabama’s coaching staff considered valuable. One of the people Saban hired was Pruitt, who worked at a Birmingham-area power and was the son of Dale Pruitt, a longtime high school head coach in the state. The younger Pruitt, who had played at Alabama in the 1990s after transferring from Middle Tennessee State, knew everyone. He also was very close with some people Saban really liked. “I played at Alabama. My dad was an influential head coach in the state of Alabama, and I probably know a lot of the high school coaches in Alabama,” Pruitt said at the 2013 Broyles Award ceremony. “But the real the reason coach Saban gave me a job is because I had three [players] he wanted. A lot of folks say ‘How did you get picked out of all those guys?’ Josh Chapman, Kerry Murphy, Patrick Crump.”</p><p>The NCAA has since passed a rule that would keep a school from hiring a high school coach and then immediately signing his players, but that wasn’t an issue in 2007. Besides, not everyone would have taken the job Pruitt took. He was hired as the director of player development, a job that didn’t exist at most college programs. Pruitt would have been in demand for some of the best high school head-coaching jobs in the state, but he took relatively low pay for a job that included no on-field coaching.</p><p>It took three years, but he eventually parlayed that into a job coaching defensive backs at Alabama. “I was the defensive backs coach at Alabama,” Pruitt said in that Broyles Award speech. “And everybody in the country knows who the DB coach in Alabama is, and that’s Nick Saban.” But Pruitt excelled as the position coach that probably draws more scrutiny from his head coach than anyone else in America. But with Kirby Smart firmly entrenched at defensive coordinator, Pruitt would have to leave to move up. So he went to Florida State to replace Mark Stoops, who had left to become the head coach at Kentucky. The Seminoles won a national title that year, but Pruitt didn’t stick around. He was immediately off to Georgia.</p><p>As noted above, Pruitt’s time in Athens was fairly tumultuous, but the next step was fairly clear when Smart was named head coach at Georgia. Pruitt was the ideal candidate to replace him in Tuscaloosa. “There was no doubt who I was going to hire,” Saban told reporters. “Didn’t interview anybody. Didn’t talk to anybody. Just hired the guy.” Pruitt understood every cog in the machine Saban had built. The transition would be seamless. And it was. Statistically, Alabama’s defense was even better in Pruitt’s first year (four yards a play allowed) than it was in Smart’s final season (4.3 yards a play allowed). This season, the Crimson Tide lead the nation in that stat, holding steady at four yards a play.</p><p>Now we’ll learn how much Pruitt has been paying attention while working for Saban. Will he be as schematically flexible as his former boss? Another former Saban defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, torpedoed his tenure at Florida by insisting on an offensive style the players he inherited weren’t built to run and by hiring a coordinator (Charlie Weis) who also didn’t feel the need to be flexible. Muschamp has admitted this was a huge mistake, and after underachieving at Florida he’s now overachieving at South Carolina thanks to a better understanding of how to build schemes around players. Smart hired Jim Chaney at Georgia, and the offensive results weren’t promising the first season. But after shuffling the offensive line, improving the receiving corps and learning what freshman quarterback Jake Fromm does best, the results this season were much better. Chaney called his best game as a Georgia employee against an excellent Auburn defense in last weekend’s SEC title game.</p><p>Who will Pruitt hire as his offensive coordinator? We’ll find out. Will it be a buddy, or will it be someone whose schemes drove him crazy as a defensive playcaller? That’s how Bob Stoops selected Mike Leach as his offensive coordinator when he went to Oklahoma, and though Leach only stayed a year, that choice laid the foundation for an offensive philosophy that helped the Sooners win a national title and multiple Big 12 titles. That choice will be the first major challenge for Pruitt as a head coach. There will be many more, and each will be heavily scrutinized by a fan base that opted not to exercise its veto power on Pruitt. But Pruitt should understand the demands of this job. After all, he just came from one of the few places where the head coaching job is more demanding.</p>
Hiring Jeremy Pruitt Is a Risk Tennessee Is Right to Be Willing to Take

The ReVOLution rejected the idea of hiring a defensive coordinator from one of the nation’s best programs. Tennessee fans revolted last week—it only feels like a year ago—when now-former Tennessee athletic director John Currie tried to hire Ohio State’s Greg Schiano. The hire was nearly consummated, but the Volunteers ultimately backed off. On Thursday, Tennessee finally hired its coach. And the man the Vols hired was … the defensive coordinator from one of the nation’s best programs.

So why didn’t the hiring of Alabama’s Jeremy Pruitt also inspire a revolt? Two reasons. First, Tennessee fans know Pruitt is one of the best recruiters on Nick Saban’s staff, and the only way a head coach can succeed in today’s SEC is by being his program’s ace recruiter. If Pruitt can bring the kind of talent to Knoxville that he brought to Tuscaloosa, then Tennessee has a chance to compete for the titles those fans crave.

Second, those fans trust the man who made this hire to understand the job better because he held the job for 16 years. Former Vols coach Phillip Fulmer, who replaced Currie last week, put a national title trophy in the case at Tennessee and will get the benefit of the doubt because of it.

Fulmer also will get shredded if this doesn’t work. And hiring Pruitt is a risk. He has never been a head coach at any level, and it’s impossible to know how a person will handle CEO duties until he has to perform them. But unless a school is hiring Saban or Urban Meyer or Dabo Swinney, hiring a sitting head coach carries many of the same risks because each job is so different. And Fulmer made an excellent point last week in a press conference. He also hadn’t been a head coach when Tennessee put him in charge of the Vols’ program. (After a coup to unseat Johnny Majors that wasn’t dissimilar to the one that landed Fulmer in the AD chair last week.) A look at the teams in the College Football Playoff offers more positive feedback. Saban had been head coach at Toledo, Michigan State, LSU and with the Miami Dolphins before taking over Alabama, but he’s the outlier in the group. Swinney was Clemson’s receivers coach before he took over the program. Georgia’s Kirby Smart was Alabama’s defensive coordinator two years ago. Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley was the Sooners’ offensive coordinator at this time last year.

Tennessee has tried to Sabanize before with disastrous results. Derek Dooley, who worked with Saban at LSU, replaced Lane Kiffin after Kiffin left for USC in 2010 and proceeded to run Tennessee’s program into the ground before getting fired following the 2012 season. His final recruiting class, which included zero offensive linemen, is a case study in how not to stock a program. The recruiting piece is the biggest indicator that Pruitt’s hire could work. Take it from the Heisman Trophy winner that Pruitt (as Alabama’s defensive backs coach) landed just before he left Alabama to become Florida State’s defensive coordinator.

The reason it might not work is Pruitt hasn’t always been the easiest coach to work with. As Georgia’s defensive coordinator in 2014 and ’15, he clashed with more entrenched members of Mark Richt’s staff. Chemistry suffered. But Pruitt’s defenses were the best aspects of those teams, finishing 17th and 13th in yards per play allowed. Perhaps he was trying to push many of the changes that his former co-worker Smart eventually enacted when he took over for Richt. This could be a non-issue now that Pruitt will be free to staff his team with like-minded people. But it is something to watch as he enters an athletic department for which dysfunctional would be a kind description.

What makes this hire the most fascinating is that Pruitt is the first to come fully through Saban’s mega-staffing machine and emerge as a head coach. For college football fans between the ages of 30 and 40, the first exposure to Pruitt didn’t come on ESPN. It came on MTV.

In the mid-aughts, the Hoover (Ala.) High defensive coordinator was one of the stars of Two-a-Days, a show that probably came into being when some producer said “Why don’t we make another Laguna Beach, but this time set it in a wealthy southern suburb?” Pruitt didn’t know it at the time, but his life was about to change—and that change would have nothing to do with his air time on a reality show. He was about to start down a path that eventually would lead him to Knoxville as Tennessee’s new head coach.

When Nick Saban got hired at Alabama in 2007, he decided to stock the recruiting office with connected former high school coaches. These people couldn’t recruit off campus, but they could stay in touch with all their friends and get all sorts of information Alabama’s coaching staff considered valuable. One of the people Saban hired was Pruitt, who worked at a Birmingham-area power and was the son of Dale Pruitt, a longtime high school head coach in the state. The younger Pruitt, who had played at Alabama in the 1990s after transferring from Middle Tennessee State, knew everyone. He also was very close with some people Saban really liked. “I played at Alabama. My dad was an influential head coach in the state of Alabama, and I probably know a lot of the high school coaches in Alabama,” Pruitt said at the 2013 Broyles Award ceremony. “But the real the reason coach Saban gave me a job is because I had three [players] he wanted. A lot of folks say ‘How did you get picked out of all those guys?’ Josh Chapman, Kerry Murphy, Patrick Crump.”

The NCAA has since passed a rule that would keep a school from hiring a high school coach and then immediately signing his players, but that wasn’t an issue in 2007. Besides, not everyone would have taken the job Pruitt took. He was hired as the director of player development, a job that didn’t exist at most college programs. Pruitt would have been in demand for some of the best high school head-coaching jobs in the state, but he took relatively low pay for a job that included no on-field coaching.

It took three years, but he eventually parlayed that into a job coaching defensive backs at Alabama. “I was the defensive backs coach at Alabama,” Pruitt said in that Broyles Award speech. “And everybody in the country knows who the DB coach in Alabama is, and that’s Nick Saban.” But Pruitt excelled as the position coach that probably draws more scrutiny from his head coach than anyone else in America. But with Kirby Smart firmly entrenched at defensive coordinator, Pruitt would have to leave to move up. So he went to Florida State to replace Mark Stoops, who had left to become the head coach at Kentucky. The Seminoles won a national title that year, but Pruitt didn’t stick around. He was immediately off to Georgia.

As noted above, Pruitt’s time in Athens was fairly tumultuous, but the next step was fairly clear when Smart was named head coach at Georgia. Pruitt was the ideal candidate to replace him in Tuscaloosa. “There was no doubt who I was going to hire,” Saban told reporters. “Didn’t interview anybody. Didn’t talk to anybody. Just hired the guy.” Pruitt understood every cog in the machine Saban had built. The transition would be seamless. And it was. Statistically, Alabama’s defense was even better in Pruitt’s first year (four yards a play allowed) than it was in Smart’s final season (4.3 yards a play allowed). This season, the Crimson Tide lead the nation in that stat, holding steady at four yards a play.

Now we’ll learn how much Pruitt has been paying attention while working for Saban. Will he be as schematically flexible as his former boss? Another former Saban defensive coordinator, Will Muschamp, torpedoed his tenure at Florida by insisting on an offensive style the players he inherited weren’t built to run and by hiring a coordinator (Charlie Weis) who also didn’t feel the need to be flexible. Muschamp has admitted this was a huge mistake, and after underachieving at Florida he’s now overachieving at South Carolina thanks to a better understanding of how to build schemes around players. Smart hired Jim Chaney at Georgia, and the offensive results weren’t promising the first season. But after shuffling the offensive line, improving the receiving corps and learning what freshman quarterback Jake Fromm does best, the results this season were much better. Chaney called his best game as a Georgia employee against an excellent Auburn defense in last weekend’s SEC title game.

Who will Pruitt hire as his offensive coordinator? We’ll find out. Will it be a buddy, or will it be someone whose schemes drove him crazy as a defensive playcaller? That’s how Bob Stoops selected Mike Leach as his offensive coordinator when he went to Oklahoma, and though Leach only stayed a year, that choice laid the foundation for an offensive philosophy that helped the Sooners win a national title and multiple Big 12 titles. That choice will be the first major challenge for Pruitt as a head coach. There will be many more, and each will be heavily scrutinized by a fan base that opted not to exercise its veto power on Pruitt. But Pruitt should understand the demands of this job. After all, he just came from one of the few places where the head coaching job is more demanding.

<p>We’re trying something different this week. Actually, it’s something familiar. Something tried and true. For this week—and hopefully for every #DearAndy column from this point forward—we’re ditching the video answers in favor of an all-print edition. If you like or dislike it, <a href="https://twitter.com/andy_staples" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:hit me up on Twitter" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">hit me up on Twitter</a> and let me know.</p><p>On to your questions…</p><p><strong><a href="https://twitter.com/omgitsfeely/status/938164296864985088" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:From Tom:" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">From Tom:</a> Wasn’t Willie Taggart about to get fired halfway through the 2015 season? Are we sure he’s that great?</strong></p><p>He absolutely was about to get fired halfway through the 2015 season. But where you see that as a red flag, I see his solution to that issue as the reason he has a chance to succeed long-term at Florida State. Let’s travel back two years to a time when Justin Bieber wanted clarification regarding <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DK_0jXPuIr0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:what precisely we meant" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">what precisely we meant</a>…</p><p>After taking over a moribund USF program and going 2–10 his first season and 4–8 in his second, Taggart realized he didn’t have the kind of linemen (big and athletic; basically, NFL prospects) he needed to run the West Coast offense that longtime mentor Jim Harbaugh runs. The system had worked at Western Kentucky, but the run-game-in-a-phone-booth-to-set-up-the-play-action-pass model doesn’t work when you get whipped up front. So before the 2015 season, Taggart tweaked the offense. He put his quarterback in the shotgun and moved his receivers out wider. Not wide like Ohio State—which is kind of wide—but nuclear wide, like Baylor at the time. This forced defenses to declare whether they were going to bring their safeties up in run support or leave them deep to deal with downfield shots.</p><p>The scheme had a great name (the Gulf Coast Offense), but for the first few games that year, it did not work very well. This wasn’t because it was a bad offense but because the Bulls hadn’t mastered it yet. The Bulls broke through against Syracuse in game five, averaging 7.8 yards a play in a 45–24 win. Including that game, USF won 17 of the final 21 games Taggart coached there.</p><p>This offensive shift did indeed save Taggart’s job, and it also suggests he’s the type of coach who can succeed at a premium program like Florida State. I’ve told the story before of Urban Meyer and his staff junking most of their offense and creating a rudimentary scheme their inherited players could run midway through their first season at Florida in 2005. I’ve written many times about <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2016/11/03/how-nick-saban-turned-alabama-sleeker-faster-juggernaut" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Nick Saban’s schematic flexibility" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Nick Saban’s schematic flexibility</a>. The best coaches are the ones who can adjust when what they do either stops working or seems headed for a dip because of changes in the game. Taggart has that gene. You can <a href="http://registerguard.com/rg/sports/36222454-81/taggart-struggles-with-truth.html.csp" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:criticize him all you want for the way he handled his exit from Oregon" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">criticize him all you want for the way he handled his exit from Oregon</a>, but the change he made at USF is definitely a positive.</p><p>The question now is whether Taggart will drift back toward the more pure version of the offense he learned from the Harbaughs. He can now recruit NFL-bound offensive linemen. He’ll have the manpower to run whatever he wants. But now that he’s seen what the Gulf Coast Offense could do at USF and at Oregon, perhaps he’ll marry the best of both schemes and build around the athletes he can now recruit in Tallahassee.</p><p><strong><a href="https://twitter.com/talljay1994/status/938163078734204928" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:From Jason:" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">From Jason:</a> With all the coaching turnover, who in your opinion are the blue blood programs that can compete for national championships? Who can recruit at that level?</strong></p><p>Bud Elliott at SBNation does a great job every year of determining which programs—based on their recent recruiting—actually have a chance to win the national title in a given year. <a href="https://www.sbnation.com/a/cfb-preview-2017/blue-chip-ratio" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Here’s the Blue Chip Ratio column he wrote before the 2017 season." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Here’s the Blue Chip Ratio column he wrote before the 2017 season.</a> As you can see, three of the four playoff teams are among the 10 he identified. If Oklahoma were to win the national title, it would mark the first time the Blue Chip Ratio has been wrong. </p><p>But the Blue Chip Ratio only measures the programs that <em>are </em>recruiting well enough to win the national title. It doesn’t account for the programs that <em>should</em> be able to recruit that well. Here’s the list of the programs that should be able to recruit the kind of talent that wins national titles. Being left off the list doesn’t mean a program can’t build up to a great team capable of winning a title every few years. Nor does being on the list guarantee any kind of titles (as you’ll see based on recent seasons). This is just a list of the programs that have the natural recruiting base and the resources to recruit effectively every year. Whether they actually do it is up to their individual coaching staffs.</p><h3>ACC</h3><p>Clemson<br>Florida State<br>Miami</p><h3>Big Ten</h3><p>Michigan<br>Ohio State<br>Penn State</p><h3>Big 12</h3><p>Oklahoma<br>Texas</p><h3>Pac-12</h3><p>USC</p><h3>SEC</h3><p>Alabama<br>Auburn<br>Georgia<br>LSU<br>Florida<br>Texas A&#38;M</p><h3>Independent</h3><p>Notre Dame</p><p><strong><a href="https://twitter.com/bigwillsd/status/938187048044830720" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:From Will:" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">From Will:</a> Andy, who wins more games in the next four years: FSU or Texas A&#38;M?</strong></p><p>I’m assuming Nick Saban will continue to work for at least some of next four years, so that tilts the odds in favor of Taggart’s team over the team now led by former Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher. Making matters even tougher for Fisher, he has to play Clemson in each of his first two seasons. Florida State has to play the Tigers every year, of course, but the Seminoles’ game this past September against Alabama was a one-off affair. The equivalent to Texas A&#38;M’s challenge would be Florida State having to play Alabama each of the next two years.</p><p>Plus, Auburn looks poised to stay near the top of the SEC West, and LSU could be better than the 9–3 team it was this year if it can develop a quarterback. The ACC Atlantic is about to lose Lamar Jackson at Louisville and a ton of talent from NC State’s best team in years. The thing that could hamper Taggart in this race is if Dan Mullen rebuilds Florida quickly. That could produce a blockbuster game at the end of each year that might dent Taggart’s win total.</p><p>Now, if Saban retires at any point, feel free to ask this question again.</p><p><strong><a href="https://twitter.com/nolanolegal/status/938161116626276352" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:From Cait:" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">From Cait:</a> Andy, who lasts longer in their new job: Heupel, Mullen, or Taggart?</strong></p><p>Josh Heupel at UCF seems most likely to have the shortest tenure, simply because of where that job sits in the hierarchy. If he does well, he’ll get snapped up by a Power 5 program. If he performs poorly, UCF would move on quickly because its recruiting base allows it to bounce back from a bad hire quickly. There is very little middle ground with that job.</p><p>As for Mullen versus Taggart, both are going to have to win a lot to stay. Florida seems to chew up its coaches faster than Florida State, but that sample might be biased by the fact that Florida State replaced an all-time great coach (Bobby Bowden) with a guy who might someday be considered an all-time great coach (Fisher). Mullen and Taggart feel pretty even here, but I’m going to lean toward Taggart because the Seminoles just seem a little better at continuity.</p><p><strong><a href="https://twitter.com/belkbowl/status/938162324107644930" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:From @BelkBowl:" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">From @BelkBowl:</a> Why is the Belk Bowl the best bowl? <a href="https://protect-us.mimecast.com/s/GWRWBriaWRAWsL?domain=twitter.com" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:#DearAndy" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">#DearAndy</a></strong></p><p>Because out of all the bowl sponsors, Belk is the only one that always fills my seersucker needs. I live in an extremely hot climate and have very large thighs. This creates the occasional flammable situation, and sometimes I find myself in desperate need of more seersucker pants at a reasonable price. Belk is always there for me.</p><p><strong><a href="https://twitter.com/bmtmike/status/938174892251537409" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:From Michael:" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">From Michael:</a> First trip to Nashville, where do I go for hot chicken? Any other must-have foods?</strong></p><p>Glad you asked, Michael. Here are my <a href="https://www.si.com/eats/video/2017/07/18/andy-staples-hot-chicken-power-rankings" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hot Chicken Power Rankings" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hot Chicken Power Rankings</a>. And here is my <a href="https://www.si.com/eats/2017/07/18/best-restaurants-bars-nashville-recommendations-food-drinks" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:guide to eating and drinking in Nashville" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">guide to eating and drinking in Nashville</a>.</p>
How Much of a Sure Thing Is Willie Taggart's Success at Florida State?

We’re trying something different this week. Actually, it’s something familiar. Something tried and true. For this week—and hopefully for every #DearAndy column from this point forward—we’re ditching the video answers in favor of an all-print edition. If you like or dislike it, hit me up on Twitter and let me know.

On to your questions…

From Tom: Wasn’t Willie Taggart about to get fired halfway through the 2015 season? Are we sure he’s that great?

He absolutely was about to get fired halfway through the 2015 season. But where you see that as a red flag, I see his solution to that issue as the reason he has a chance to succeed long-term at Florida State. Let’s travel back two years to a time when Justin Bieber wanted clarification regarding what precisely we meant

After taking over a moribund USF program and going 2–10 his first season and 4–8 in his second, Taggart realized he didn’t have the kind of linemen (big and athletic; basically, NFL prospects) he needed to run the West Coast offense that longtime mentor Jim Harbaugh runs. The system had worked at Western Kentucky, but the run-game-in-a-phone-booth-to-set-up-the-play-action-pass model doesn’t work when you get whipped up front. So before the 2015 season, Taggart tweaked the offense. He put his quarterback in the shotgun and moved his receivers out wider. Not wide like Ohio State—which is kind of wide—but nuclear wide, like Baylor at the time. This forced defenses to declare whether they were going to bring their safeties up in run support or leave them deep to deal with downfield shots.

The scheme had a great name (the Gulf Coast Offense), but for the first few games that year, it did not work very well. This wasn’t because it was a bad offense but because the Bulls hadn’t mastered it yet. The Bulls broke through against Syracuse in game five, averaging 7.8 yards a play in a 45–24 win. Including that game, USF won 17 of the final 21 games Taggart coached there.

This offensive shift did indeed save Taggart’s job, and it also suggests he’s the type of coach who can succeed at a premium program like Florida State. I’ve told the story before of Urban Meyer and his staff junking most of their offense and creating a rudimentary scheme their inherited players could run midway through their first season at Florida in 2005. I’ve written many times about Nick Saban’s schematic flexibility. The best coaches are the ones who can adjust when what they do either stops working or seems headed for a dip because of changes in the game. Taggart has that gene. You can criticize him all you want for the way he handled his exit from Oregon, but the change he made at USF is definitely a positive.

The question now is whether Taggart will drift back toward the more pure version of the offense he learned from the Harbaughs. He can now recruit NFL-bound offensive linemen. He’ll have the manpower to run whatever he wants. But now that he’s seen what the Gulf Coast Offense could do at USF and at Oregon, perhaps he’ll marry the best of both schemes and build around the athletes he can now recruit in Tallahassee.

From Jason: With all the coaching turnover, who in your opinion are the blue blood programs that can compete for national championships? Who can recruit at that level?

Bud Elliott at SBNation does a great job every year of determining which programs—based on their recent recruiting—actually have a chance to win the national title in a given year. Here’s the Blue Chip Ratio column he wrote before the 2017 season. As you can see, three of the four playoff teams are among the 10 he identified. If Oklahoma were to win the national title, it would mark the first time the Blue Chip Ratio has been wrong.

But the Blue Chip Ratio only measures the programs that are recruiting well enough to win the national title. It doesn’t account for the programs that should be able to recruit that well. Here’s the list of the programs that should be able to recruit the kind of talent that wins national titles. Being left off the list doesn’t mean a program can’t build up to a great team capable of winning a title every few years. Nor does being on the list guarantee any kind of titles (as you’ll see based on recent seasons). This is just a list of the programs that have the natural recruiting base and the resources to recruit effectively every year. Whether they actually do it is up to their individual coaching staffs.

ACC

Clemson
Florida State
Miami

Big Ten

Michigan
Ohio State
Penn State

Big 12

Oklahoma
Texas

Pac-12

USC

SEC

Alabama
Auburn
Georgia
LSU
Florida
Texas A&M

Independent

Notre Dame

From Will: Andy, who wins more games in the next four years: FSU or Texas A&M?

I’m assuming Nick Saban will continue to work for at least some of next four years, so that tilts the odds in favor of Taggart’s team over the team now led by former Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher. Making matters even tougher for Fisher, he has to play Clemson in each of his first two seasons. Florida State has to play the Tigers every year, of course, but the Seminoles’ game this past September against Alabama was a one-off affair. The equivalent to Texas A&M’s challenge would be Florida State having to play Alabama each of the next two years.

Plus, Auburn looks poised to stay near the top of the SEC West, and LSU could be better than the 9–3 team it was this year if it can develop a quarterback. The ACC Atlantic is about to lose Lamar Jackson at Louisville and a ton of talent from NC State’s best team in years. The thing that could hamper Taggart in this race is if Dan Mullen rebuilds Florida quickly. That could produce a blockbuster game at the end of each year that might dent Taggart’s win total.

Now, if Saban retires at any point, feel free to ask this question again.

From Cait: Andy, who lasts longer in their new job: Heupel, Mullen, or Taggart?

Josh Heupel at UCF seems most likely to have the shortest tenure, simply because of where that job sits in the hierarchy. If he does well, he’ll get snapped up by a Power 5 program. If he performs poorly, UCF would move on quickly because its recruiting base allows it to bounce back from a bad hire quickly. There is very little middle ground with that job.

As for Mullen versus Taggart, both are going to have to win a lot to stay. Florida seems to chew up its coaches faster than Florida State, but that sample might be biased by the fact that Florida State replaced an all-time great coach (Bobby Bowden) with a guy who might someday be considered an all-time great coach (Fisher). Mullen and Taggart feel pretty even here, but I’m going to lean toward Taggart because the Seminoles just seem a little better at continuity.

From @BelkBowl: Why is the Belk Bowl the best bowl? #DearAndy

Because out of all the bowl sponsors, Belk is the only one that always fills my seersucker needs. I live in an extremely hot climate and have very large thighs. This creates the occasional flammable situation, and sometimes I find myself in desperate need of more seersucker pants at a reasonable price. Belk is always there for me.

From Michael: First trip to Nashville, where do I go for hot chicken? Any other must-have foods?

Glad you asked, Michael. Here are my Hot Chicken Power Rankings. And here is my guide to eating and drinking in Nashville.

<p>The networks that own the rights to the bowl slate arrange everything so that if you wanted to, you could take in a significant chunk of all 40 games of the FBS postseason, a three-week-long binge to close out a satisfying season. But if we’re being realistic, things come up. Holiday traditions get in the way of the Holiday Bowl. The cheapest flights home happen to overlap with the first three quarters of the Boca Raton Bowl (this specific scenario hits particularly close to home). Sacrifices must be made, and accordingly, priorities must be set.</p><p>To help you make those tough choices, we’re counting down 2017’s 37 bowl games outside the College Football Playoff, from the least watchable matchups to the can’t-miss events. The criteria used to sift through the clutter, in no particular order: the potential for offensive fireworks, any intriguing contrast in schematic styles, the presence of a superstar player or future first-round draft pick, the prestige of the bowl game and/or venue itself, the TV time slot and the quality of the teams involved.</p><p>If you weren’t already planning to watch the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the national title game, these rankings aren’t for you, so for the sake of suspense at the top of the list we’ve left out the three games with national title implications. (But for the record, Georgia-Oklahoma just barely edges out Alabama-Clemson as the postseason’s most entertaining bowl due to the unique matchup and offensive contrast.)</p><h3>37. Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Florida State</h3><p>After Jimbo Fisher’s messy exit, the Seminoles might be regretting the lengths they went to just to get to six wins and extend their record bowl streak to 36 years, rescheduling a game against Louisiana-Monroe that was cancelled by Hurricane Irma to avoid a 5–6 finish. Now they’ll travel to Shreveport for a matchup with a decidedly middle-tier Conference USA foe in the middle of a weekday afternoon two days after Christmas.</p><h3>36. Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State</h3><p>These aren’t quite the same high-flying Hilltoppers we’ve seen in years past: Western Kentucky only topped 40 points twice all season, in part because senior quarterback Mike White was sacked a stunning 38 times. At least the Panthers will want to be in Orlando, making the program’s second bowl appearance ever.</p><h3>35. Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa vs. Boston College</h3><p>Boston College’s stretch-run offensive explosion (36 points per game in the second half of the regular season) still feels too good to be true, and a meeting with the Hawkeyes—traditionally a stylistic kindred spirit—inside a baseball stadium should remind the Eagles of the first-to-14-points thrillers from whence they came.</p><h3>34. Gasparilla Bowl: Temple vs. Florida International</h3><p>Another baseball stadium bowl venue, and this one (Tropicana Field) is barely accepted as a suitable place to play baseball. When Bad Boy Mowers famously signed on for the St. Petersburg Bowl’s flashy rebrand, it had to have been hoping for a little better luck than this. This game should at least shine some light on Butch Davis’s impressive one-year turnaround at FIU, which has been completely overshadowed by Lane Kiffin’s impressive one-year turnaround at FAU.</p><h3>33. Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State</h3><p>Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill bought $10,000 worth of tickets to incentivize students to make the trip to Montgomery—the Blue Raiders were sent to Hawaii and the Bahamas the last two postseasons, but their lackluster 6–6 finish kept them a little closer to home. Keep an eye on Red Wolves sack master Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, and make sure you watch the postgame press conference to see if head coach Blake Anderson sends any more digs Arkansas’s way.</p><h3>32. Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. SMU</h3><p>This might be your last chance to see Courtland Sutton in an SMU uniform: The 6&#39;4&quot; junior receiver has the NFL’s attention after a few eye-popping campaigns within head coach Chad Morris’s breakneck-fast offense. But Morris couldn’t make it to this game before being hired by Arkansas.</p><h3>31. Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs. Utah State</h3><p>This year’s Just Happy to Be Here winner in a landslide is New Mexico State, which last went to a bowl in 1960. Emotions were high after the Aggies clinched their sixth win on Saturday, so expect an atypically charged atmosphere in Tucson.</p><h3>30. Sun Bowl: NC State vs. Arizona State</h3><p>The Sun Devils’ final game before the official start of <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/04/best-moments-herm-edwards-arizona-state-introductory-press-conference" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the Herm Edwards era" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the Herm Edwards era</a> comes against an NC State team that has beaten just three teams that finished with winning records this year. The Wolfpack faithful thought this season might end somewhere a little closer to the beach than El Paso, but they have several young receivers to be excited about. Sophomores Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers and do-everything weapon Jaylen Samuels could rip off some big plays against Arizona State’s suspect defense.</p><h3>29. Military Bowl: Virginia vs. Navy</h3><p>Given the recent heights Navy has reached, this counts as a down year, but the Midshipmen should pose an interesting challenge for the Cavaliers, whose only win in their final six games came over another triple-option team, Georgia Tech.</p><h3>28. Quick Lane Bowl: Duke vs. Northern Illinois</h3><p>Northern Illinois is 0–4 in bowl games under Rod Carey; Duke got its first postseason win in half a century two years ago at the Pinstripe Bowl. Nobody will be in their element. On a fast track at Ford Field, look out for Blue Devils leading receiver T.J. Rahming, whose one touchdown this season belies his quick-twitch athleticism.</p><h3>27. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan v. Wyoming</h3><p>NFL draft darling Josh Allen hurt his throwing shoulder in mid-November but is expected to be good to go by the time Wyoming gets to Boise. If the Cowboys’ free-slinging quarterback can’t play, drop this matchup down 10 slots.</p><h3>26. Belk Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&#38;M</h3><p>The Aggies are playing out the string in between Kevin Sumlin and Jimbo Fisher, while Greg Dortch, the star of Wake Forest’s upstart passing attack with nine catches this year, was lost for the season with an abdominal injury. His absence won’t stop Demon Deacons QB John Wolford from chucking it around the yard in his final game, but there may not be enough on the line for this to devolve into a back-and-forth shootout.</p><h3>25. Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. Northwestern</h3><p>One Wildcats team is a lot hotter than the other: Northwestern has won seven straight, while Kentucky has lost three of four. Both teams would prefer to do most of their work on the ground, which may limit the scoring potential but should wrap up with plenty of time for fans to switch gears before the No. 1 game on this list (stay tuned).</p><h3>24. Orange Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Miami</h3><p>It’s the Turnover Chain vs. the nation’s top defense by yards allowed per game, which could mean a long night for quarterbacks Malik Rosier and Alex Hornibrook. The losers of Saturday’s two primetime Power 5 conference championship games square off in Miami’s home stadium with considerably lower stakes than they had hoped for, taking the edge off the lowest New Year’s Six matchup on our rankings. You’ll be able to tell how much juice the Hurricanes’ breakout season has left by whether Miami fans are out-attended by the well-traveled Badger faithful.</p><h3>23. New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State</h3><p>A game can only drop so far in these rankings if it features a receiver with a very real chance at going for 200-plus yards, and Colorado State senior Michael Gallup is just that kind of player—he did it twice in the regular season.</p><h3>22. Hawai’i Bowl: Fresno State vs. Houston</h3><p>Ed Oliver’s disruptive dominance in the middle of the line is the gift that keeps on giving for those who have stuck with Houston games even after Tom Herman jumped to Texas. After playing Washington and Alabama in back-to-back weeks in December, Jeff Tedford’s Fresno State team has earned itself a Christmas Eve in Hawaii.</p><h3>21. Cactus Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA</h3><p>This figures to be Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen’s final collegiate game before the NFL comes calling. Scouts will be watching Kansas State junior corner D.J. Reed closely, as well. There’s some sneaky shootout potential here, as the Wildcats spent half the season scoring at will and the other half searching for stability at quarterback. Will freshman Skylar Thompson’s tenure as the starter outlast Bill Snyder’s coaching career?</p><h3>20. Holiday Bowl: Washington State vs. Michigan State</h3><p>On paper, it seems like these two teams might present a refreshing contrast of styles and strengths, but Cougars QB Luke Falk was terrible in last year’s bowl game and the Spartans are unlikely to get the benefit of bad weather in San Diego, so neither team seems set up to play its best. Plus, after this matchup was announced, the Spartans and their fans promptly made it known they’d rather be in Tampa for the Outback Bowl.</p><h3>19. Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs. Ohio</h3><p>UAB deserves a trip to the Bahamas to cap its first season back after the miraculous resurrection of its football program, and although Ohio played its way out of a shot at the MAC title with a puzzling late-season loss to Akron, the Blazers get a quality opponent to measure themselves against.</p><h3>18. Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon</h3><p>This was higher before Oregon head coach Willie Taggart bolted for Florida State, but it should still provide a decent glimpse at what the Ducks might look like next year with a healthy Justin Herbert at the helm of the offense. The Mountain West champs suffered two embarrassing losses to Power 5 opponents (one in triple-overtime, one by a wider margin than the Broncos had allowed at home in over a decade) and should have a little something extra to prove.</p><h3>17. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah vs. West Virginia</h3><p>The Utes may be 6–6, but they kept the Pac-12’s four best teams all within a possession. The Mountaineers may be 7–5, but they put a scare into almost everyone except Oklahoma. This game has the Boxing Day afternoon window all to itself, and there should be enough offensive fireworks here not to spoil it.</p><h3>16. Camping World Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State</h3><p>The Cowboys are one of the most fun teams in the country to watch when their offense is clicking, but that fun can burn out quickly if it becomes apparent the opponent has no chance of scoring with them. Virginia Tech’s last game was a 10–0 slog of a win over Virginia. This was a risky yet undeniably intriguing pairing.</p><h3>15. New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. North Texas</h3><p>The first game of the FBS bowl slate pits the Sun Belt champs against the Conference USA runners-up in the Superdome. Will Troy’s Neal Brown or North Texas’s Seth Littrell get the call to coach a Power 5 program first? And will Trojans running back Jordan Chunn, who put up 190 yards on LSU’s defense, return to form once he crosses back over the Louisiana state line?</p><h3>14. Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic</h3><p>With a prime-time national audience to himself, Lane Kiffin is going to try to get everyone’s attention one way or another. The clearest path to that goal seems like it will be dropping 60 on the Zips, who can’t hang with FAU’s lethal offense. Owls running back Devin Singletary is 204 rushing yards away from 2,000 on the season, and Akron is 99th in the country in rushing yards allowed per game (197.2). Just keep an eye on it.</p><h3>13. Citrus Bowl: Notre Dame vs. LSU</h3><p>It’s a New Year’s Day bowl, sure, but one between two teams everybody seems to have pretty much figured out by this point. If Josh Adams and Derrius Guice don’t get going (or skip the game altogether) against two solid run defenses, this could turn into a slog.</p><h3>12. Alamo Bowl: Stanford vs. TCU</h3><p>The mysteries of bowl season: Why do the Pac-12’s two top games outside the New Year’s Six kick off at the same time (9 p.m. ET) on the same day (Dec. 28) on different channels (FS1 for the Holiday Bowl, ESPN for the Alamo)? If the conference is making you choose between two top teams, choose the Cardinal as Bryce Love tries to burn Gary Patterson’s defense.</p><h3>11. Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs. Army</h3><p>With the No. 1 (Army) and No. 12 (SDSU) rushing offenses in the country on hand, this one might get wrapped up in under three hours. The stars of those ground games are both seniors trying to go out in style: Black Knights quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (1,472 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Aztecs running back Rashaad Penny (2,027 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns) have toiled in relative obscurity for too long.</p><h3>10. Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona vs. Purdue</h3><p>Two of the season’s great underdog stories meet in Santa Clara, as electrifying quarterback Khalil Tate and Arizona take on coach Jeff Brohm’s turnaround-in-progress at Purdue. Tate is a house call waiting to happen every time he touches the ball, and the Boilermakers have no shortage of offensive tricks up their sleeve.</p><h3>9. TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville vs. Mississippi State</h3><p>We were robbed of a dual-threat QB duel between Lamar Jackson and Nick Fitzgerald when Fitzgerald suffered a season-ending injury in the Egg Bowl, and then we were robbed of the Todd Grantham Bowl between the fiery defensive coordinator’s past and present employer when Grantham followed Dan Mullen to Florida. It’s a testament to Jackson’s entertainment value that this remains a top-10 game. Enjoy him at his peak while you still can.</p><h3>8. Fiesta Bowl: Washington vs. Penn State</h3><p>Saquon Barkley has committed to playing in this game before hopping to the draft, and NFL executives everywhere will be wincing at each hit he takes from Washington’s punishing defense. Under-the-radar matchup to watch: Penn State’s 21st-ranked punt coverage team (just 73 return yards allowed all year) against Dante Pettis, the all-time leader with nine career punt return TDs, including four this season.</p><h3>7. Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. South Florida</h3><p>Points ... points everywhere. This game might take five hours, and nobody will care. Head coaches Kliff Kingsbury and Charlie Strong are more than acquainted with each other from Strong’s time at Texas, as well.</p><h3>6. Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Toledo</h3><p>Just as was the case in the New Orleans Bowl above, both head coaches are on the way up. Scott Satterfield ushered Appalachian State into FBS play, and Jason Candle’s Rockets just wrapped up a dominant MAC campaign. Make some time for two of the most underrated teams in the Group of Five.</p><h3>5. Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Missouri</h3><p>Missouri started out the season 1–5 and then won six straight, scoring a ton of points and unleashing the full potential of quarterback Drew Lock in the process. A handful of Texas defenders are already skipping this game to prepare for the NFL, so Longhorns QB Sam Ehlinger should be asked to cut it loose in response. The result should be consequence-free offensive football.</p><h3>4. Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. South Carolina</h3><p>It’s been five long years since The Hit. The game itself is worth watching to see whether Gamecocks QB Jake Bentley can find a way through the Wolverines’ stout defense after South Carolina fired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, but we’re all just looking for excuses to watch The Hit again, and the telecast is sure to oblige.</p><h3>3. Peach Bowl: UCF vs. Auburn</h3><p>UCF coach Scott Frost’s decision to come back from his new job at Nebraska to coach the bowl game has raised the intrigue of this one considerably. As the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six rep, the Knights were destined to draw a top-10 team in a no-win situation, and that certainly applies to Auburn, which may still be emotionally deflated (if not still physically depleted) from its SEC title game loss. A win here would put UCF’s perfect season near the very top of college football’s pact two decades of underdog stories.</p><h3>2. Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. Memphis</h3><p>It seems like these teams were involved in a disproportionate number of the season’s most exciting games: Iowa State with its upset of Oklahoma and last-second losses to Oklahoma State and Iowa, Memphis with its shootout win over UCLA and double-overtime loss to UCF. Both programs also recently locked in their rising coaches with new deals, meaning no one will be caught looking towards 2018. And Iowa State’s Allen Lazard and Memphis’s Anthony Miller are two of the best receivers in the country, full stop.</p><h3>1. Cotton Bowl: USC vs. Ohio State</h3><p>Who will respond better to the committee’s controversial playoff snub? The Buckeyes would like nothing more than to finish ahead of Alabama in the final rankings, while USC just wrapped a whisper-quiet 11-win season without hardly any of the fanfare that normally hijacks Trojans runs. Sam Darnold and J.T. Barrett are set up to wage an imperfect yet enthralling quarterback duel, and both teams are loaded at the skill positions. Clear your Friday night now for Dec. 29—given the deep lineup over the next three weeks, rescheduling any plans last-minute won’t be easy.</p>
Bowl Entertainment Rankings: From Can't-Miss Matchups to Uninspiring Undercards

The networks that own the rights to the bowl slate arrange everything so that if you wanted to, you could take in a significant chunk of all 40 games of the FBS postseason, a three-week-long binge to close out a satisfying season. But if we’re being realistic, things come up. Holiday traditions get in the way of the Holiday Bowl. The cheapest flights home happen to overlap with the first three quarters of the Boca Raton Bowl (this specific scenario hits particularly close to home). Sacrifices must be made, and accordingly, priorities must be set.

To help you make those tough choices, we’re counting down 2017’s 37 bowl games outside the College Football Playoff, from the least watchable matchups to the can’t-miss events. The criteria used to sift through the clutter, in no particular order: the potential for offensive fireworks, any intriguing contrast in schematic styles, the presence of a superstar player or future first-round draft pick, the prestige of the bowl game and/or venue itself, the TV time slot and the quality of the teams involved.

If you weren’t already planning to watch the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and the national title game, these rankings aren’t for you, so for the sake of suspense at the top of the list we’ve left out the three games with national title implications. (But for the record, Georgia-Oklahoma just barely edges out Alabama-Clemson as the postseason’s most entertaining bowl due to the unique matchup and offensive contrast.)

37. Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Florida State

After Jimbo Fisher’s messy exit, the Seminoles might be regretting the lengths they went to just to get to six wins and extend their record bowl streak to 36 years, rescheduling a game against Louisiana-Monroe that was cancelled by Hurricane Irma to avoid a 5–6 finish. Now they’ll travel to Shreveport for a matchup with a decidedly middle-tier Conference USA foe in the middle of a weekday afternoon two days after Christmas.

36. Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Georgia State

These aren’t quite the same high-flying Hilltoppers we’ve seen in years past: Western Kentucky only topped 40 points twice all season, in part because senior quarterback Mike White was sacked a stunning 38 times. At least the Panthers will want to be in Orlando, making the program’s second bowl appearance ever.

35. Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa vs. Boston College

Boston College’s stretch-run offensive explosion (36 points per game in the second half of the regular season) still feels too good to be true, and a meeting with the Hawkeyes—traditionally a stylistic kindred spirit—inside a baseball stadium should remind the Eagles of the first-to-14-points thrillers from whence they came.

34. Gasparilla Bowl: Temple vs. Florida International

Another baseball stadium bowl venue, and this one (Tropicana Field) is barely accepted as a suitable place to play baseball. When Bad Boy Mowers famously signed on for the St. Petersburg Bowl’s flashy rebrand, it had to have been hoping for a little better luck than this. This game should at least shine some light on Butch Davis’s impressive one-year turnaround at FIU, which has been completely overshadowed by Lane Kiffin’s impressive one-year turnaround at FAU.

33. Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State

Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill bought $10,000 worth of tickets to incentivize students to make the trip to Montgomery—the Blue Raiders were sent to Hawaii and the Bahamas the last two postseasons, but their lackluster 6–6 finish kept them a little closer to home. Keep an eye on Red Wolves sack master Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, and make sure you watch the postgame press conference to see if head coach Blake Anderson sends any more digs Arkansas’s way.

32. Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. SMU

This might be your last chance to see Courtland Sutton in an SMU uniform: The 6'4" junior receiver has the NFL’s attention after a few eye-popping campaigns within head coach Chad Morris’s breakneck-fast offense. But Morris couldn’t make it to this game before being hired by Arkansas.

31. Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs. Utah State

This year’s Just Happy to Be Here winner in a landslide is New Mexico State, which last went to a bowl in 1960. Emotions were high after the Aggies clinched their sixth win on Saturday, so expect an atypically charged atmosphere in Tucson.

30. Sun Bowl: NC State vs. Arizona State

The Sun Devils’ final game before the official start of the Herm Edwards era comes against an NC State team that has beaten just three teams that finished with winning records this year. The Wolfpack faithful thought this season might end somewhere a little closer to the beach than El Paso, but they have several young receivers to be excited about. Sophomores Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers and do-everything weapon Jaylen Samuels could rip off some big plays against Arizona State’s suspect defense.

29. Military Bowl: Virginia vs. Navy

Given the recent heights Navy has reached, this counts as a down year, but the Midshipmen should pose an interesting challenge for the Cavaliers, whose only win in their final six games came over another triple-option team, Georgia Tech.

28. Quick Lane Bowl: Duke vs. Northern Illinois

Northern Illinois is 0–4 in bowl games under Rod Carey; Duke got its first postseason win in half a century two years ago at the Pinstripe Bowl. Nobody will be in their element. On a fast track at Ford Field, look out for Blue Devils leading receiver T.J. Rahming, whose one touchdown this season belies his quick-twitch athleticism.

27. Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan v. Wyoming

NFL draft darling Josh Allen hurt his throwing shoulder in mid-November but is expected to be good to go by the time Wyoming gets to Boise. If the Cowboys’ free-slinging quarterback can’t play, drop this matchup down 10 slots.

26. Belk Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Texas A&M

The Aggies are playing out the string in between Kevin Sumlin and Jimbo Fisher, while Greg Dortch, the star of Wake Forest’s upstart passing attack with nine catches this year, was lost for the season with an abdominal injury. His absence won’t stop Demon Deacons QB John Wolford from chucking it around the yard in his final game, but there may not be enough on the line for this to devolve into a back-and-forth shootout.

25. Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. Northwestern

One Wildcats team is a lot hotter than the other: Northwestern has won seven straight, while Kentucky has lost three of four. Both teams would prefer to do most of their work on the ground, which may limit the scoring potential but should wrap up with plenty of time for fans to switch gears before the No. 1 game on this list (stay tuned).

24. Orange Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Miami

It’s the Turnover Chain vs. the nation’s top defense by yards allowed per game, which could mean a long night for quarterbacks Malik Rosier and Alex Hornibrook. The losers of Saturday’s two primetime Power 5 conference championship games square off in Miami’s home stadium with considerably lower stakes than they had hoped for, taking the edge off the lowest New Year’s Six matchup on our rankings. You’ll be able to tell how much juice the Hurricanes’ breakout season has left by whether Miami fans are out-attended by the well-traveled Badger faithful.

23. New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State

A game can only drop so far in these rankings if it features a receiver with a very real chance at going for 200-plus yards, and Colorado State senior Michael Gallup is just that kind of player—he did it twice in the regular season.

22. Hawai’i Bowl: Fresno State vs. Houston

Ed Oliver’s disruptive dominance in the middle of the line is the gift that keeps on giving for those who have stuck with Houston games even after Tom Herman jumped to Texas. After playing Washington and Alabama in back-to-back weeks in December, Jeff Tedford’s Fresno State team has earned itself a Christmas Eve in Hawaii.

21. Cactus Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA

This figures to be Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen’s final collegiate game before the NFL comes calling. Scouts will be watching Kansas State junior corner D.J. Reed closely, as well. There’s some sneaky shootout potential here, as the Wildcats spent half the season scoring at will and the other half searching for stability at quarterback. Will freshman Skylar Thompson’s tenure as the starter outlast Bill Snyder’s coaching career?

20. Holiday Bowl: Washington State vs. Michigan State

On paper, it seems like these two teams might present a refreshing contrast of styles and strengths, but Cougars QB Luke Falk was terrible in last year’s bowl game and the Spartans are unlikely to get the benefit of bad weather in San Diego, so neither team seems set up to play its best. Plus, after this matchup was announced, the Spartans and their fans promptly made it known they’d rather be in Tampa for the Outback Bowl.

19. Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs. Ohio

UAB deserves a trip to the Bahamas to cap its first season back after the miraculous resurrection of its football program, and although Ohio played its way out of a shot at the MAC title with a puzzling late-season loss to Akron, the Blazers get a quality opponent to measure themselves against.

18. Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State vs. Oregon

This was higher before Oregon head coach Willie Taggart bolted for Florida State, but it should still provide a decent glimpse at what the Ducks might look like next year with a healthy Justin Herbert at the helm of the offense. The Mountain West champs suffered two embarrassing losses to Power 5 opponents (one in triple-overtime, one by a wider margin than the Broncos had allowed at home in over a decade) and should have a little something extra to prove.

17. Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah vs. West Virginia

The Utes may be 6–6, but they kept the Pac-12’s four best teams all within a possession. The Mountaineers may be 7–5, but they put a scare into almost everyone except Oklahoma. This game has the Boxing Day afternoon window all to itself, and there should be enough offensive fireworks here not to spoil it.

16. Camping World Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State

The Cowboys are one of the most fun teams in the country to watch when their offense is clicking, but that fun can burn out quickly if it becomes apparent the opponent has no chance of scoring with them. Virginia Tech’s last game was a 10–0 slog of a win over Virginia. This was a risky yet undeniably intriguing pairing.

15. New Orleans Bowl: Troy vs. North Texas

The first game of the FBS bowl slate pits the Sun Belt champs against the Conference USA runners-up in the Superdome. Will Troy’s Neal Brown or North Texas’s Seth Littrell get the call to coach a Power 5 program first? And will Trojans running back Jordan Chunn, who put up 190 yards on LSU’s defense, return to form once he crosses back over the Louisiana state line?

14. Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic

With a prime-time national audience to himself, Lane Kiffin is going to try to get everyone’s attention one way or another. The clearest path to that goal seems like it will be dropping 60 on the Zips, who can’t hang with FAU’s lethal offense. Owls running back Devin Singletary is 204 rushing yards away from 2,000 on the season, and Akron is 99th in the country in rushing yards allowed per game (197.2). Just keep an eye on it.

13. Citrus Bowl: Notre Dame vs. LSU

It’s a New Year’s Day bowl, sure, but one between two teams everybody seems to have pretty much figured out by this point. If Josh Adams and Derrius Guice don’t get going (or skip the game altogether) against two solid run defenses, this could turn into a slog.

12. Alamo Bowl: Stanford vs. TCU

The mysteries of bowl season: Why do the Pac-12’s two top games outside the New Year’s Six kick off at the same time (9 p.m. ET) on the same day (Dec. 28) on different channels (FS1 for the Holiday Bowl, ESPN for the Alamo)? If the conference is making you choose between two top teams, choose the Cardinal as Bryce Love tries to burn Gary Patterson’s defense.

11. Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs. Army

With the No. 1 (Army) and No. 12 (SDSU) rushing offenses in the country on hand, this one might get wrapped up in under three hours. The stars of those ground games are both seniors trying to go out in style: Black Knights quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw (1,472 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Aztecs running back Rashaad Penny (2,027 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns) have toiled in relative obscurity for too long.

10. Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona vs. Purdue

Two of the season’s great underdog stories meet in Santa Clara, as electrifying quarterback Khalil Tate and Arizona take on coach Jeff Brohm’s turnaround-in-progress at Purdue. Tate is a house call waiting to happen every time he touches the ball, and the Boilermakers have no shortage of offensive tricks up their sleeve.

9. TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville vs. Mississippi State

We were robbed of a dual-threat QB duel between Lamar Jackson and Nick Fitzgerald when Fitzgerald suffered a season-ending injury in the Egg Bowl, and then we were robbed of the Todd Grantham Bowl between the fiery defensive coordinator’s past and present employer when Grantham followed Dan Mullen to Florida. It’s a testament to Jackson’s entertainment value that this remains a top-10 game. Enjoy him at his peak while you still can.

8. Fiesta Bowl: Washington vs. Penn State

Saquon Barkley has committed to playing in this game before hopping to the draft, and NFL executives everywhere will be wincing at each hit he takes from Washington’s punishing defense. Under-the-radar matchup to watch: Penn State’s 21st-ranked punt coverage team (just 73 return yards allowed all year) against Dante Pettis, the all-time leader with nine career punt return TDs, including four this season.

7. Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. South Florida

Points ... points everywhere. This game might take five hours, and nobody will care. Head coaches Kliff Kingsbury and Charlie Strong are more than acquainted with each other from Strong’s time at Texas, as well.

6. Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Toledo

Just as was the case in the New Orleans Bowl above, both head coaches are on the way up. Scott Satterfield ushered Appalachian State into FBS play, and Jason Candle’s Rockets just wrapped up a dominant MAC campaign. Make some time for two of the most underrated teams in the Group of Five.

5. Texas Bowl: Texas vs. Missouri

Missouri started out the season 1–5 and then won six straight, scoring a ton of points and unleashing the full potential of quarterback Drew Lock in the process. A handful of Texas defenders are already skipping this game to prepare for the NFL, so Longhorns QB Sam Ehlinger should be asked to cut it loose in response. The result should be consequence-free offensive football.

4. Outback Bowl: Michigan vs. South Carolina

It’s been five long years since The Hit. The game itself is worth watching to see whether Gamecocks QB Jake Bentley can find a way through the Wolverines’ stout defense after South Carolina fired offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, but we’re all just looking for excuses to watch The Hit again, and the telecast is sure to oblige.

3. Peach Bowl: UCF vs. Auburn

UCF coach Scott Frost’s decision to come back from his new job at Nebraska to coach the bowl game has raised the intrigue of this one considerably. As the Group of Five’s New Year’s Six rep, the Knights were destined to draw a top-10 team in a no-win situation, and that certainly applies to Auburn, which may still be emotionally deflated (if not still physically depleted) from its SEC title game loss. A win here would put UCF’s perfect season near the very top of college football’s pact two decades of underdog stories.

2. Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. Memphis

It seems like these teams were involved in a disproportionate number of the season’s most exciting games: Iowa State with its upset of Oklahoma and last-second losses to Oklahoma State and Iowa, Memphis with its shootout win over UCLA and double-overtime loss to UCF. Both programs also recently locked in their rising coaches with new deals, meaning no one will be caught looking towards 2018. And Iowa State’s Allen Lazard and Memphis’s Anthony Miller are two of the best receivers in the country, full stop.

1. Cotton Bowl: USC vs. Ohio State

Who will respond better to the committee’s controversial playoff snub? The Buckeyes would like nothing more than to finish ahead of Alabama in the final rankings, while USC just wrapped a whisper-quiet 11-win season without hardly any of the fanfare that normally hijacks Trojans runs. Sam Darnold and J.T. Barrett are set up to wage an imperfect yet enthralling quarterback duel, and both teams are loaded at the skill positions. Clear your Friday night now for Dec. 29—given the deep lineup over the next three weeks, rescheduling any plans last-minute won’t be easy.

Many people, when struggling to hear, will naturally cock their head to the right hand side, in a bid to improve the sound. But a new study has shown that the instinctual movement has a scientific basis. The right ear is indeed better equipped for not only listening but also making sense of noise. And it is to do with how the brain interprets sound. Listening is a complex task which requires not only sensitive hearing, but also the ability to turn the information into meaning. Once you add the distraction of background noise and the constant interruptions of modern life, that ability to comprehend becomes far more tricky. However sound entering the right ear is processed by the left side of the brain, which controls speech, language development, and portions of memory. So turning the right ear towards the speaker, or noise source, will allow more information to travel to the side of the brain where it can be more easily interpreted, according to audiology researchers at Auburn University in Alabama, US. Listening with the right ear stimulates the left side of the brain which processes language It is the first time the effect has been found to work in adults. &quot;Conventional research shows that right-ear advantage diminishes around age 13, but our results indicate this is related to the demand of the task,” said Dr Aurora Weaver, assistant professor at Auburn and member of the research team. For the new experiment, 41 participants aged between 19 and 28 were asked to wear a headset and recall a list of numbers played into either their right, or left ear piece. The researchers found that when the list of numbers was small - fewer than six digits - there was no difference in ear performance. However as the list grew, results were an average of eight per cent better when the numbers were played into to the right hand ear. The performance of some individuals improved as much as 41 per cent for the right ear. Scientists knew that children hear more easily through the right ear but it was thought that by adulthood, both ears had taken on equal load. The team are hoping the research will help improve hearing aids and deafness testing. The research could help scientists improve hearing aids Credit: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo Researcher Danielle Sacchinelli added: “The more we know about listening in demanding environments, and listening effort in general, the better diagnostic tools, auditory management, including hearing aids, and auditory training will become.” Recent research also suggested that loss of hearing is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, because it puts a greater strain on the brain when interpreting sound. So the new study could also help scientists understand how deafness impacts neurodegenerative diseases. &quot;Cognitive skills, of course, are subject to decline with advanced aging, disease, or trauma,” added Dr Weaver. &quot;Therefore, we need to better understand the impact of cognitive demands on listening.&quot; The research was presented at the annual Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Say what? Turning right ear to sound helps you hear better, scientists find
Many people, when struggling to hear, will naturally cock their head to the right hand side, in a bid to improve the sound. But a new study has shown that the instinctual movement has a scientific basis. The right ear is indeed better equipped for not only listening but also making sense of noise. And it is to do with how the brain interprets sound. Listening is a complex task which requires not only sensitive hearing, but also the ability to turn the information into meaning. Once you add the distraction of background noise and the constant interruptions of modern life, that ability to comprehend becomes far more tricky. However sound entering the right ear is processed by the left side of the brain, which controls speech, language development, and portions of memory. So turning the right ear towards the speaker, or noise source, will allow more information to travel to the side of the brain where it can be more easily interpreted, according to audiology researchers at Auburn University in Alabama, US. Listening with the right ear stimulates the left side of the brain which processes language It is the first time the effect has been found to work in adults. "Conventional research shows that right-ear advantage diminishes around age 13, but our results indicate this is related to the demand of the task,” said Dr Aurora Weaver, assistant professor at Auburn and member of the research team. For the new experiment, 41 participants aged between 19 and 28 were asked to wear a headset and recall a list of numbers played into either their right, or left ear piece. The researchers found that when the list of numbers was small - fewer than six digits - there was no difference in ear performance. However as the list grew, results were an average of eight per cent better when the numbers were played into to the right hand ear. The performance of some individuals improved as much as 41 per cent for the right ear. Scientists knew that children hear more easily through the right ear but it was thought that by adulthood, both ears had taken on equal load. The team are hoping the research will help improve hearing aids and deafness testing. The research could help scientists improve hearing aids Credit: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo Researcher Danielle Sacchinelli added: “The more we know about listening in demanding environments, and listening effort in general, the better diagnostic tools, auditory management, including hearing aids, and auditory training will become.” Recent research also suggested that loss of hearing is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, because it puts a greater strain on the brain when interpreting sound. So the new study could also help scientists understand how deafness impacts neurodegenerative diseases. "Cognitive skills, of course, are subject to decline with advanced aging, disease, or trauma,” added Dr Weaver. "Therefore, we need to better understand the impact of cognitive demands on listening." The research was presented at the annual Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Many people, when struggling to hear, will naturally cock their head to the right hand side, in a bid to improve the sound. But a new study has shown that the instinctual movement has a scientific basis. The right ear is indeed better equipped for not only listening but also making sense of noise. And it is to do with how the brain interprets sound. Listening is a complex task which requires not only sensitive hearing, but also the ability to turn the information into meaning. Once you add the distraction of background noise and the constant interruptions of modern life, that ability to comprehend becomes far more tricky. However sound entering the right ear is processed by the left side of the brain, which controls speech, language development, and portions of memory. So turning the right ear towards the speaker, or noise source, will allow more information to travel to the side of the brain where it can be more easily interpreted, according to audiology researchers at Auburn University in Alabama, US. Listening with the right ear stimulates the left side of the brain which processes language It is the first time the effect has been found to work in adults. &quot;Conventional research shows that right-ear advantage diminishes around age 13, but our results indicate this is related to the demand of the task,” said Dr Aurora Weaver, assistant professor at Auburn and member of the research team. For the new experiment, 41 participants aged between 19 and 28 were asked to wear a headset and recall a list of numbers played into either their right, or left ear piece. The researchers found that when the list of numbers was small - fewer than six digits - there was no difference in ear performance. However as the list grew, results were an average of eight per cent better when the numbers were played into to the right hand ear. The performance of some individuals improved as much as 41 per cent for the right ear. Scientists knew that children hear more easily through the right ear but it was thought that by adulthood, both ears had taken on equal load. The team are hoping the research will help improve hearing aids and deafness testing. The research could help scientists improve hearing aids Credit: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo Researcher Danielle Sacchinelli added: “The more we know about listening in demanding environments, and listening effort in general, the better diagnostic tools, auditory management, including hearing aids, and auditory training will become.” Recent research also suggested that loss of hearing is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, because it puts a greater strain on the brain when interpreting sound. So the new study could also help scientists understand how deafness impacts neurodegenerative diseases. &quot;Cognitive skills, of course, are subject to decline with advanced aging, disease, or trauma,” added Dr Weaver. &quot;Therefore, we need to better understand the impact of cognitive demands on listening.&quot; The research was presented at the annual Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Say what? Turning right ear to sound helps you hear better, scientists find
Many people, when struggling to hear, will naturally cock their head to the right hand side, in a bid to improve the sound. But a new study has shown that the instinctual movement has a scientific basis. The right ear is indeed better equipped for not only listening but also making sense of noise. And it is to do with how the brain interprets sound. Listening is a complex task which requires not only sensitive hearing, but also the ability to turn the information into meaning. Once you add the distraction of background noise and the constant interruptions of modern life, that ability to comprehend becomes far more tricky. However sound entering the right ear is processed by the left side of the brain, which controls speech, language development, and portions of memory. So turning the right ear towards the speaker, or noise source, will allow more information to travel to the side of the brain where it can be more easily interpreted, according to audiology researchers at Auburn University in Alabama, US. Listening with the right ear stimulates the left side of the brain which processes language It is the first time the effect has been found to work in adults. "Conventional research shows that right-ear advantage diminishes around age 13, but our results indicate this is related to the demand of the task,” said Dr Aurora Weaver, assistant professor at Auburn and member of the research team. For the new experiment, 41 participants aged between 19 and 28 were asked to wear a headset and recall a list of numbers played into either their right, or left ear piece. The researchers found that when the list of numbers was small - fewer than six digits - there was no difference in ear performance. However as the list grew, results were an average of eight per cent better when the numbers were played into to the right hand ear. The performance of some individuals improved as much as 41 per cent for the right ear. Scientists knew that children hear more easily through the right ear but it was thought that by adulthood, both ears had taken on equal load. The team are hoping the research will help improve hearing aids and deafness testing. The research could help scientists improve hearing aids Credit: Panther Media GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo Researcher Danielle Sacchinelli added: “The more we know about listening in demanding environments, and listening effort in general, the better diagnostic tools, auditory management, including hearing aids, and auditory training will become.” Recent research also suggested that loss of hearing is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, because it puts a greater strain on the brain when interpreting sound. So the new study could also help scientists understand how deafness impacts neurodegenerative diseases. "Cognitive skills, of course, are subject to decline with advanced aging, disease, or trauma,” added Dr Weaver. "Therefore, we need to better understand the impact of cognitive demands on listening." The research was presented at the annual Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Oklahoma has defeated Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn in last 5 seasons
Oklahoma looks for 5th straight win vs. SEC as it faces Georgia in Rose Bowl
Oklahoma has defeated Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn in last 5 seasons
Oklahoma has defeated Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn in last 5 seasons
Oklahoma looks for 5th straight win vs. SEC as it faces Georgia in Rose Bowl
Oklahoma has defeated Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn in last 5 seasons
Oklahoma has defeated Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn in last 5 seasons
Oklahoma looks for 5th straight win vs. SEC as it faces Georgia in Rose Bowl
Oklahoma has defeated Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn in last 5 seasons
Oklahoma has defeated Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn in last 5 seasons
Oklahoma looks for 5th straight win vs. SEC as it faces Georgia in Rose Bowl
Oklahoma has defeated Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn in last 5 seasons
<p>A precedent was set in college football on Sunday: More than half of FBS teams are ineligible for the playoff.</p><p>No one announced this, but the College Football Playoff committee might as well have when it ranked 12–0 UCF, the American Athletic Conference champion, No. 10. The only remaining undefeated team in the country, the Knights were coming off two straight wins over ranked teams, and as all of college football fervently debated which flawed traditional power—Ohio State or Alabama—might get in, the team wrapping a perfect season was all but ignored.</p><p>It’s not a good look for a sport that claimed its new playoff system, now in its fourth year, would be a progressive move.</p><p>This year marked what could have been a turning point for the playoff. After Saturday’s championship games, three spots were set in stone—Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia, all bona fide contenders. But after that consensus top three, things looked murky. Even two-loss USC, left for dead after getting blown out by Notre Dame in October, seemed to be in the conversation. For the first time in the playoff’s history, the bracket was unsettled not because there were too many qualified teams, but because there might just have been too few.</p><p>It was an opportunity for the playoff to do something different. Instead, it made the most predictable move possible: It picked Alabama.</p><p>By now, you know what UCF accomplished this season. Or maybe you don’t. Given the current state of affairs, that seems like a possibility. So to refresh: Going into 2017, the Knights were not picked as the eventual AAC champion by a single media member in the conference’s preseason poll. Two years removed from going winless, they’d made a bowl in 2016 and seemed to be poised for a good season. Instead, they were great.</p><p>Playing in a conference whose commissioner advocates the league as a member of the country’s “Power Six”, UCF beat two ranked teams in 2017: USF and Memphis. The Knights scheduled a tough nonconference slate, with games against the ACC (Georgia Tech, which was canceled during Hurricane Irma) and Big Ten (Maryland, which UCF beat, 38–10), and though it couldn’t combat the fact that it plays in a division with the likes of Cincinnati, East Carolina and UConn, it made the most of the slate it was dealt, throttling those teams by an average of 31.7 points and posting a season-long average margin of victory of 23.4.</p><p>That slate makes evaluating UCF next to the top teams in the country tough, but not impossible. No. 6 Wisconsin provides an especially interesting comparison point to the Knights: In two games against Maryland with similar box scores, the Knights (38–10) won by more than the Badgers (38–13) did, and they played the Terps on the road whereas Wisconsin hosted them at Camp Randall Stadium. Still, all UCF could do this year was go undefeated and wallop as many opponents as possible, which is just what they did. And for what? Perhaps if they beat No. 7 Auburn—which went 2–2 against eventual playoff teams this season—in the Peach Bowl, some respect will be due, but probably too little, and definitely too late.</p><p>I spoke with UCF athletics director Danny White—the man who hired former coach Scott Frost and who on Tuesday <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/05/ucf-hires-josh-heupel-head-coach" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:hired Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">hired Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel</a> to replace Frost three days after Nebraska formally hired him in the afterglow of the AAC title game—last week for a story about perceptions of the playoff four years in. White is not a man who minces words, and his annoyance at the system was not even thinly veiled. White talks a big game, telling media after Frost’s departure that the UCF job was “the most attractive football opening in the nation right now,” but so far he has been able to back it up. Going into UCF’s game against Memphis on Saturday, the athletics director was incredulous that his team was only ranked No. 12 and would all but certainly miss the playoff. He feels as though the committee has consistently under-ranked Group of Five teams, and that other polls have begun following suit.</p><p>In the BCS era, White pointed out, TCU (then in the Mountain West) went 13–0 and finished the season No. 3 in the BCS rankings. Though it wasn’t given a spot in the title game, it earned a Rose Bowl berth, and its win over Wisconsin was enough to push it over Oregon to No. 2 in the final AP Poll. Four years earlier, in 2006, an undefeated Boise State team finished No. 5 in the final AP Poll and was the only team besides Florida to receive a vote for No. 1. Since the playoff began, the highest a Group of Five team has been ranked to end the season is No. 15, Western Michigan’s finish a year ago when it was undefeated heading into the Fiesta Bowl. (Despite losing to Wisconsin in that game, it finished the year No. 15 in the Jan. 10 AP Poll.)</p><p>White is right; it seems more and more like there’s a threshold past which teams outside of the Power 5 not named Notre Dame cannot pass. Western Michigan sowed that seed last season, but its case for inclusion was weaker than UCF’s. It didn’t play a ranked team all season, and its margin of victory (24.1 points) was still a shade less than the Knights’. What UCF accomplished this year deserved consideration, and if it can’t even crack the top six, much less earn a playoff spot, then it’s hard to see how a Group of Five team ever can under these conditions. The fact that, say, Rutgers might turn around next season and do what UCF did—by the way, it won’t—and get a playoff berth is unfathomable. The line between the bottom of the Power 5 and the top of the Group of Five is finite when it should be fluid.</p><p>The committee’s adherence to name brands only perpetuates such things, which is bad for the sport as a whole. If there’s a barrier to entry to the playoff, coaches like Frost and P.J. Fleck will never stay and continue to build programs they’ve grown to love. Why should they? If championships are an impossible goal, no coach will turn down a Power 5 job, and if the committee continues to under-rank Group of Five teams while subtly discouraging top programs from adding them to their nonconference slates, the status quo will become more entrenched.</p><p>Enjoy the playoff. It will no doubt be gripping football, and the product the committee has put on the field has been—with only a couple exceptions—great. But I’m bored, and I’m tired of watching the teams that should be playing in January rather than a team that could be if only everyone broadened their horizons.</p>
The Committee's Lack of Respect for UCF Sets a Discouraging Playoff Precedent

A precedent was set in college football on Sunday: More than half of FBS teams are ineligible for the playoff.

No one announced this, but the College Football Playoff committee might as well have when it ranked 12–0 UCF, the American Athletic Conference champion, No. 10. The only remaining undefeated team in the country, the Knights were coming off two straight wins over ranked teams, and as all of college football fervently debated which flawed traditional power—Ohio State or Alabama—might get in, the team wrapping a perfect season was all but ignored.

It’s not a good look for a sport that claimed its new playoff system, now in its fourth year, would be a progressive move.

This year marked what could have been a turning point for the playoff. After Saturday’s championship games, three spots were set in stone—Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia, all bona fide contenders. But after that consensus top three, things looked murky. Even two-loss USC, left for dead after getting blown out by Notre Dame in October, seemed to be in the conversation. For the first time in the playoff’s history, the bracket was unsettled not because there were too many qualified teams, but because there might just have been too few.

It was an opportunity for the playoff to do something different. Instead, it made the most predictable move possible: It picked Alabama.

By now, you know what UCF accomplished this season. Or maybe you don’t. Given the current state of affairs, that seems like a possibility. So to refresh: Going into 2017, the Knights were not picked as the eventual AAC champion by a single media member in the conference’s preseason poll. Two years removed from going winless, they’d made a bowl in 2016 and seemed to be poised for a good season. Instead, they were great.

Playing in a conference whose commissioner advocates the league as a member of the country’s “Power Six”, UCF beat two ranked teams in 2017: USF and Memphis. The Knights scheduled a tough nonconference slate, with games against the ACC (Georgia Tech, which was canceled during Hurricane Irma) and Big Ten (Maryland, which UCF beat, 38–10), and though it couldn’t combat the fact that it plays in a division with the likes of Cincinnati, East Carolina and UConn, it made the most of the slate it was dealt, throttling those teams by an average of 31.7 points and posting a season-long average margin of victory of 23.4.

That slate makes evaluating UCF next to the top teams in the country tough, but not impossible. No. 6 Wisconsin provides an especially interesting comparison point to the Knights: In two games against Maryland with similar box scores, the Knights (38–10) won by more than the Badgers (38–13) did, and they played the Terps on the road whereas Wisconsin hosted them at Camp Randall Stadium. Still, all UCF could do this year was go undefeated and wallop as many opponents as possible, which is just what they did. And for what? Perhaps if they beat No. 7 Auburn—which went 2–2 against eventual playoff teams this season—in the Peach Bowl, some respect will be due, but probably too little, and definitely too late.

I spoke with UCF athletics director Danny White—the man who hired former coach Scott Frost and who on Tuesday hired Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel to replace Frost three days after Nebraska formally hired him in the afterglow of the AAC title game—last week for a story about perceptions of the playoff four years in. White is not a man who minces words, and his annoyance at the system was not even thinly veiled. White talks a big game, telling media after Frost’s departure that the UCF job was “the most attractive football opening in the nation right now,” but so far he has been able to back it up. Going into UCF’s game against Memphis on Saturday, the athletics director was incredulous that his team was only ranked No. 12 and would all but certainly miss the playoff. He feels as though the committee has consistently under-ranked Group of Five teams, and that other polls have begun following suit.

In the BCS era, White pointed out, TCU (then in the Mountain West) went 13–0 and finished the season No. 3 in the BCS rankings. Though it wasn’t given a spot in the title game, it earned a Rose Bowl berth, and its win over Wisconsin was enough to push it over Oregon to No. 2 in the final AP Poll. Four years earlier, in 2006, an undefeated Boise State team finished No. 5 in the final AP Poll and was the only team besides Florida to receive a vote for No. 1. Since the playoff began, the highest a Group of Five team has been ranked to end the season is No. 15, Western Michigan’s finish a year ago when it was undefeated heading into the Fiesta Bowl. (Despite losing to Wisconsin in that game, it finished the year No. 15 in the Jan. 10 AP Poll.)

White is right; it seems more and more like there’s a threshold past which teams outside of the Power 5 not named Notre Dame cannot pass. Western Michigan sowed that seed last season, but its case for inclusion was weaker than UCF’s. It didn’t play a ranked team all season, and its margin of victory (24.1 points) was still a shade less than the Knights’. What UCF accomplished this year deserved consideration, and if it can’t even crack the top six, much less earn a playoff spot, then it’s hard to see how a Group of Five team ever can under these conditions. The fact that, say, Rutgers might turn around next season and do what UCF did—by the way, it won’t—and get a playoff berth is unfathomable. The line between the bottom of the Power 5 and the top of the Group of Five is finite when it should be fluid.

The committee’s adherence to name brands only perpetuates such things, which is bad for the sport as a whole. If there’s a barrier to entry to the playoff, coaches like Frost and P.J. Fleck will never stay and continue to build programs they’ve grown to love. Why should they? If championships are an impossible goal, no coach will turn down a Power 5 job, and if the committee continues to under-rank Group of Five teams while subtly discouraging top programs from adding them to their nonconference slates, the status quo will become more entrenched.

Enjoy the playoff. It will no doubt be gripping football, and the product the committee has put on the field has been—with only a couple exceptions—great. But I’m bored, and I’m tired of watching the teams that should be playing in January rather than a team that could be if only everyone broadened their horizons.

<p>A precedent was set in college football on Sunday: More than half of FBS teams are ineligible for the playoff.</p><p>No one announced this, but the College Football Playoff committee might as well have when it ranked 12–0 UCF, the American Athletic Conference champion, No. 10. The only remaining undefeated team in the country, the Knights were coming off two straight wins over ranked teams, and as all of college football fervently debated which flawed traditional power—Ohio State or Alabama—might get in, the team wrapping a perfect season was all but ignored.</p><p>It’s not a good look for a sport that claimed its new playoff system, now in its fourth year, would be a progressive move.</p><p>This year marked what could have been a turning point for the playoff. After Saturday’s championship games, three spots were set in stone—Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia, all bona fide contenders. But after that consensus top three, things looked murky. Even two-loss USC, left for dead after getting blown out by Notre Dame in October, seemed to be in the conversation. For the first time in the playoff’s history, the bracket was unsettled not because there were too many qualified teams, but because there might just have been too few.</p><p>It was an opportunity for the playoff to do something different. Instead, it made the most predictable move possible: It picked Alabama.</p><p>By now, you know what UCF accomplished this season. Or maybe you don’t. Given the current state of affairs, that seems like a possibility. So to refresh: Going into 2017, the Knights were not picked as the eventual AAC champion by a single media member in the conference’s preseason poll. Two years removed from going winless, they’d made a bowl in 2016 and seemed to be poised for a good season. Instead, they were great.</p><p>Playing in a conference whose commissioner advocates the league as a member of the country’s “Power Six”, UCF beat two ranked teams in 2017: USF and Memphis. The Knights scheduled a tough nonconference slate, with games against the ACC (Georgia Tech, which was canceled during Hurricane Irma) and Big Ten (Maryland, which UCF beat, 38–10), and though it couldn’t combat the fact that it plays in a division with the likes of Cincinnati, East Carolina and UConn, it made the most of the slate it was dealt, throttling those teams by an average of 31.7 points and posting a season-long average margin of victory of 23.4.</p><p>That slate makes evaluating UCF next to the top teams in the country tough, but not impossible. No. 6 Wisconsin provides an especially interesting comparison point to the Knights: In two games against Maryland with similar box scores, the Knights (38–10) won by more than the Badgers (38–13) did, and they played the Terps on the road whereas Wisconsin hosted them at Camp Randall Stadium. Still, all UCF could do this year was go undefeated and wallop as many opponents as possible, which is just what they did. And for what? Perhaps if they beat No. 7 Auburn—which went 2–2 against eventual playoff teams this season—in the Peach Bowl, some respect will be due, but probably too little, and definitely too late.</p><p>I spoke with UCF athletics director Danny White—the man who hired former coach Scott Frost and who on Tuesday <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/05/ucf-hires-josh-heupel-head-coach" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:hired Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">hired Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel</a> to replace Frost three days after Nebraska formally hired him in the afterglow of the AAC title game—last week for a story about perceptions of the playoff four years in. White is not a man who minces words, and his annoyance at the system was not even thinly veiled. White talks a big game, telling media after Frost’s departure that the UCF job was “the most attractive football opening in the nation right now,” but so far he has been able to back it up. Going into UCF’s game against Memphis on Saturday, the athletics director was incredulous that his team was only ranked No. 12 and would all but certainly miss the playoff. He feels as though the committee has consistently under-ranked Group of Five teams, and that other polls have begun following suit.</p><p>In the BCS era, White pointed out, TCU (then in the Mountain West) went 13–0 and finished the season No. 3 in the BCS rankings. Though it wasn’t given a spot in the title game, it earned a Rose Bowl berth, and its win over Wisconsin was enough to push it over Oregon to No. 2 in the final AP Poll. Four years earlier, in 2006, an undefeated Boise State team finished No. 5 in the final AP Poll and was the only team besides Florida to receive a vote for No. 1. Since the playoff began, the highest a Group of Five team has been ranked to end the season is No. 15, Western Michigan’s finish a year ago when it was undefeated heading into the Fiesta Bowl. (Despite losing to Wisconsin in that game, it finished the year No. 15 in the Jan. 10 AP Poll.)</p><p>White is right; it seems more and more like there’s a threshold past which teams outside of the Power 5 not named Notre Dame cannot pass. Western Michigan sowed that seed last season, but its case for inclusion was weaker than UCF’s. It didn’t play a ranked team all season, and its margin of victory (24.1 points) was still a shade less than the Knights’. What UCF accomplished this year deserved consideration, and if it can’t even crack the top six, much less earn a playoff spot, then it’s hard to see how a Group of Five team ever can under these conditions. The fact that, say, Rutgers might turn around next season and do what UCF did—by the way, it won’t—and get a playoff berth is unfathomable. The line between the bottom of the Power 5 and the top of the Group of Five is finite when it should be fluid.</p><p>The committee’s adherence to name brands only perpetuates such things, which is bad for the sport as a whole. If there’s a barrier to entry to the playoff, coaches like Frost and P.J. Fleck will never stay and continue to build programs they’ve grown to love. Why should they? If championships are an impossible goal, no coach will turn down a Power 5 job, and if the committee continues to under-rank Group of Five teams while subtly discouraging top programs from adding them to their nonconference slates, the status quo will become more entrenched.</p><p>Enjoy the playoff. It will no doubt be gripping football, and the product the committee has put on the field has been—with only a couple exceptions—great. But I’m bored, and I’m tired of watching the teams that should be playing in January rather than a team that could be if only everyone broadened their horizons.</p>
The Committee's Lack of Respect for UCF Sets a Discouraging Playoff Precedent

A precedent was set in college football on Sunday: More than half of FBS teams are ineligible for the playoff.

No one announced this, but the College Football Playoff committee might as well have when it ranked 12–0 UCF, the American Athletic Conference champion, No. 10. The only remaining undefeated team in the country, the Knights were coming off two straight wins over ranked teams, and as all of college football fervently debated which flawed traditional power—Ohio State or Alabama—might get in, the team wrapping a perfect season was all but ignored.

It’s not a good look for a sport that claimed its new playoff system, now in its fourth year, would be a progressive move.

This year marked what could have been a turning point for the playoff. After Saturday’s championship games, three spots were set in stone—Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia, all bona fide contenders. But after that consensus top three, things looked murky. Even two-loss USC, left for dead after getting blown out by Notre Dame in October, seemed to be in the conversation. For the first time in the playoff’s history, the bracket was unsettled not because there were too many qualified teams, but because there might just have been too few.

It was an opportunity for the playoff to do something different. Instead, it made the most predictable move possible: It picked Alabama.

By now, you know what UCF accomplished this season. Or maybe you don’t. Given the current state of affairs, that seems like a possibility. So to refresh: Going into 2017, the Knights were not picked as the eventual AAC champion by a single media member in the conference’s preseason poll. Two years removed from going winless, they’d made a bowl in 2016 and seemed to be poised for a good season. Instead, they were great.

Playing in a conference whose commissioner advocates the league as a member of the country’s “Power Six”, UCF beat two ranked teams in 2017: USF and Memphis. The Knights scheduled a tough nonconference slate, with games against the ACC (Georgia Tech, which was canceled during Hurricane Irma) and Big Ten (Maryland, which UCF beat, 38–10), and though it couldn’t combat the fact that it plays in a division with the likes of Cincinnati, East Carolina and UConn, it made the most of the slate it was dealt, throttling those teams by an average of 31.7 points and posting a season-long average margin of victory of 23.4.

That slate makes evaluating UCF next to the top teams in the country tough, but not impossible. No. 6 Wisconsin provides an especially interesting comparison point to the Knights: In two games against Maryland with similar box scores, the Knights (38–10) won by more than the Badgers (38–13) did, and they played the Terps on the road whereas Wisconsin hosted them at Camp Randall Stadium. Still, all UCF could do this year was go undefeated and wallop as many opponents as possible, which is just what they did. And for what? Perhaps if they beat No. 7 Auburn—which went 2–2 against eventual playoff teams this season—in the Peach Bowl, some respect will be due, but probably too little, and definitely too late.

I spoke with UCF athletics director Danny White—the man who hired former coach Scott Frost and who on Tuesday hired Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel to replace Frost three days after Nebraska formally hired him in the afterglow of the AAC title game—last week for a story about perceptions of the playoff four years in. White is not a man who minces words, and his annoyance at the system was not even thinly veiled. White talks a big game, telling media after Frost’s departure that the UCF job was “the most attractive football opening in the nation right now,” but so far he has been able to back it up. Going into UCF’s game against Memphis on Saturday, the athletics director was incredulous that his team was only ranked No. 12 and would all but certainly miss the playoff. He feels as though the committee has consistently under-ranked Group of Five teams, and that other polls have begun following suit.

In the BCS era, White pointed out, TCU (then in the Mountain West) went 13–0 and finished the season No. 3 in the BCS rankings. Though it wasn’t given a spot in the title game, it earned a Rose Bowl berth, and its win over Wisconsin was enough to push it over Oregon to No. 2 in the final AP Poll. Four years earlier, in 2006, an undefeated Boise State team finished No. 5 in the final AP Poll and was the only team besides Florida to receive a vote for No. 1. Since the playoff began, the highest a Group of Five team has been ranked to end the season is No. 15, Western Michigan’s finish a year ago when it was undefeated heading into the Fiesta Bowl. (Despite losing to Wisconsin in that game, it finished the year No. 15 in the Jan. 10 AP Poll.)

White is right; it seems more and more like there’s a threshold past which teams outside of the Power 5 not named Notre Dame cannot pass. Western Michigan sowed that seed last season, but its case for inclusion was weaker than UCF’s. It didn’t play a ranked team all season, and its margin of victory (24.1 points) was still a shade less than the Knights’. What UCF accomplished this year deserved consideration, and if it can’t even crack the top six, much less earn a playoff spot, then it’s hard to see how a Group of Five team ever can under these conditions. The fact that, say, Rutgers might turn around next season and do what UCF did—by the way, it won’t—and get a playoff berth is unfathomable. The line between the bottom of the Power 5 and the top of the Group of Five is finite when it should be fluid.

The committee’s adherence to name brands only perpetuates such things, which is bad for the sport as a whole. If there’s a barrier to entry to the playoff, coaches like Frost and P.J. Fleck will never stay and continue to build programs they’ve grown to love. Why should they? If championships are an impossible goal, no coach will turn down a Power 5 job, and if the committee continues to under-rank Group of Five teams while subtly discouraging top programs from adding them to their nonconference slates, the status quo will become more entrenched.

Enjoy the playoff. It will no doubt be gripping football, and the product the committee has put on the field has been—with only a couple exceptions—great. But I’m bored, and I’m tired of watching the teams that should be playing in January rather than a team that could be if only everyone broadened their horizons.

FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2017, file photo, Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) runs downfield during warmups prior to an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, in Starkville, Miss. Ridley was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
Georgia, Auburn split top awards on AP All-SEC football team
FILE - In this Nov. 11, 2017, file photo, Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) runs downfield during warmups prior to an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State, in Starkville, Miss. Ridley was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams (73) warms up before an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M, in College Station, Texas. Williams was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Georgia, Auburn split top awards on AP All-SEC football team
FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams (73) warms up before an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M, in College Station, Texas. Williams was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2017, file photo, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick helps tackle Arkansas wide receiver Brandon Martin during the first half an NCAA college football game, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Fitzpatrick was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Georgia, Auburn split top awards on AP All-SEC football team
FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2017, file photo, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick helps tackle Arkansas wide receiver Brandon Martin during the first half an NCAA college football game, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Fitzpatrick was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2017, file photo, Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley catches a pass and runs in to score a touchdown against Mercer during the first half of an NCAA college football game, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Ridley was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
Georgia, Auburn split top awards on AP All-SEC football team
FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2017, file photo, Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley catches a pass and runs in to score a touchdown against Mercer during the first half of an NCAA college football game, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Ridley was selected to the AP All-Conference SEC team announced Monday, Dec. 4, 2017.(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
<p>In the season’s final Power Rankings, we’ve added to our usual 25 standouts the additional 53 teams that will be playing in the postseason, because why not? You can never have too many bowl games for some reason. Because 81 teams reached the six-win threshold required for postseason eligibility, you won’t be seeing any 5–7 teams below thanks to a Academic Progress Rate, or Ole Miss (<a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/01/ole-miss-ncaa-sanctions-penalties" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:obviously" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">obviously</a>). Also missing from the festivities are Western Michigan, UTSA and Buffalo, which had enough wins to make to the postseason but were left out on account of there being only 78 spots.</p><p>Now on to the mega-rankings:</p><h3>1. Oklahoma (12–1, 7–1 Big 12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>1<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat TCU 41–17 in Big 12 Championship<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Georgia in Rose Bowl</p><p>The Sooners are the Big 12’s only program to make the playoff in its four years of existence. The defense had been criticized all season, especially after giving up 52 to Oklahoma State and 41 to one-win Baylor. <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/02/oklahoma-tcu-big-12-title-game-playoff" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:That unit came to play against TCU" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">That unit came to play against TCU</a>, giving up 317 total yards in securing Oklahoma’s 11th Big 12 title (no other team has more than three). Baker Mayfield <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/03/heisman-trophy-race-favorite-baker-mayfield-oklahoma" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:should practice his Heisman speech" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">should practice his Heisman speech</a> after throwing for 243 yards and four touchdowns.</p><h3>2. Clemson (12–1, 7–1 ACC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>2<br><strong>This week</strong>: Beat Miami 38–3 in ACC Championship<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Alabama in Sugar Bowl</p><p>Clemson’s third consecutive victory in the ACC title game was never in doubt, as Kelly Bryant had two total touchdowns and passed for 252 yards and the defense held Miami to 214 total yards and had four sacks. On this day, Clemson leaned on Bryant and that defense because the running game didn’t show up at all, averaging less than two yards a carry, although Clemson had four rushing touchdowns from short distance.</p><h3>3. Georgia (12–1, 7–1 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>5<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Auburn 28–7 in SEC Championship<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Oklahoma in Rose Bowl</p><p>Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was correct in his assessment of how Georgia beat his Tigers the second time around: The Bulldogs “flipped the script,” especially in the run game. In the first matchup, Georgia ran for only 46 yards. In this game, Georgia galloped for 238 yards and got an efficient game from quarterback Jake Fromm, who had two touchdowns and 183 yards passing.</p><h3>4. Alabama (11–1, 7–1 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>6<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Clemson in Sugar Bowl</p><h3>5. Ohio State (11­–2, 8–1 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking:</strong> 7<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Wisconsin 27–21 in Big Ten Championship<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. USC in Cotton Bowl</p><p>J.T. Barrett threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns less than a week after undergoing surgery on his right knee. Barrett also ran for a score, but his two turnovers kept Wisconsin in the game and prevented a blowout. Freshman J.K. Dobbins, who was named the game’s MVP, ran for 174 yards, while the talented defense shut down Wisconsin’s running game as the Badgers garnered only 60 yards on 32 carries.</p><h3>6. Wisconsin (12–1, 9–0 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking:</strong> 3<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost 27–21 to Ohio State in Big Ten Championship<br><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Miami in Orange Bowl</p><p>Wisconsin’s formula that had worked all season long was nowhere to found on Saturday as the running game and stout defense failed to carry the Badgers to the Big Ten title. Jonathan Taylor had only 41 yards and Ohio State’s offense repeatedly gashed the slower Badgers for big play after big play. Alex Hornibrook had 229 yards but his untimely turnovers doomed Wisconsin.</p><h3>7. Central Florida (12–0, 8–0 AAC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking</strong>: 8<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Memphis 62–55 (2OT) in AAC Championship<br><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Auburn in Peach Bowl</p><p>In a span of three years, Central Florida went from the cellar of college football to undefeated and playing in a major bowl game. McKenzie Milton threw for 494 yards and five touchdowns and the Knights overcame four turnovers to win their third conference title in the last five seasons. The season was a perfect sendoff for coach Scott Frost, who will coach the bowl game before departing for the Nebraska job.</p><h3>8. USC (11–2, 8–1 Pac–12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking:</strong> 10<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Stanford 31–28 in Pac–12 Championship<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Ohio State in Cotton Bowl</p><p>The Trojans used a 99-yard drive in the fourth quarter to hold off Stanford and bring home their first conference title in almost a decade. Sam Darnold threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns in what could be his final game in college, and Ronald Jones ran for 140 yards and two scores as part of USC’s 501-yard offensive effort. Bryce Love had 125 yards rushing for Stanford on a badly injured ankle, but it was not enough.</p><h3>9. Auburn (10–3, 7–1 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>4<br><strong>This week: </strong> Lost to Auburn 28–7 in SEC Championship<br><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. UCF in Peach Bowl</p><p>After scoring on the opening drive, Auburn’s hopes for a playoff berth and SEC title went down the drain thanks to an avalanche of penalties, special team miscues, two big turnovers and an inability to stop any Georgia running back. Kerryon Johnson came in with a shoulder injury and was ineffective, rushing for 40 yards on 13 carries as Auburn was held to 259 yards, its lowest output since a Week 2 loss at Clemson.</p><h3>10. Penn State (10–2, 7–2 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>11<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Washington in Fiesta Bowl</p><h3>11. Washington (10–2, 7–2 Pac–12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>13<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game: </strong> vs. Penn State in Fiesta Bowl</p><h3>12. TCU (10–3, 7-2 Big 12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking</strong>: 12<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost to Oklahoma 41–17 in Big 12 Championship<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Stanford in Alamo Bowl</p><p>TCU ran into the same problem it did when it faced the Sooners three weeks ago: The defense had no answer for Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma running game. The Horned Frogs also ran into a surprisingly salty Sooners defense, which gave up less than 100 yards and no points in the second half.</p><h3>13. Miami, FL (10–2, 7–1 ACC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>9<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost 38–3 to Clemson in ACC Championship<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Wisconsin in Orange Bowl</p><p>For all of Miami’s magic through the first 10 games this season, it’s now clear that the Hurricanes were not prepared to run with the elites. Miami was outclassed by Clemson and did not help matters by turning the ball over three times. Malik Rosier threw for only 110 yards and was picked off twice as Miami fell behind early and was unable to sustain an offense to get back in the game.</p><h3>14. Stanford (9–4, 7–2 Pac-12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>15<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost to USC 31–28 in Pac-12 Championship<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. TCU in Alamo Bowl</p><p>Bryce Love did everything he could to carry Stanford to the Pac-12 title, rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown on an injured ankle. Will he be close to 100% by the bowl game (if he doesn’t choose to skip it)?</p><h3>15. Notre Dame (9–3)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>16<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. LSU in Citrus Bowl</p><h3>16. Memphis (10–2, 7–1 AAC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>14<br><strong>This week: </strong>Lost 62–55 (2OT) to Central Florida in AAC Championship<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Iowa State in Liberty Bowl</p><p>In a game that featured 117 points and almost 1,500 yards, Memphis rallied twice from two-touchdown deficits to push UCF to overtime. Riley Ferguson had 471 yards and four touchdowns and the Tigers rolled up 753 yards of offense. The Tigers were done in by 14 penalties and two costly turnovers, despite holding the ball more than twice the time that Central Florida had it.</p><h3>17. LSU (9-3, 6–2 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>17<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Notre Dame in Citrus Bowl</p><h3>18. Virginia Tech (9–3, 5–3 ACC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>18<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Oklahoma State in Camping World Bowl</p><h3>19. Oklahoma State (9–3, 6–3 Big 12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>19<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Virginia Tech in Camping World Bowl</p><h3>20. Michigan State (9–3, 7–2 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>20<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Washington State in Holiday Bowl</p><h3>21. Northwestern (9–3, 7–2 Big Ten)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>21<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Kentucky in Music City Bowl</p><p>Northwestern might be the biggest surprise in college football. Say what you want about its schedule, but winning nine games is hard no matter who is on the slate. Fans should get one last look at Justin Jackson, who might be the best Power 5 running back you haven’t heard of.</p><h3>22. Washington State (9–3, 6–3 Pac–12)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>22<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Michigan State in Holiday Bowl</p><p>It would have been fun to see Mike Leach and his Cougars in a major bowl, but Washington State was blown out in three road games, including the season-ending Apple Cup, which could have gotten them a rematch against USC.</p><h3>23. South Florida (9–2, 6–2 AAC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>23<br><strong>Last week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Texas Tech in Birmingham Bowl</p><h3>24. Boise State (10–3, 7–1 MWC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking:</strong> —<br><strong>This week: </strong>Beat Fresno State 17–14 in Mountain West Championship<br><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Oregon in Las Vegas Bowl</p><p>Boise State came up big in the fourth quarter, driving 90 yards to put the winning score on the board and avenge last week’s loss to Fresno State. Brett Rypien threw for 246 yards and the defense put the clamps on the Bulldogs&#39; offense that shredded them the week before. Boise State has won 10 games for the eighth time in the last 10 years, and won the Mountain West for the second time in the last four.</p><h3>25. Mississippi State (8–4, 4–4 SEC)</h3><p><strong>Previous ranking: </strong>24<br><strong>This week: </strong>Off<br><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Louisville in TaxSlayer Bowl</p><h3><b>Almost Famous</b></h3><h3>26. Fresno State (9–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Houston in Hawaii Bowl</p><h3>27. Louisville (8­–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Mississippi State in TaxSlayer Bowl</p><h3>28. Florida Atlantic (10–3)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Akron in Boca Raton Bowl</p><h3>29. San Diego State (10–2)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Army in Armed Forces Bowl</p><h3>30. Michigan (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. South Carolina in Outback Bowl</p><h3>31. NC State (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs Arizona State in Belk Bowl</p><h3>32. Toledo (11–2)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Appalachian State in Armed Forces Bowl</p><h3>33. Troy (10–2)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. North Texas in New Orleans Bowl</p><h3>34. Army (8–3)</h3><p><strong>Next games: </strong>vs. Navy on Saturday; vs. San Diego State in Armed Forces Bowl</p><h3>35. South Carolina (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Michigan in Outback Bowl</p><h3>36. Iowa State (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Memphis in Liberty Bowl</p><h3>37. Appalachian State (10–2)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Toledo in Armed Forces Bowl</p><h3>38. West Virginia (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Utah in Heart of Dallas Bowl</p><h3>39. Kansas State (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. UCLA in Cactus Bowl</p><p>Remember when Iowa State was on the fringes on a top-10 ranking? The Cyclones closed the season losing four of their last five games. If Louisville had any sort of semblance of a defense, Lamar Jackson’s second Heisman would have been more than a dream. The passengers on the Lane Train get to stay home in Boca Raton for bowl season, and no one—and I mean no one—thought FAU would win 10 games after looking pitiful in the early part of the season.</p><h3><strong>The comeback kids</strong></h3><h3>40. Oregon (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Boise State in Las Vegas Bowl</p><h3>41. Texas A&#38;M (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Wake Forest in Belk Bowl</p><h3>42. SMU (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Louisiana Tech in Frisco Bowl</p><h3>43. Marshall (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl</p><h3>44. Central Michigan (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Wyoming in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl</p><h3>45. Arizona State (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. NC State in Belk Bowl</p><h3>46. Kentucky (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Northwestern in Music City Bowl</p><h3>47. UAB (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Ohio in Bahamas Bowl</p><h3>48. Northern Illinois (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Duke in Quick Lane Bowl</p><h3>49. Missouri (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Texas in Texas Bowl</p><p>Oregon spent a majority of the season without its starting quarterback, Justin Herbert, who broke his collarbone. The Ducks are a different team with him under center and the Las Vegas Bowl is a good opportunity to show what could be coming next year in Eugene. In December 2014, UAB shut down its football program, citing financial difficulties. The Blazers came back in a big way, earning bowl eligibility in their first season back. Keep an eye out for UAB’s Spencer Brown, a dynamic freshman who ran for nearly 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.</p><h3><strong>College football’s Jekyll and Hyde</strong></h3><h3>50. Southern Miss (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Florida State in Independence Bowl</p><h3>51. Iowa (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Boston College in Pinstripe Bowl</p><h3>52. North Texas (9–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. New Orleans Bowl</p><h3>53. Ohio (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. UAB in Bahamas Bowl</p><h3>54. Arizona (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Purdue in Foster Farms Bowl</p><h3>55. Wake Forest (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Texas A&#38;M in Belk Bowl</p><h3>56. Akron (7–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. FAU in Boca Raton Bowl</p><h3>57. Colorado State (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Marshall in New Mexico Bowl</p><h3>58. Navy (6–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Army on Saturday; vs. Virginia in Military Bowl</p><h3>59. Florida International (8–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Temple in Gasparilla Bowl</p><p>Iowa is the biggest enigma in college football: thrashing Ohio State by 31 points at home, then losing to Purdue in the same stadium two weeks later. On the bright side, the Hawkeyes did beat four teams that made it to bowls this season. North Texas, which lacks much notable football tradition outside of Mean Joe Greene, won nine games under the outstanding leadership of second-year coach Seth Littrell—another season like this and programs that have vacancies next winter will come calling. For those who didn’t stay up late to watch this season of Pac-12 After Dark, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is must-see TV. He is known to break off a long run (or five) during the game and could have a 250-yard game against Purdue’s defense.</p><h3><strong>On the upswing</strong></h3><h3>60. Texas (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Missouri in Texas Bowl</p><h3>61. Arkansas State (7­–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Middle Tennessee in Camellia Bowl</p><h3>62. Boston College (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Iowa in Independence Bowl</p><h3>63. Western Kentucky (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Georgia State in Cure Bowl</p><h3>64. Utah (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. West Virginia in Heart of Dallas Bowl</p><h3>65. Houston (7–4)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Fresno State in Hawaii Bowl</p><h3>66. Wyoming (7–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Central Michigan in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl</p><h3>67. UCLA (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Kansas State in Cactus Bowl</p><h3>68. Utah State (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. New Mexico State in Arizona Bowl</p><h3>69. Florida State (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game:</strong> vs. Southern Mississippi in Independence Bowl</p><p>The pixie dust worked about as well as Tom Herman warned us it would this season for Texas, which hung with Oklahoma, USC and Oklahoma State, but somehow lost to Maryland and Texas Tech. Better days are ahead in Austin. UCLA, another team that has talent and failed to capitalized, fell to rock bottom after a thrilling comeback in the opener against Texas A&#38;M. That slide got Jim Mora fired and led to the hiring of Chip Kelly. The Bruins should thrive again under Kelly in a hurry.</p><h3><strong>The worst of the best</strong></h3><h3>70. Purdue (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Arizona in Foster Farms Bowl</p><h3>71. Duke (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Northern Illinois in Quick Lane Bowl</p><h3>72. Louisiana Tech (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. SMU in Frisco Bowl</p><h3>73. Virginia (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Navy in Military Bowl</p><h3>74. Temple (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. FIU in Gasparilla Bowl</p><h3>75. Middle Tennessee State (6­–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. Arkansas State in Camellia Bowl</p><h3>76. Texas Tech (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game: </strong>vs. South Florida in Birmingham Bowl</p><h3>77. Georgia State (6–5)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Western Kentucky in Cure Bowl</p><p>These teams aren’t necessarily bad (all of them won at least six games), but at times, watching them play was tough on the eyes. Purdue showed remarkable improvement under first-year coach Jeff Brohm, and with a few more years of this, he won’t be at Purdue much longer. Texas Tech amazingly still has a coach after its roller-coaster year. The Red Raiders again could move the ball on offense but got thrashed in just about every game on defense. Look for a plethora of points when they meet South Florida in Birmingham.</p><h3><strong>Because someone had to be last</strong></h3><h3>78. New Mexico State (6–6)</h3><p><strong>Next game</strong>: vs. Utah State in Arizona Bowl</p><p>Congrats to the Aggies, who are bowl eligible for the first time since the end of the Eisenhower administration. They won their final two games and can finally enjoy some national exposure and long awaited bowl swag.</p>
Bowl Season Power Rankings: All 78 Teams, From Oklahoma to New Mexico State

In the season’s final Power Rankings, we’ve added to our usual 25 standouts the additional 53 teams that will be playing in the postseason, because why not? You can never have too many bowl games for some reason. Because 81 teams reached the six-win threshold required for postseason eligibility, you won’t be seeing any 5–7 teams below thanks to a Academic Progress Rate, or Ole Miss (obviously). Also missing from the festivities are Western Michigan, UTSA and Buffalo, which had enough wins to make to the postseason but were left out on account of there being only 78 spots.

Now on to the mega-rankings:

1. Oklahoma (12–1, 7–1 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 1
This week: Beat TCU 41–17 in Big 12 Championship
Next game: vs. Georgia in Rose Bowl

The Sooners are the Big 12’s only program to make the playoff in its four years of existence. The defense had been criticized all season, especially after giving up 52 to Oklahoma State and 41 to one-win Baylor. That unit came to play against TCU, giving up 317 total yards in securing Oklahoma’s 11th Big 12 title (no other team has more than three). Baker Mayfield should practice his Heisman speech after throwing for 243 yards and four touchdowns.

2. Clemson (12–1, 7–1 ACC)

Previous ranking: 2
This week: Beat Miami 38–3 in ACC Championship
Next game: vs. Alabama in Sugar Bowl

Clemson’s third consecutive victory in the ACC title game was never in doubt, as Kelly Bryant had two total touchdowns and passed for 252 yards and the defense held Miami to 214 total yards and had four sacks. On this day, Clemson leaned on Bryant and that defense because the running game didn’t show up at all, averaging less than two yards a carry, although Clemson had four rushing touchdowns from short distance.

3. Georgia (12–1, 7–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 5
This week: Beat Auburn 28–7 in SEC Championship
Next game: vs. Oklahoma in Rose Bowl

Auburn coach Gus Malzahn was correct in his assessment of how Georgia beat his Tigers the second time around: The Bulldogs “flipped the script,” especially in the run game. In the first matchup, Georgia ran for only 46 yards. In this game, Georgia galloped for 238 yards and got an efficient game from quarterback Jake Fromm, who had two touchdowns and 183 yards passing.

4. Alabama (11–1, 7–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 6
This week: Off
Next game: vs. Clemson in Sugar Bowl

5. Ohio State (11­–2, 8–1 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 7
This week: Beat Wisconsin 27–21 in Big Ten Championship
Next game: vs. USC in Cotton Bowl

J.T. Barrett threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns less than a week after undergoing surgery on his right knee. Barrett also ran for a score, but his two turnovers kept Wisconsin in the game and prevented a blowout. Freshman J.K. Dobbins, who was named the game’s MVP, ran for 174 yards, while the talented defense shut down Wisconsin’s running game as the Badgers garnered only 60 yards on 32 carries.

6. Wisconsin (12–1, 9–0 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 3
This week: Lost 27–21 to Ohio State in Big Ten Championship
Next game: vs. Miami in Orange Bowl

Wisconsin’s formula that had worked all season long was nowhere to found on Saturday as the running game and stout defense failed to carry the Badgers to the Big Ten title. Jonathan Taylor had only 41 yards and Ohio State’s offense repeatedly gashed the slower Badgers for big play after big play. Alex Hornibrook had 229 yards but his untimely turnovers doomed Wisconsin.

7. Central Florida (12–0, 8–0 AAC)

Previous ranking: 8
This week: Beat Memphis 62–55 (2OT) in AAC Championship
Next game: vs. Auburn in Peach Bowl

In a span of three years, Central Florida went from the cellar of college football to undefeated and playing in a major bowl game. McKenzie Milton threw for 494 yards and five touchdowns and the Knights overcame four turnovers to win their third conference title in the last five seasons. The season was a perfect sendoff for coach Scott Frost, who will coach the bowl game before departing for the Nebraska job.

8. USC (11–2, 8–1 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 10
This week: Beat Stanford 31–28 in Pac–12 Championship
Next game: vs. Ohio State in Cotton Bowl

The Trojans used a 99-yard drive in the fourth quarter to hold off Stanford and bring home their first conference title in almost a decade. Sam Darnold threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns in what could be his final game in college, and Ronald Jones ran for 140 yards and two scores as part of USC’s 501-yard offensive effort. Bryce Love had 125 yards rushing for Stanford on a badly injured ankle, but it was not enough.

9. Auburn (10–3, 7–1 SEC)

Previous ranking: 4
This week: Lost to Auburn 28–7 in SEC Championship
Next game: vs. UCF in Peach Bowl

After scoring on the opening drive, Auburn’s hopes for a playoff berth and SEC title went down the drain thanks to an avalanche of penalties, special team miscues, two big turnovers and an inability to stop any Georgia running back. Kerryon Johnson came in with a shoulder injury and was ineffective, rushing for 40 yards on 13 carries as Auburn was held to 259 yards, its lowest output since a Week 2 loss at Clemson.

10. Penn State (10–2, 7–2 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 11
Last week: Off
Next game: vs. Washington in Fiesta Bowl

11. Washington (10–2, 7–2 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 13
This week: Off
Next game: vs. Penn State in Fiesta Bowl

12. TCU (10–3, 7-2 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 12
This week: Lost to Oklahoma 41–17 in Big 12 Championship
Next game: vs. Stanford in Alamo Bowl

TCU ran into the same problem it did when it faced the Sooners three weeks ago: The defense had no answer for Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma running game. The Horned Frogs also ran into a surprisingly salty Sooners defense, which gave up less than 100 yards and no points in the second half.

13. Miami, FL (10–2, 7–1 ACC)

Previous ranking: 9
This week: Lost 38–3 to Clemson in ACC Championship
Next game: vs. Wisconsin in Orange Bowl

For all of Miami’s magic through the first 10 games this season, it’s now clear that the Hurricanes were not prepared to run with the elites. Miami was outclassed by Clemson and did not help matters by turning the ball over three times. Malik Rosier threw for only 110 yards and was picked off twice as Miami fell behind early and was unable to sustain an offense to get back in the game.

14. Stanford (9–4, 7–2 Pac-12)

Previous ranking: 15
This week: Lost to USC 31–28 in Pac-12 Championship
Next game: vs. TCU in Alamo Bowl

Bryce Love did everything he could to carry Stanford to the Pac-12 title, rushing for 125 yards and a touchdown on an injured ankle. Will he be close to 100% by the bowl game (if he doesn’t choose to skip it)?

15. Notre Dame (9–3)

Previous ranking: 16
This week: Off
Next game: vs. LSU in Citrus Bowl

16. Memphis (10–2, 7–1 AAC)

Previous ranking: 14
This week: Lost 62–55 (2OT) to Central Florida in AAC Championship
Next game: vs. Iowa State in Liberty Bowl

In a game that featured 117 points and almost 1,500 yards, Memphis rallied twice from two-touchdown deficits to push UCF to overtime. Riley Ferguson had 471 yards and four touchdowns and the Tigers rolled up 753 yards of offense. The Tigers were done in by 14 penalties and two costly turnovers, despite holding the ball more than twice the time that Central Florida had it.

17. LSU (9-3, 6–2 SEC)

Previous ranking: 17
This week: Off
Next game: vs. Notre Dame in Citrus Bowl

18. Virginia Tech (9–3, 5–3 ACC)

Previous ranking: 18
This week: Off
Next game: vs. Oklahoma State in Camping World Bowl

19. Oklahoma State (9–3, 6–3 Big 12)

Previous ranking: 19
Last week: Off
Next game: vs. Virginia Tech in Camping World Bowl

20. Michigan State (9–3, 7–2 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 20
Last week: Off
Next game: vs. Washington State in Holiday Bowl

21. Northwestern (9–3, 7–2 Big Ten)

Previous ranking: 21
This week: Off
Next game: vs. Kentucky in Music City Bowl

Northwestern might be the biggest surprise in college football. Say what you want about its schedule, but winning nine games is hard no matter who is on the slate. Fans should get one last look at Justin Jackson, who might be the best Power 5 running back you haven’t heard of.

22. Washington State (9–3, 6–3 Pac–12)

Previous ranking: 22
Last week: Off
Next game: vs. Michigan State in Holiday Bowl

It would have been fun to see Mike Leach and his Cougars in a major bowl, but Washington State was blown out in three road games, including the season-ending Apple Cup, which could have gotten them a rematch against USC.

23. South Florida (9–2, 6–2 AAC)

Previous ranking: 23
Last week: Off
Next game: vs. Texas Tech in Birmingham Bowl

24. Boise State (10–3, 7–1 MWC)

Previous ranking:
This week: Beat Fresno State 17–14 in Mountain West Championship
Next game: vs. Oregon in Las Vegas Bowl

Boise State came up big in the fourth quarter, driving 90 yards to put the winning score on the board and avenge last week’s loss to Fresno State. Brett Rypien threw for 246 yards and the defense put the clamps on the Bulldogs' offense that shredded them the week before. Boise State has won 10 games for the eighth time in the last 10 years, and won the Mountain West for the second time in the last four.

25. Mississippi State (8–4, 4–4 SEC)

Previous ranking: 24
This week: Off
Next game: vs. Louisville in TaxSlayer Bowl

Almost Famous

26. Fresno State (9–4)

Next game: vs. Houston in Hawaii Bowl

27. Louisville (8­–4)

Next game: vs. Mississippi State in TaxSlayer Bowl

28. Florida Atlantic (10–3)

Next game: vs. Akron in Boca Raton Bowl

29. San Diego State (10–2)

Next game: vs. Army in Armed Forces Bowl

30. Michigan (8–4)

Next game: vs. South Carolina in Outback Bowl

31. NC State (8–4)

Next game: vs Arizona State in Belk Bowl

32. Toledo (11–2)

Next game: vs. Appalachian State in Armed Forces Bowl

33. Troy (10–2)

Next game: vs. North Texas in New Orleans Bowl

34. Army (8–3)

Next games: vs. Navy on Saturday; vs. San Diego State in Armed Forces Bowl

35. South Carolina (8–4)

Next game: vs. Michigan in Outback Bowl

36. Iowa State (7–5)

Next game: vs. Memphis in Liberty Bowl

37. Appalachian State (10–2)

Next game: vs. Toledo in Armed Forces Bowl

38. West Virginia (7–5)

Next game: vs. Utah in Heart of Dallas Bowl

39. Kansas State (7–5)

Next game: vs. UCLA in Cactus Bowl

Remember when Iowa State was on the fringes on a top-10 ranking? The Cyclones closed the season losing four of their last five games. If Louisville had any sort of semblance of a defense, Lamar Jackson’s second Heisman would have been more than a dream. The passengers on the Lane Train get to stay home in Boca Raton for bowl season, and no one—and I mean no one—thought FAU would win 10 games after looking pitiful in the early part of the season.

The comeback kids

40. Oregon (7–5)

Next game: vs. Boise State in Las Vegas Bowl

41. Texas A&M (7–5)

Next game: vs. Wake Forest in Belk Bowl

42. SMU (7–5)

Next game: vs. Louisiana Tech in Frisco Bowl

43. Marshall (7–5)

Next game: vs. Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl

44. Central Michigan (8–4)

Next game: vs. Wyoming in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

45. Arizona State (7–5)

Next game: vs. NC State in Belk Bowl

46. Kentucky (7–5)

Next game: vs. Northwestern in Music City Bowl

47. UAB (8–4)

Next game: vs. Ohio in Bahamas Bowl

48. Northern Illinois (8–4)

Next game: vs. Duke in Quick Lane Bowl

49. Missouri (7–5)

Next game: vs. Texas in Texas Bowl

Oregon spent a majority of the season without its starting quarterback, Justin Herbert, who broke his collarbone. The Ducks are a different team with him under center and the Las Vegas Bowl is a good opportunity to show what could be coming next year in Eugene. In December 2014, UAB shut down its football program, citing financial difficulties. The Blazers came back in a big way, earning bowl eligibility in their first season back. Keep an eye out for UAB’s Spencer Brown, a dynamic freshman who ran for nearly 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns this season.

College football’s Jekyll and Hyde

50. Southern Miss (8–4)

Next game: vs. Florida State in Independence Bowl

51. Iowa (7–5)

Next game: vs. Boston College in Pinstripe Bowl

52. North Texas (9–4)

Next game: vs. New Orleans Bowl

53. Ohio (8–4)

Next game: vs. UAB in Bahamas Bowl

54. Arizona (7–5)

Next game: vs. Purdue in Foster Farms Bowl

55. Wake Forest (7–5)

Next game: vs. Texas A&M in Belk Bowl

56. Akron (7–6)

Next game: vs. FAU in Boca Raton Bowl

57. Colorado State (7–5)

Next game: vs. Marshall in New Mexico Bowl

58. Navy (6–5)

Next game: vs. Army on Saturday; vs. Virginia in Military Bowl

59. Florida International (8–4)

Next game: vs. Temple in Gasparilla Bowl

Iowa is the biggest enigma in college football: thrashing Ohio State by 31 points at home, then losing to Purdue in the same stadium two weeks later. On the bright side, the Hawkeyes did beat four teams that made it to bowls this season. North Texas, which lacks much notable football tradition outside of Mean Joe Greene, won nine games under the outstanding leadership of second-year coach Seth Littrell—another season like this and programs that have vacancies next winter will come calling. For those who didn’t stay up late to watch this season of Pac-12 After Dark, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is must-see TV. He is known to break off a long run (or five) during the game and could have a 250-yard game against Purdue’s defense.

On the upswing

60. Texas (6–6)

Next game: vs. Missouri in Texas Bowl

61. Arkansas State (7­–4)

Next game: vs. Middle Tennessee in Camellia Bowl

62. Boston College (7–5)

Next game: vs. Iowa in Independence Bowl

63. Western Kentucky (6–6)

Next game: vs. Georgia State in Cure Bowl

64. Utah (6–6)

Next game: vs. West Virginia in Heart of Dallas Bowl

65. Houston (7–4)

Next game: vs. Fresno State in Hawaii Bowl

66. Wyoming (7–5)

Next game: vs. Central Michigan in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

67. UCLA (6–6)

Next game: vs. Kansas State in Cactus Bowl

68. Utah State (6–6)

Next game: vs. New Mexico State in Arizona Bowl

69. Florida State (6–6)

Next game: vs. Southern Mississippi in Independence Bowl

The pixie dust worked about as well as Tom Herman warned us it would this season for Texas, which hung with Oklahoma, USC and Oklahoma State, but somehow lost to Maryland and Texas Tech. Better days are ahead in Austin. UCLA, another team that has talent and failed to capitalized, fell to rock bottom after a thrilling comeback in the opener against Texas A&M. That slide got Jim Mora fired and led to the hiring of Chip Kelly. The Bruins should thrive again under Kelly in a hurry.

The worst of the best

70. Purdue (6–6)

Next game: vs. Arizona in Foster Farms Bowl

71. Duke (6–6)

Next game: vs. Northern Illinois in Quick Lane Bowl

72. Louisiana Tech (6–6)

Next game: vs. SMU in Frisco Bowl

73. Virginia (6–6)

Next game: vs. Navy in Military Bowl

74. Temple (6–6)

Next game: vs. FIU in Gasparilla Bowl

75. Middle Tennessee State (6­–6)

Next game: vs. Arkansas State in Camellia Bowl

76. Texas Tech (6–6)

Next game: vs. South Florida in Birmingham Bowl

77. Georgia State (6–5)

Next game: vs. Western Kentucky in Cure Bowl

These teams aren’t necessarily bad (all of them won at least six games), but at times, watching them play was tough on the eyes. Purdue showed remarkable improvement under first-year coach Jeff Brohm, and with a few more years of this, he won’t be at Purdue much longer. Texas Tech amazingly still has a coach after its roller-coaster year. The Red Raiders again could move the ball on offense but got thrashed in just about every game on defense. Look for a plethora of points when they meet South Florida in Birmingham.

Because someone had to be last

78. New Mexico State (6–6)

Next game: vs. Utah State in Arizona Bowl

Congrats to the Aggies, who are bowl eligible for the first time since the end of the Eisenhower administration. They won their final two games and can finally enjoy some national exposure and long awaited bowl swag.

<p>Three years ago, when the Rose Bowl last hosted a College Football Playoff semifinal, the game was able to keep at least some portion of its precious tradition. A stellar Marcus Mariota-led Oregon team earned the No. 2 seed following the 2014 season and ensured that a Pac-12 representative would play in Pasadena, only instead of the customary Big Ten opponent the Ducks faced (and beat) unbeaten Florida State.</p><p>For the first time since the end of the 2001 season (when Miami pounded Nebraska for the national title), both the Pac-12 and the Big Ten will watch the Rose Bowl from home, as Oklahoma and Georgia secured the committee’s No. 2 and 3 rankings, respectively, and were sent west after top-seeded Clemson was given geographic preference and assigned the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. With just under a month until kickoff, consider this your first look at an unorthodox matchup that nevertheless has all the makings of a Rose Bowl classic.</p><p>• <strong><a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/04/alabama-clemson-preview-sugar-bowl-playoff" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Sugar Bowl preview: Who has the edge in the Clemson-Alabama rubber match?" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Sugar Bowl preview: Who has the edge in the Clemson-Alabama rubber match?</a></strong></p><h3>How both teams got here</h3><p><strong>Oklahoma: </strong>Simple: Nurture a walk-on quarterback into a Heisman favorite over four years, surrounding him with an endless supply of blue-chip weapons and a young, fearless coach who trusts him to make it all hum. So maybe the process is easier said than done, but after two seasons of spirited contention, the duo of quarterback Baker Mayfield and offensive coordinator turned head coach Lincoln Riley tore up Big 12 defenses at the helm of the nation’s fourth-highest scoring attack, putting up 44.9 points per game. The Sooners stunned Ohio State in Week 2 to dispel their preseason doubters, then brought them all back with a shootout loss to Iowa State in October. When contenders in other conferences hit a wall in November, Oklahoma kept improving, cruising to double-digit wins in their final six games. Mayfield threw 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions in November.</p><p><strong>Georgia: </strong>Simple: Hire a Nick Saban assistant away from Alabama on the faith that he’s one of the few coaches with the leadership skills to operate Saban’s system outside of Tuscaloosa, and then find yourself proven right in just two years. Kirby Smart has gotten the most out of the Bulldogs’ seasoned front seven and benefited from healthy campaigns from senior running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to produce a 12–1 campaign in Year Two. After starting quarterback Jacob Eason went down with a knee injury in the season opener, true freshman Jake Fromm took the reins and piloted the offense to a nip-and-tuck road win over Notre Dame and emphatic Ws over the Bulldogs’ SEC East competition. Georgia topped the initial playoff rankings but was promptly humbled by Auburn, <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/02/georgia-auburn-sec-championship-game" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:only to get acceptable revenge last weekend with the SEC title on the line" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">only to get acceptable revenge last weekend with the SEC title on the line</a> in Atlanta.</p><h3>Storyline you’ll get tired of hearing about</h3><p><strong>The best offensive player in the country (Mayfield) against the best defensive player in the country (Bulldogs linebacker Roquan Smith).</strong> Mayfield likely will be riding post-Heisman hype and a wave of takes on <a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/11/28/oklahoma-sooners-baker-mayfield-heisman-playoff" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:his hyper-competitive, line-toeing personality" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">his hyper-competitive, line-toeing personality</a>; Smith already has the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker, and could bring home the Nagurski and/or Bednarik (each awarded to the nation’s top overall defender) soon. Few linebackers have the sideline-to-sideline speed to give Mayfield something to think about as he moves the pocket and darts around the field, but Smith has it in spades.</p><h3>Matchup to Watch</h3><p><strong>Lorenzo Carter vs. Orlando Brown.</strong> Carter is second only to Smith among Georgia defenders with 4.0 sacks, and he’s half of an imposing senior outside linebacker tandem with Davin Bellamy that will try to keep Mayfield from getting comfortable. But there’s a reason Mayfield took to Twitter to express his frustration that his O-line was snubbed for the Joe Moore Award, given to the best line in the country. The Sooners have an experienced, imposing front five, anchored by their hulking redshirt junior left tackle Brown, who stands 6’ 8” and is listed at 345 pounds. Carter and Brown will see each other on Sundays after they square off in Pasadena.</p><h3>Underrated X-Factor</h3><p><strong>Georgia’s defensive backs.</strong> Rare is the team that has enough time to let downfield passing plays develop against Georgia’s defense, which ranks second nationally behind Alabama with just 5.58 yards allowed per pass attempt. But Missouri’s Drew Lock proved that big plays are there for the taking with enough time and the right athlete on the other end of the throw, and no quarterback on the regular season schedule was closer to what Georgia will see from Mayfield. The likes of J.R. Reed, Dominick Sanders and Deandre Baker will be tested; can they hold up for four quarters?</p><h3>Early prediction</h3><p>With little to separate either team four weeks out from the opening kick, it’s tough to go against the player just days away from winning the Heisman Trophy. If Oklahoma’s defense can find a big play or two, the pressure could mount quickly on Fromm and the Georgia offense to get points out of nearly every drive, putting the Sooners in control.</p>
Rose Bowl 2018 Preview: A Way-Too-Early Look at Oklahoma-Georgia

Three years ago, when the Rose Bowl last hosted a College Football Playoff semifinal, the game was able to keep at least some portion of its precious tradition. A stellar Marcus Mariota-led Oregon team earned the No. 2 seed following the 2014 season and ensured that a Pac-12 representative would play in Pasadena, only instead of the customary Big Ten opponent the Ducks faced (and beat) unbeaten Florida State.

For the first time since the end of the 2001 season (when Miami pounded Nebraska for the national title), both the Pac-12 and the Big Ten will watch the Rose Bowl from home, as Oklahoma and Georgia secured the committee’s No. 2 and 3 rankings, respectively, and were sent west after top-seeded Clemson was given geographic preference and assigned the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. With just under a month until kickoff, consider this your first look at an unorthodox matchup that nevertheless has all the makings of a Rose Bowl classic.

Sugar Bowl preview: Who has the edge in the Clemson-Alabama rubber match?

How both teams got here

Oklahoma: Simple: Nurture a walk-on quarterback into a Heisman favorite over four years, surrounding him with an endless supply of blue-chip weapons and a young, fearless coach who trusts him to make it all hum. So maybe the process is easier said than done, but after two seasons of spirited contention, the duo of quarterback Baker Mayfield and offensive coordinator turned head coach Lincoln Riley tore up Big 12 defenses at the helm of the nation’s fourth-highest scoring attack, putting up 44.9 points per game. The Sooners stunned Ohio State in Week 2 to dispel their preseason doubters, then brought them all back with a shootout loss to Iowa State in October. When contenders in other conferences hit a wall in November, Oklahoma kept improving, cruising to double-digit wins in their final six games. Mayfield threw 18 touchdowns and just two interceptions in November.

Georgia: Simple: Hire a Nick Saban assistant away from Alabama on the faith that he’s one of the few coaches with the leadership skills to operate Saban’s system outside of Tuscaloosa, and then find yourself proven right in just two years. Kirby Smart has gotten the most out of the Bulldogs’ seasoned front seven and benefited from healthy campaigns from senior running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to produce a 12–1 campaign in Year Two. After starting quarterback Jacob Eason went down with a knee injury in the season opener, true freshman Jake Fromm took the reins and piloted the offense to a nip-and-tuck road win over Notre Dame and emphatic Ws over the Bulldogs’ SEC East competition. Georgia topped the initial playoff rankings but was promptly humbled by Auburn, only to get acceptable revenge last weekend with the SEC title on the line in Atlanta.

Storyline you’ll get tired of hearing about

The best offensive player in the country (Mayfield) against the best defensive player in the country (Bulldogs linebacker Roquan Smith). Mayfield likely will be riding post-Heisman hype and a wave of takes on his hyper-competitive, line-toeing personality; Smith already has the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker, and could bring home the Nagurski and/or Bednarik (each awarded to the nation’s top overall defender) soon. Few linebackers have the sideline-to-sideline speed to give Mayfield something to think about as he moves the pocket and darts around the field, but Smith has it in spades.

Matchup to Watch

Lorenzo Carter vs. Orlando Brown. Carter is second only to Smith among Georgia defenders with 4.0 sacks, and he’s half of an imposing senior outside linebacker tandem with Davin Bellamy that will try to keep Mayfield from getting comfortable. But there’s a reason Mayfield took to Twitter to express his frustration that his O-line was snubbed for the Joe Moore Award, given to the best line in the country. The Sooners have an experienced, imposing front five, anchored by their hulking redshirt junior left tackle Brown, who stands 6’ 8” and is listed at 345 pounds. Carter and Brown will see each other on Sundays after they square off in Pasadena.

Underrated X-Factor

Georgia’s defensive backs. Rare is the team that has enough time to let downfield passing plays develop against Georgia’s defense, which ranks second nationally behind Alabama with just 5.58 yards allowed per pass attempt. But Missouri’s Drew Lock proved that big plays are there for the taking with enough time and the right athlete on the other end of the throw, and no quarterback on the regular season schedule was closer to what Georgia will see from Mayfield. The likes of J.R. Reed, Dominick Sanders and Deandre Baker will be tested; can they hold up for four quarters?

Early prediction

With little to separate either team four weeks out from the opening kick, it’s tough to go against the player just days away from winning the Heisman Trophy. If Oklahoma’s defense can find a big play or two, the pressure could mount quickly on Fromm and the Georgia offense to get points out of nearly every drive, putting the Sooners in control.

<p>The decision to give the fourth and final playoff spot to one-loss Alabama instead of Big Ten champion Ohio State has set the stage for the ultra-rare re-rematch. For the third season in a row, Alabama and Clemson will meet in the playoff, after splitting the previous two seasons’ meetings.</p><p>The only difference this time around is that the clash between these two programs—college football’s finest over the past three years—will come in the Sugar Bowl semifinal rather than the national title game.</p><p>It’s a matchup teeming with storylines, but the game itself won’t take place for another four weeks. Anything can happen between now and then, and there are 38 other bowl games before the semifinal kicks off on New Year’s Day. All this goes to say, this preview of Alabama-Clemson Part III is of the way-too-early variety.</p><p>• <strong><a href="https://www.si.com/college-football/2017/12/04/oklahoma-georgia-rose-bowl-preview-college-football-playoff" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Rose Bowl preview: Oklahoma’s O or Georgia’s D?" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Rose Bowl preview: Oklahoma’s O or Georgia’s D?</a></strong></p><h3>How both teams got here</h3><p><strong>Clemson: </strong>With authority. The Tigers knew the ACC championship game against Miami served as basically a playoff quarterfinal; a win meant entering the playoff as the likely top seed, while a loss would have almost certainly killed any shot of repeating as national champions.</p><p>All Clemson did was absolutely annihilate Miami from the opening whistle in a performance that severely tempered the “Miami is back” talk, at least for now. Clemson carried a 38–0 lead into the fourth quarter before surrendering a meaningless field goal and now enters the postseason brimming with confidence.</p><p>The Tigers started the year ranked third in the AP poll, and apart from a Friday night loss to Syracuse in October—a game starting quarterback Kelly Bryant left in the first half with a concussion—Clemson has been rock-solid all season. With four wins over teams in the final playoff ranking and coming off back-to-back gut-check victories (Clemson handled rival South Carolina 34–10 on the road in the last week of the season), the Tigers are a worthy No. 1.</p><p><strong>Alabama: </strong>By the skin of their teeth. The Crimson Tide’s 26–14 loss at Auburn on rivalry weekend left their fate in the hands of the committee, as Auburn’s victory clinched the SEC West and kept Bama out of the SEC title game. But Ohio State did Nick Saban’s team a real solid by beating Wisconsin, which would have taken the fourth spot with a victory, and the committee resisted the urge to pick the two-loss Buckeyes simply because they won their conference.</p><p>Alabama doesn’t have many quality wins on its résumé, as Florida State’s disastrous season nullified what appeared to be a prestigious win in Week 1, but its only loss on the season came on the road to a top-10 team in a game that was far closer than the final score.</p><h3>Storyline you’ll get tired of hearing</h3><p><strong>Does Alabama even deserve to be here? </strong>You’re going to hear a ton about how this is the third straight year these teams will meet in the playoff, but that’s a genuinely intriguing storyline that doesn’t come along often. On the other hand, continuing to debate whether it should be Ohio State instead of Alabama is neither productive nor enjoyable. No matter your opinion on the decision—for what it’s worth, I think the committee nailed it—there’s no going back now, for better or worse. Fans should shift their attention from the Ohio State-Alabama debate to the actual football games coming up, which should be spectacular.</p><h3>Matchup to watch</h3><p><strong>Alabama’s rushing attack vs. Clemson’s defensive front. </strong>Alabama relies heavily on the three-headed ground attack of running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough and quarterback Jalen Hurts, all of whom have over 500 rushing yards on the season. It’s been a successful strategy thus far—the Crimson Tide are 11th in the country with 265.3 rushing yards per game. But Clemson’s extremely talented defensive front, led by first-team All-ACCers Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins, presents a new challenge entirely. The Tigers held Miami to 104 rushing yards on 30 attempts and 214 yards of total offense in the ACC title game. Whether Alabama is able to establish a run game will go a long way toward determining the outcome.</p><h3>Underrated X-factor</h3><p><strong>Alabama’s health. </strong>The Crimson Tide came into the Iron Bowl banged up, particularly on the defensive end. Linebackers Terrell Lewis and Christian Miller were playing their first games since the season-opener against Florida State, while Mack Wilson suited up for the first time since Oct. 21. The defense looked vulnerable in giving up 408 yards of total offense to Auburn.</p><p>Those three guys will seriously benefit from the extended break, but Alabama will be without starting safety Hootie Jones, who will miss the game with an MCL injury he suffered against Auburn. All in all, Alabama should be healthier for the semifinal than it was for the Iron Bowl, which bodes well for the defense’s chances to slow Clemson down.</p><h3>Early prediction</h3><p>The game opened as a pick ’em, but public support for Alabama has made the Crimson Tide slight favorites. Clemson has proven over the past two years that it can match Alabama talent-wise at virtually every position on the field. The Tigers are peaking at the right time, and that defense won’t allow Alabama to impose its will on the ground. Clemson is in good position to take Part III.</p>
Sugar Bowl 2018 Preview: A Way-Too-Early Look at Alabama-Clemson

The decision to give the fourth and final playoff spot to one-loss Alabama instead of Big Ten champion Ohio State has set the stage for the ultra-rare re-rematch. For the third season in a row, Alabama and Clemson will meet in the playoff, after splitting the previous two seasons’ meetings.

The only difference this time around is that the clash between these two programs—college football’s finest over the past three years—will come in the Sugar Bowl semifinal rather than the national title game.

It’s a matchup teeming with storylines, but the game itself won’t take place for another four weeks. Anything can happen between now and then, and there are 38 other bowl games before the semifinal kicks off on New Year’s Day. All this goes to say, this preview of Alabama-Clemson Part III is of the way-too-early variety.

Rose Bowl preview: Oklahoma’s O or Georgia’s D?

How both teams got here

Clemson: With authority. The Tigers knew the ACC championship game against Miami served as basically a playoff quarterfinal; a win meant entering the playoff as the likely top seed, while a loss would have almost certainly killed any shot of repeating as national champions.

All Clemson did was absolutely annihilate Miami from the opening whistle in a performance that severely tempered the “Miami is back” talk, at least for now. Clemson carried a 38–0 lead into the fourth quarter before surrendering a meaningless field goal and now enters the postseason brimming with confidence.

The Tigers started the year ranked third in the AP poll, and apart from a Friday night loss to Syracuse in October—a game starting quarterback Kelly Bryant left in the first half with a concussion—Clemson has been rock-solid all season. With four wins over teams in the final playoff ranking and coming off back-to-back gut-check victories (Clemson handled rival South Carolina 34–10 on the road in the last week of the season), the Tigers are a worthy No. 1.

Alabama: By the skin of their teeth. The Crimson Tide’s 26–14 loss at Auburn on rivalry weekend left their fate in the hands of the committee, as Auburn’s victory clinched the SEC West and kept Bama out of the SEC title game. But Ohio State did Nick Saban’s team a real solid by beating Wisconsin, which would have taken the fourth spot with a victory, and the committee resisted the urge to pick the two-loss Buckeyes simply because they won their conference.

Alabama doesn’t have many quality wins on its résumé, as Florida State’s disastrous season nullified what appeared to be a prestigious win in Week 1, but its only loss on the season came on the road to a top-10 team in a game that was far closer than the final score.

Storyline you’ll get tired of hearing

Does Alabama even deserve to be here? You’re going to hear a ton about how this is the third straight year these teams will meet in the playoff, but that’s a genuinely intriguing storyline that doesn’t come along often. On the other hand, continuing to debate whether it should be Ohio State instead of Alabama is neither productive nor enjoyable. No matter your opinion on the decision—for what it’s worth, I think the committee nailed it—there’s no going back now, for better or worse. Fans should shift their attention from the Ohio State-Alabama debate to the actual football games coming up, which should be spectacular.

Matchup to watch

Alabama’s rushing attack vs. Clemson’s defensive front. Alabama relies heavily on the three-headed ground attack of running backs Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough and quarterback Jalen Hurts, all of whom have over 500 rushing yards on the season. It’s been a successful strategy thus far—the Crimson Tide are 11th in the country with 265.3 rushing yards per game. But Clemson’s extremely talented defensive front, led by first-team All-ACCers Clelin Ferrell, Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins, presents a new challenge entirely. The Tigers held Miami to 104 rushing yards on 30 attempts and 214 yards of total offense in the ACC title game. Whether Alabama is able to establish a run game will go a long way toward determining the outcome.

Underrated X-factor

Alabama’s health. The Crimson Tide came into the Iron Bowl banged up, particularly on the defensive end. Linebackers Terrell Lewis and Christian Miller were playing their first games since the season-opener against Florida State, while Mack Wilson suited up for the first time since Oct. 21. The defense looked vulnerable in giving up 408 yards of total offense to Auburn.

Those three guys will seriously benefit from the extended break, but Alabama will be without starting safety Hootie Jones, who will miss the game with an MCL injury he suffered against Auburn. All in all, Alabama should be healthier for the semifinal than it was for the Iron Bowl, which bodes well for the defense’s chances to slow Clemson down.

Early prediction

The game opened as a pick ’em, but public support for Alabama has made the Crimson Tide slight favorites. Clemson has proven over the past two years that it can match Alabama talent-wise at virtually every position on the field. The Tigers are peaking at the right time, and that defense won’t allow Alabama to impose its will on the ground. Clemson is in good position to take Part III.

<p>1. I think my first reaction to <a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/12/03/rob-gronkowski-cheap-shot-hit-patriots-bills-tredavious-white-video" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Rob Gronkowski’s dirty hit" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Rob Gronkowski’s dirty hit</a> was that he didn’t deserve a suspension. He’s no Vontaze Burfict, no gratuitous offender with a long track record. But then I went back and watched it eight or 10 times. It’s gruesome, a forearm shiver from a much bigger man to the back of the head of Tre’Davious White, the Buffalo cornerback. Suspensions should not be doled out easily. But in this era of football, when the ills of hits to the head and head trauma and concussions are rightfully and universally decried, the violence of a hit like Gronkowski’s has far-reaching implications.</p><p>• It left White concussed. Knowing what we know about the dangers of concussions and how, once a concussion is suffered, future concussions can come easier, it’s inexcusable for a concussion to happen voluntarily. Gronkowski surely didn’t mean to concuss White, but whatever he meant doesn’t matter; White was concussed with a purposeful hit to the back of his head.</p><p>• The NFL has to show it’s serious about policing hits that result in concussions, particularly those that can be avoided. This is the perfect example of a hit that had nothing to do with football, and it could potentially plague White in the future. If the NFL lets this hit be adjudicated simply by a fine to a player making $6.75 million this season, what’s the lesson?</p><p>• A suspension hurts Gronkowski, and hurts the Patriots. To deter Gronkowski from ever doing it again, regardless of his frustration over officiating (he said that’s what made him boil over Sunday in Buffalo), the league has to come down hard … and show Gronkowski a simple apology isn’t enough, and show the rest of the league there will be no tolerance for bush-league fouls like this. </p><p>2. I think these are my quick thoughts on Week 13:</p><p>a. With the regular season 75 percent complete, my MVP top three: 1. Tom Brady, 2. Russell Wilson, 3. Carson Wentz. Why has Wilson jumped Wentz for the time being, despite having won two fewer games? The head-to-head performance Sunday night helped. But more than anything, it’s the fact that Wilson performs at such a high level with a line far inferior to Philadelphia’s.</p><p>b. How often does Alvin Kamara make tacklers miss—or make potential tacklers dive by him flailing at air? He is going to be a star in the league for a long time. Look at the way he just blew through the Kurt Coleman tackle for the Saints’ fourth touchdown against Carolina. It’s like Coleman, a sure tackler, wasn’t there.</p><p>c. It’s like the Giants’ defensive backs are playing with olive oil on their hands and arms and jerseys. Two absolutely gigantic drops of easy interceptions in Oakland.</p><p>d. Tremendous point by Tony Romo on Pats-Bills, with New England near the Buffalo goal line, and the picture showing Tom Brady fake-patting his center on left buttock. (There’s phraseology I never thought I’d use.) Romo made the point that when defensive players see the rapid movement of Brady’s left hand, they’ll think he’s about to start a silent snap count in a very noisy stadium. But if he doesn’t actually hit the center’s rear end but only appears to be hitting it, it’s going to fool the edge defenders and prevent them from getting a fast start off the snap of the ball. Very informative.</p><p>e. Big breakup of what looked to be a sure touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Keenan Allen by Jason McCourty, who punched out the ball at the last moment. McCourty continues to show he absolutely was not washed up when the Titans let him go. </p><p>f. When Anthony Lynn dreams, it’s not about winning the lottery. He dreams of a competent field-goal kicker walking through the doors of his practice facility in southern California.</p><p>g. Jermaine Kearse: Catch of the day, with his one-hander going to the ground on the sideline against the Chiefs, channeling his inner Doug Baldwin. He’s been a good pickup for the Jets.</p><p>h. Memo to FOX: More Chris Spielman. I love his passion and his realness on the games, calling out loafers and interpreting the why of football so well.</p><p>i. Lions-Ravens, second quarter, play-action TD pass from Joe Flacco to fullback Patrick Ricard, Spielman disgusted with Lions letting Ricard bleed free from the backfield, the same as with an earlier short TD to Ben Watson: “They [the Lions] just have no communication on that play. This is something that happens all the time. They cannot defend the play-action pass on goal-line and short yardage.”</p><p>j. I went back and looked at the first TD, to Watson. <em>Almost exactly the same. And the Lions didn’t cover Watson either. Crazy.</em></p><p>k. Detroit, biggest underachievers in the NFL the past three years: 7-9, 9-8, 6-6. Talk about a franchise wasting the prime of a franchise quarterback’s years. This is Stafford’s ninth season. He turns 30 Feb. 7. He’s taken significant abuse.</p><p>l. Stafford isn’t without blame here, though. He was, at best, average Sunday before going out with a hand injury.</p><p>m. Great third-down pass breakup by Minnesota cornerback Mackensie Alexander off Matt Ryan, in a key late-first-half spot.</p><p>n. There is no one better than DeAndre Hopkins on the toe-tap on the sidelines … and that includes Julio Jones. Jones might be as good, but he’s not better than Hopkins. No one is.</p><p>o. Terrific run defense by Tennessee defensive end Austin Williams, smothering Albert Blue of Houston to force a Houston field goal in a tie game.</p><p>p. Kyle Fuller hasn’t had many good games for the Bears in his career, but Sunday was one of them. Great cutdown of Carlos Hyde to prevent a second-and-one end-sweep conversion with the Niners threatening.</p><p>q. Horrendous lunging, diving, almost-to-the-ground desperate interception returned for touchdown thrown by Jameis Winston at Green Bay. This is a continuing problem with Winston. This is three years of the occasional brain-fart throw. That’s got to end, or a potentially starry career will never happen.</p><p>r. Yet Winston made some strong plays in the game. All is not lost. He’s just got to take coaching.</p><p>s. Man, Jimmy and Dee Haslam want to keep the front office and coaching staff for another year. They don’t want to blow it up again. But this iteration of the Browns is 1-27 with Green Bay and Baltimore at home, then Chicago and Pittsburgh on the road. My gut feeling is the Haslams will do something of either partial or complete deconstruction, and be miserable doing it.</p><p>t. I wonder what gives Haslam, the biggest booster of the woebegone Vols there is, more pain: His college Tennessee Volunteers or his professional Cleveland Browns.</p><p>u. Cleveland at Chicago. Christmas Eve. Noon. Soldier Field. Provide your own laugh track. </p><p>v. Look at the stunting in the run game Joey Bosa did against Cleveland, smashing Duke Johnson to the ground for a loss. Bosa just doesn’t have a weakness to his game—including his instincts. They’re veteran instincts.</p><p>3. I think those close to the process believe the Roger Goodell contract extension will be finished by the time owners meet in Dallas on Dec. 13. It may even be done early this week, after the six members of the Compensation Committee finish calling the other 26 owners in the league. I’m told all six committee members are in favor of the final iteration of the Goodell contract, and the final few calls to owners could result in minor changes. According to one source close to the process, the message from the committee to owners is they want to put this to bed so they can focus more “on the important things we need to do as a league. There’s a common feeling in these conversations—the owners want to address TV ratings, attendance, no-shows, the anthem issues, civil rights issues. Basically, the owners want to get on with it.” Does Jerry Jones have time to mount any organized opposition to the Goodell deal? Does he want to still? Time is of the essence now.</p><p>4. I think it’s great that Arizona State picked Herman Edwards to be its football coach, and I mean that. I’ve known Edwards for 20 years, and he’s one of the most genuine and good-hearted people I know in any walk of life, and the players he imports to the program will be better human beings for knowing him. Now, as far as winning, I have no idea. Can he recruit? Can he get a good staff to teach and coach the recruits, especially in a big-league conference like the Pac-12? I just don’t know. And while I appreciated the fact that ASU is going to run the program like an NFL team, this definition of the formation of the new programs sounds a tad complex: “The department&#39;s New Leadership Model will be similar to an NFL approach using a general manager structure. It&#39;s a collaborative approach to managing the ASU football program that includes sport and administrative divisions, which will operate as distinct but collective units focused on elevating all aspects of Sun Devil Football. This structure will allow the department to form a multi-layered method to the talent evaluation and recruiting processes, increase its emphasis on both student-athlete and coach development and retention, and provide a boost in resource allocation and generation.” I truly don’t know what it means. I do know, Herm, you’d better have a quarterback.</p><p>5. I think I love every Charger uniform. The sky blue is my favorite. A very close second: Sunday’s deep-blue jerseys, deep-blue pants, deep-blue socks. Sartorially, the Chargers are running away with the AFC West. </p><p>6. I think this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while—the combined forces of Sports Illustrated<em>, </em>CBS Sports and the NFL Players Association to find <a href="https://www.si.com/specials/nfl-most-valuable-performer/index.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the NFL’s Most Valuable Performer off the field" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the NFL’s Most Valuable Performer off the field</a>. You’ll see an NFL player who juggles, another who plays the violin, another channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix. The video alone in worth the price of admission. Lucky for you, it’s free. </p><p>7. I think it’d be nice to read this sort of column—in Time<em>, </em>Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy wrote about <a href="http://time.com/5016104/stan-van-gundy-nfl-protests/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:how protesting NFL players are patriots" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">how protesting NFL players are patriots</a>—from an NFL coach. Writes Van Gundy: “Colin Kaepernick has been denied employment for the act of taking a knee to draw attention to the issue of police killings of men of color. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were denied employment and advancement in their post-athletic careers because they raised a fist on the victory stand at the 1968 Olympics. These athletes and many others are risking future contracts and endorsement opportunities to speak out on issues of racial injustice because they feel duty-bound to do so. These are patriots of the highest order.”</p><p>8. I think these would have been my four for the NCAA playoff: Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama … setting up Alabama-Clemson in the national playoffs for the third straight year. Take the over; 85 and 66 points scored in the previous two bowl games between the two.</p><p>9. I think, regarding Albert Breer University, I really don’t see how a two-loss team with a 31-point loss to unranked Iowa has much of a case to jump 11-1 Alabama, scarred only by a 12-point loss to an Auburn team that entered play Saturday ranked second by the college football playoff committee. I know Ohio State’s schedule was tougher, but I just can’t get over Iowa 55, Ohio State 24.</p><p>10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:</p><p>a. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/local/las-vegas-teens/?undefined=&#38;utm_term=.8e9efed0f1ba&#38;wpisrc=nl_mustreads&#38;wpmm=1" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Story of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Story of the Week</a>, by John Woodrow Cox of the Washington Post<em>, </em>“The wounds they carry,” about six Las Vegas-area high school students who went to the Route 91 Harvest music festival … and the scars they carry with them from the mass shooting two months ago. Cox follows the students to their Homecoming weekend, and the effects of the shooting. Harrowing.</p><p>b. Is it time yet to discuss <em>anything </em>pertaining to gun control or limiting the type of weapons or accessories use to perpetrate mass murder by shooting? Or are we still in thoughts-and-prayers mode? Do something, Washington. Have some guts.</p><p>c. The cost of Christmas trees has doubled in eight years. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/30/business/christmas-tree-shortage-recession.html?_r=0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Nice look at it" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Nice look at it</a> by Tiffany Hsu of the New York Times.</p><p>d. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/business/dealbook/time-inc-meredith-corporation-koch-brothers.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hello, Meredith Corp" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hello, Meredith Corp</a>. Be good to your new properties at Time Inc.</p><p>e. <a href="https://deadspin.com/what-the-hell-is-the-hopewell-fund-1820881123" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:NFL Journalism of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">NFL Journalism of the Week</a>, from Deadspin, on one of the firms overseeing the dispersal of money the NFL is using for the civil rights donations it’s making to players.</p><p>f. The problem with groups overseeing supposedly wonderful and worthy and transparent donations and causes is that if they too are not altogether transparent and wonderful and worthy as well, it looks like a sham.</p><p>g. Perhaps You’d Like To Have That Headline Back Headline of the Week: “Rose’s departure would be a huge loss for the NBA,” on ESPN.com. I empathize with the multiple injuries Derrick Rose has been through, and the anguish that he must have gone through (and must be going through now) while being injured so much since being NBA MVP, what, six years ago? But Rose, who has taken a leave from the Cavs, has played in 42 percent of his team’s games over the past six seasons. How possibly could he be a huge loss for NBA? He’d have been a huge loss in 2012 or ‘13. But time marches on. The NBA’s been growing pretty well without him.</p><p>h. Coffeenerdness: Best coffee-related value of my year: Bought a 12-ounce <a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00VKLOJL4/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&#38;tag=sportsillustrated0f--20&#38;camp=1789&#38;creative=9325&#38;linkCode=as2&#38;creativeASIN=B00VKLOJL4&#38;linkId=6d92dc530a86bfdca94b0544040a3edd" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hydro Flask" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hydro Flask</a> (one of those great thermal double-walled drink containers) for the morning coffee, and the best thing I can say about it is it keeps the Italian Roast tasting like fresh, piping-hot Italian Roast for a good three hours. I’m sort of a slow coffee drinker, and it’s annoying with a ceramic cup to have to microwave the coffee three or four times in 90 minutes.</p><p>i. Beernerdness: Had the Two Roads Holiday Ale (<a href="https://tworoadsbrewing.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Two Roads Brewing Company" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Two Roads Brewing Company</a>, Stratford, Conn.) at a restaurant in Stratford the other night, and found it distinctive and lighter than a normal holiday ale, which I liked. Malty. Not memorable, but a nice dinner beer.</p><p>j. There is only one word for the college football coaching business, in which Jimbo Fisher, coming off a 5-6 season at Florida State, gets hired/legally hijacked by Texas A&#38;M for a salary actually close to Bill Belichick’s: insanity. Three words, actually: absolute friggin’ insanity.</p><p>k. Run, or drive fast, to see “Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri.” I’m not a filmofile, but I do recall Frances McDormand’s common-sense greatness from “Fargo,” and this movie’s brutality reminds me of that one (no wood-chipper here, though). After a cold case of the rape and murder of her daughter is basically abandoned in a small Missouri town, Mildred Hayes (McDormand) begins to attack it. She begins with three billboards in Ebbing, Mo. Thus the title. It’s a bit uncomfortable, but it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. Go.</p><p>l. I believe I have these things in common with Matt Lauer, and these things only: We were born in 1957, went to Ohio University in the mid-seventies to pursue media careers, left Athens in 1979, and ended up working in New York for big media companies.</p><p>m. Man, are there any married men left who didn’t hit on younger women? This is awful.</p><p>n. RIP, Jim Nabors. “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” about a country kid becoming a Marine, was a fixture in the King house from 1964 to 1969, which explains my weirdo sense of humor. Good man, that Jim Nabors. Amazing, to look back on it, that TV could have made a sitcom about Marine life in the sixties and, to the best of my memory, never mention “Vietnam.” </p><p>o. By the way, Gomer Pyle’s girlfriend from back home in North Carolina had the best girlfriend name in TV history: Lou Ann Poovie.</p><h3>Who I Like Tonight</h3><p><strong>Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 20.</strong> Still gawking at Antonio Brown from the past couple weeks, with his five touchdowns and 20 catches and 313 yards. What’s amazing about Brown is how productive he is when everyone in the stadium knows he’s going to get the ball. They’ll know in Cincinnati too. The Bengals have handled Brown quite respectably in the past three meetings. In fact, Brown had 169 yards and two touchdown catches last week … and he has 162 yards and one touchdown, only, in his last three games against the physical Bengals. I look for Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones to be physical with Brown tonight, and I’m sure Vontaze Burfict will stop by the say hello early in the first quarter too. I just don’t think it’ll be enough for Cincy to win the game.</p><h3>The Adieu Haiku</h3><p>The Goodell deal:<br>It’s a fair accompli, folks.<br>Jerry wants to puke.</p><p><strong><em>• We have a newsletter, and you can subscribe, and it’s free</em></strong>. Get “The Morning Huddle” delivered to your inbox first thing each weekday, by <a href="https://www.si.com/static/newsletter/signup" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:going here and checking The MMQB newsletter box." class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>going here and checking The MMQB newsletter box.</em></a> Start your day with the best of the NFL, from The MMQB.</p><p><strong>• <em>Question or comment? Story idea?</em></strong> Email us at <span><em>talkback@themmqb.com</em></span>.</p>
Ten Things I Think I Think: Rob Gronkowski Deserves Suspension For Dirty Hit on Tre’Davious White

1. I think my first reaction to Rob Gronkowski’s dirty hit was that he didn’t deserve a suspension. He’s no Vontaze Burfict, no gratuitous offender with a long track record. But then I went back and watched it eight or 10 times. It’s gruesome, a forearm shiver from a much bigger man to the back of the head of Tre’Davious White, the Buffalo cornerback. Suspensions should not be doled out easily. But in this era of football, when the ills of hits to the head and head trauma and concussions are rightfully and universally decried, the violence of a hit like Gronkowski’s has far-reaching implications.

• It left White concussed. Knowing what we know about the dangers of concussions and how, once a concussion is suffered, future concussions can come easier, it’s inexcusable for a concussion to happen voluntarily. Gronkowski surely didn’t mean to concuss White, but whatever he meant doesn’t matter; White was concussed with a purposeful hit to the back of his head.

• The NFL has to show it’s serious about policing hits that result in concussions, particularly those that can be avoided. This is the perfect example of a hit that had nothing to do with football, and it could potentially plague White in the future. If the NFL lets this hit be adjudicated simply by a fine to a player making $6.75 million this season, what’s the lesson?

• A suspension hurts Gronkowski, and hurts the Patriots. To deter Gronkowski from ever doing it again, regardless of his frustration over officiating (he said that’s what made him boil over Sunday in Buffalo), the league has to come down hard … and show Gronkowski a simple apology isn’t enough, and show the rest of the league there will be no tolerance for bush-league fouls like this.

2. I think these are my quick thoughts on Week 13:

a. With the regular season 75 percent complete, my MVP top three: 1. Tom Brady, 2. Russell Wilson, 3. Carson Wentz. Why has Wilson jumped Wentz for the time being, despite having won two fewer games? The head-to-head performance Sunday night helped. But more than anything, it’s the fact that Wilson performs at such a high level with a line far inferior to Philadelphia’s.

b. How often does Alvin Kamara make tacklers miss—or make potential tacklers dive by him flailing at air? He is going to be a star in the league for a long time. Look at the way he just blew through the Kurt Coleman tackle for the Saints’ fourth touchdown against Carolina. It’s like Coleman, a sure tackler, wasn’t there.

c. It’s like the Giants’ defensive backs are playing with olive oil on their hands and arms and jerseys. Two absolutely gigantic drops of easy interceptions in Oakland.

d. Tremendous point by Tony Romo on Pats-Bills, with New England near the Buffalo goal line, and the picture showing Tom Brady fake-patting his center on left buttock. (There’s phraseology I never thought I’d use.) Romo made the point that when defensive players see the rapid movement of Brady’s left hand, they’ll think he’s about to start a silent snap count in a very noisy stadium. But if he doesn’t actually hit the center’s rear end but only appears to be hitting it, it’s going to fool the edge defenders and prevent them from getting a fast start off the snap of the ball. Very informative.

e. Big breakup of what looked to be a sure touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Keenan Allen by Jason McCourty, who punched out the ball at the last moment. McCourty continues to show he absolutely was not washed up when the Titans let him go.

f. When Anthony Lynn dreams, it’s not about winning the lottery. He dreams of a competent field-goal kicker walking through the doors of his practice facility in southern California.

g. Jermaine Kearse: Catch of the day, with his one-hander going to the ground on the sideline against the Chiefs, channeling his inner Doug Baldwin. He’s been a good pickup for the Jets.

h. Memo to FOX: More Chris Spielman. I love his passion and his realness on the games, calling out loafers and interpreting the why of football so well.

i. Lions-Ravens, second quarter, play-action TD pass from Joe Flacco to fullback Patrick Ricard, Spielman disgusted with Lions letting Ricard bleed free from the backfield, the same as with an earlier short TD to Ben Watson: “They [the Lions] just have no communication on that play. This is something that happens all the time. They cannot defend the play-action pass on goal-line and short yardage.”

j. I went back and looked at the first TD, to Watson. Almost exactly the same. And the Lions didn’t cover Watson either. Crazy.

k. Detroit, biggest underachievers in the NFL the past three years: 7-9, 9-8, 6-6. Talk about a franchise wasting the prime of a franchise quarterback’s years. This is Stafford’s ninth season. He turns 30 Feb. 7. He’s taken significant abuse.

l. Stafford isn’t without blame here, though. He was, at best, average Sunday before going out with a hand injury.

m. Great third-down pass breakup by Minnesota cornerback Mackensie Alexander off Matt Ryan, in a key late-first-half spot.

n. There is no one better than DeAndre Hopkins on the toe-tap on the sidelines … and that includes Julio Jones. Jones might be as good, but he’s not better than Hopkins. No one is.

o. Terrific run defense by Tennessee defensive end Austin Williams, smothering Albert Blue of Houston to force a Houston field goal in a tie game.

p. Kyle Fuller hasn’t had many good games for the Bears in his career, but Sunday was one of them. Great cutdown of Carlos Hyde to prevent a second-and-one end-sweep conversion with the Niners threatening.

q. Horrendous lunging, diving, almost-to-the-ground desperate interception returned for touchdown thrown by Jameis Winston at Green Bay. This is a continuing problem with Winston. This is three years of the occasional brain-fart throw. That’s got to end, or a potentially starry career will never happen.

r. Yet Winston made some strong plays in the game. All is not lost. He’s just got to take coaching.

s. Man, Jimmy and Dee Haslam want to keep the front office and coaching staff for another year. They don’t want to blow it up again. But this iteration of the Browns is 1-27 with Green Bay and Baltimore at home, then Chicago and Pittsburgh on the road. My gut feeling is the Haslams will do something of either partial or complete deconstruction, and be miserable doing it.

t. I wonder what gives Haslam, the biggest booster of the woebegone Vols there is, more pain: His college Tennessee Volunteers or his professional Cleveland Browns.

u. Cleveland at Chicago. Christmas Eve. Noon. Soldier Field. Provide your own laugh track.

v. Look at the stunting in the run game Joey Bosa did against Cleveland, smashing Duke Johnson to the ground for a loss. Bosa just doesn’t have a weakness to his game—including his instincts. They’re veteran instincts.

3. I think those close to the process believe the Roger Goodell contract extension will be finished by the time owners meet in Dallas on Dec. 13. It may even be done early this week, after the six members of the Compensation Committee finish calling the other 26 owners in the league. I’m told all six committee members are in favor of the final iteration of the Goodell contract, and the final few calls to owners could result in minor changes. According to one source close to the process, the message from the committee to owners is they want to put this to bed so they can focus more “on the important things we need to do as a league. There’s a common feeling in these conversations—the owners want to address TV ratings, attendance, no-shows, the anthem issues, civil rights issues. Basically, the owners want to get on with it.” Does Jerry Jones have time to mount any organized opposition to the Goodell deal? Does he want to still? Time is of the essence now.

4. I think it’s great that Arizona State picked Herman Edwards to be its football coach, and I mean that. I’ve known Edwards for 20 years, and he’s one of the most genuine and good-hearted people I know in any walk of life, and the players he imports to the program will be better human beings for knowing him. Now, as far as winning, I have no idea. Can he recruit? Can he get a good staff to teach and coach the recruits, especially in a big-league conference like the Pac-12? I just don’t know. And while I appreciated the fact that ASU is going to run the program like an NFL team, this definition of the formation of the new programs sounds a tad complex: “The department's New Leadership Model will be similar to an NFL approach using a general manager structure. It's a collaborative approach to managing the ASU football program that includes sport and administrative divisions, which will operate as distinct but collective units focused on elevating all aspects of Sun Devil Football. This structure will allow the department to form a multi-layered method to the talent evaluation and recruiting processes, increase its emphasis on both student-athlete and coach development and retention, and provide a boost in resource allocation and generation.” I truly don’t know what it means. I do know, Herm, you’d better have a quarterback.

5. I think I love every Charger uniform. The sky blue is my favorite. A very close second: Sunday’s deep-blue jerseys, deep-blue pants, deep-blue socks. Sartorially, the Chargers are running away with the AFC West.

6. I think this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while—the combined forces of Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and the NFL Players Association to find the NFL’s Most Valuable Performer off the field. You’ll see an NFL player who juggles, another who plays the violin, another channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix. The video alone in worth the price of admission. Lucky for you, it’s free.

7. I think it’d be nice to read this sort of column—in Time, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy wrote about how protesting NFL players are patriots—from an NFL coach. Writes Van Gundy: “Colin Kaepernick has been denied employment for the act of taking a knee to draw attention to the issue of police killings of men of color. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were denied employment and advancement in their post-athletic careers because they raised a fist on the victory stand at the 1968 Olympics. These athletes and many others are risking future contracts and endorsement opportunities to speak out on issues of racial injustice because they feel duty-bound to do so. These are patriots of the highest order.”

8. I think these would have been my four for the NCAA playoff: Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama … setting up Alabama-Clemson in the national playoffs for the third straight year. Take the over; 85 and 66 points scored in the previous two bowl games between the two.

9. I think, regarding Albert Breer University, I really don’t see how a two-loss team with a 31-point loss to unranked Iowa has much of a case to jump 11-1 Alabama, scarred only by a 12-point loss to an Auburn team that entered play Saturday ranked second by the college football playoff committee. I know Ohio State’s schedule was tougher, but I just can’t get over Iowa 55, Ohio State 24.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Story of the Week, by John Woodrow Cox of the Washington Post, “The wounds they carry,” about six Las Vegas-area high school students who went to the Route 91 Harvest music festival … and the scars they carry with them from the mass shooting two months ago. Cox follows the students to their Homecoming weekend, and the effects of the shooting. Harrowing.

b. Is it time yet to discuss anything pertaining to gun control or limiting the type of weapons or accessories use to perpetrate mass murder by shooting? Or are we still in thoughts-and-prayers mode? Do something, Washington. Have some guts.

c. The cost of Christmas trees has doubled in eight years. Nice look at it by Tiffany Hsu of the New York Times.

d. Hello, Meredith Corp. Be good to your new properties at Time Inc.

e. NFL Journalism of the Week, from Deadspin, on one of the firms overseeing the dispersal of money the NFL is using for the civil rights donations it’s making to players.

f. The problem with groups overseeing supposedly wonderful and worthy and transparent donations and causes is that if they too are not altogether transparent and wonderful and worthy as well, it looks like a sham.

g. Perhaps You’d Like To Have That Headline Back Headline of the Week: “Rose’s departure would be a huge loss for the NBA,” on ESPN.com. I empathize with the multiple injuries Derrick Rose has been through, and the anguish that he must have gone through (and must be going through now) while being injured so much since being NBA MVP, what, six years ago? But Rose, who has taken a leave from the Cavs, has played in 42 percent of his team’s games over the past six seasons. How possibly could he be a huge loss for NBA? He’d have been a huge loss in 2012 or ‘13. But time marches on. The NBA’s been growing pretty well without him.

h. Coffeenerdness: Best coffee-related value of my year: Bought a 12-ounce Hydro Flask (one of those great thermal double-walled drink containers) for the morning coffee, and the best thing I can say about it is it keeps the Italian Roast tasting like fresh, piping-hot Italian Roast for a good three hours. I’m sort of a slow coffee drinker, and it’s annoying with a ceramic cup to have to microwave the coffee three or four times in 90 minutes.

i. Beernerdness: Had the Two Roads Holiday Ale (Two Roads Brewing Company, Stratford, Conn.) at a restaurant in Stratford the other night, and found it distinctive and lighter than a normal holiday ale, which I liked. Malty. Not memorable, but a nice dinner beer.

j. There is only one word for the college football coaching business, in which Jimbo Fisher, coming off a 5-6 season at Florida State, gets hired/legally hijacked by Texas A&M for a salary actually close to Bill Belichick’s: insanity. Three words, actually: absolute friggin’ insanity.

k. Run, or drive fast, to see “Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri.” I’m not a filmofile, but I do recall Frances McDormand’s common-sense greatness from “Fargo,” and this movie’s brutality reminds me of that one (no wood-chipper here, though). After a cold case of the rape and murder of her daughter is basically abandoned in a small Missouri town, Mildred Hayes (McDormand) begins to attack it. She begins with three billboards in Ebbing, Mo. Thus the title. It’s a bit uncomfortable, but it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. Go.

l. I believe I have these things in common with Matt Lauer, and these things only: We were born in 1957, went to Ohio University in the mid-seventies to pursue media careers, left Athens in 1979, and ended up working in New York for big media companies.

m. Man, are there any married men left who didn’t hit on younger women? This is awful.

n. RIP, Jim Nabors. “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” about a country kid becoming a Marine, was a fixture in the King house from 1964 to 1969, which explains my weirdo sense of humor. Good man, that Jim Nabors. Amazing, to look back on it, that TV could have made a sitcom about Marine life in the sixties and, to the best of my memory, never mention “Vietnam.”

o. By the way, Gomer Pyle’s girlfriend from back home in North Carolina had the best girlfriend name in TV history: Lou Ann Poovie.

Who I Like Tonight

Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 20. Still gawking at Antonio Brown from the past couple weeks, with his five touchdowns and 20 catches and 313 yards. What’s amazing about Brown is how productive he is when everyone in the stadium knows he’s going to get the ball. They’ll know in Cincinnati too. The Bengals have handled Brown quite respectably in the past three meetings. In fact, Brown had 169 yards and two touchdown catches last week … and he has 162 yards and one touchdown, only, in his last three games against the physical Bengals. I look for Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones to be physical with Brown tonight, and I’m sure Vontaze Burfict will stop by the say hello early in the first quarter too. I just don’t think it’ll be enough for Cincy to win the game.

The Adieu Haiku

The Goodell deal:
It’s a fair accompli, folks.
Jerry wants to puke.

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<p>1. I think my first reaction to <a href="https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/12/03/rob-gronkowski-cheap-shot-hit-patriots-bills-tredavious-white-video" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Rob Gronkowski’s dirty hit" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Rob Gronkowski’s dirty hit</a> was that he didn’t deserve a suspension. He’s no Vontaze Burfict, no gratuitous offender with a long track record. But then I went back and watched it eight or 10 times. It’s gruesome, a forearm shiver from a much bigger man to the back of the head of Tre’Davious White, the Buffalo cornerback. Suspensions should not be doled out easily. But in this era of football, when the ills of hits to the head and head trauma and concussions are rightfully and universally decried, the violence of a hit like Gronkowski’s has far-reaching implications.</p><p>• It left White with a suspected concussion. Knowing what we know about the dangers of concussions and how, once a concussion is suffered, future concussions can come easier, it’s inexcusable for a concussion to happen voluntarily. Gronkowski surely didn’t mean to concuss White, but whatever he meant doesn’t matter; it was a purposeful hit to the back of his head.</p><p>• The NFL has to show it’s serious about policing hits that result in concussions, particularly those that can be avoided. This is the perfect example of a hit that had nothing to do with football, and it could potentially plague White in the future. If the NFL lets this hit be adjudicated simply by a fine to a player making $6.75 million this season, what’s the lesson?</p><p>• A suspension hurts Gronkowski, and hurts the Patriots. To deter Gronkowski from ever doing it again, regardless of his frustration over officiating (he said that’s what made him boil over on Sunday in Buffalo), the league has to come down hard … and show Gronkowski that a simple apology isn’t enough, and show the rest of the NFL that there will be no tolerance for bush-league fouls like this. </p><p>2. I think these are my quick thoughts on Week 13:</p><p>a. With the regular season 75 percent complete, my MVP top three: 1. Tom Brady, 2. Russell Wilson, 3. Carson Wentz. Why has Wilson jumped Wentz for the time being, despite having won two fewer games? The head-to-head performance Sunday night helped. But more than anything, it’s the fact that Wilson performs at such a high level with a line far inferior to Philadelphia’s.</p><p>b. How often does Alvin Kamara make tacklers miss—or make potential tacklers dive by him flailing at air? He is going to be a star in the league for a long time. Look at the way he just blew through the Kurt Coleman tackle for the Saints’ fourth touchdown against Carolina. It’s like Coleman, a sure tackler, wasn’t there.</p><p>c. It’s like the Giants’ defensive backs are playing with olive oil on their hands and arms and jerseys. Two absolutely gigantic drops of easy interceptions in Oakland.</p><p>d. Tremendous point by Tony Romo on Pats-Bills, with New England near the Buffalo goal line, and the picture showing Tom Brady fake-patting his center on left buttock. (There’s phraseology I never thought I’d use.) Romo made the point that when defensive players see the rapid movement of Brady’s left hand, they’ll think he’s about to start a silent snap count in a very noisy stadium. But if he doesn’t actually hit the center’s rear end but only appears to be hitting it, it’s going to fool the edge defenders and prevent them from getting a fast start off the snap of the ball. Very informative.</p><p>e. Big breakup of what looked to be a sure touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Keenan Allen by Jason McCourty, who punched out the ball at the last moment. McCourty continues to show he absolutely was not washed up when the Titans let him go. </p><p>f. When Anthony Lynn dreams, it’s not about winning the lottery. He dreams of a competent field-goal kicker walking through the doors of his practice facility in southern California.</p><p>g. Jermaine Kearse: Catch of the day, with his one-hander going to the ground on the sideline against the Chiefs, channeling his inner Doug Baldwin. He’s been a good pickup for the Jets.</p><p>h. Memo to FOX: More Chris Spielman. I love his passion and his realness on the games, calling out loafers and interpreting the why of football so well.</p><p>i. Lions-Ravens, second quarter, play-action TD pass from Joe Flacco to fullback Patrick Ricard, Spielman disgusted with Lions letting Ricard bleed free from the backfield, the same as with an earlier short TD to Ben Watson: “They [the Lions] just have no communication on that play. This is something that happens all the time. They cannot defend the play-action pass on goal-line and short yardage.”</p><p>j. I went back and looked at the first TD, to Watson. <em>Almost exactly the same. And the Lions didn’t cover Watson either. Crazy.</em></p><p>k. Detroit, biggest underachievers in the NFL the past three years: 7-9, 9-8, 6-6. Talk about a franchise wasting the prime of a franchise quarterback’s years. This is Matt Stafford’s ninth season. He turns 30 Feb. 7. He’s taken significant abuse.</p><p>l. Stafford isn’t without blame here, though. He was, at best, average on Sunday before going out with a hand injury.</p><p>m. Great third-down pass breakup by Minnesota cornerback Mackensie Alexander off Matt Ryan, in a key late-first-half spot.</p><p>n. There is no one better than DeAndre Hopkins on the toe-tap on the sidelines … and that includes Julio Jones. Jones might be as good, but he’s not better than Hopkins. No one is.</p><p>o. Terrific run defense by Tennessee defensive end Austin Williams, smothering Albert Blue of Houston to force a Houston field goal in a tie game.</p><p>p. Kyle Fuller hasn’t had many good games for the Bears in his career, but Sunday was one of them. Great cutdown of Carlos Hyde to prevent a second-and-one end-sweep conversion with the Niners threatening.</p><p>q. Horrendous lunging, diving, almost-to-the-ground desperate interception returned for touchdown thrown by Jameis Winston at Green Bay. This is a continuing problem with Winston. This is three years of the occasional brain-cramp throw. That’s got to end, or a potentially starry career will never happen.</p><p>r. Yet Winston made some strong plays in the game. All is not lost. He’s just got to take coaching.</p><p>s. Man, Jimmy and Dee Haslam want to keep the front office and coaching staff for another year. They don’t want to blow it up again. But this iteration of the Browns is 1-27 with Green Bay and Baltimore at home, then Chicago and Pittsburgh on the road. My gut feeling is the Haslams will do something of either partial or complete deconstruction, and be miserable doing it.</p><p>t. I wonder what gives Haslam, the biggest booster of the woebegone Vols there is, more pain: His college Tennessee Volunteers or his professional Cleveland Browns.</p><p>u. Cleveland at Chicago. Christmas Eve. Noon. Soldier Field. Provide your own laugh track. </p><p>v. Look at the stunting in the run game Joey Bosa did against Cleveland, smashing Duke Johnson to the ground for a loss. Bosa just doesn’t have a weakness to his game—including his instincts. They’re veteran instincts.</p><p>3. I think those close to the process believe the Roger Goodell contract extension will be finished by the time owners meet in Dallas on Dec. 13. It may even be done early this week, after the six members of the Compensation Committee finish calling the other 26 owners in the league. I’m told all six committee members are in favor of the final iteration of the Goodell contract, and the final few calls to owners could result in minor changes. According to one source close to the process, the message from the committee to owners is they want to put this to bed so they can focus more “on the important things we need to do as a league. There’s a common feeling in these conversations—the owners want to address TV ratings, attendance, no-shows, the anthem issues, civil rights issues. Basically, the owners want to get on with it.” Does Jerry Jones have time to mount any organized opposition to the Goodell deal? Does he want to still? Time is of the essence now.</p><p>4. I think it’s great that Arizona State picked Herman Edwards to be its football coach, and I mean that. I’ve known Edwards for 20 years, and he’s one of the most genuine and good-hearted people I know in any walk of life, and the players he imports to the program will be better human beings for knowing him. Now, as far as winning, I have no idea. Can he recruit? Can he get a good staff to teach and coach the recruits, especially in a big-league conference like the Pac-12? I just don’t know. And while I appreciated the fact that ASU is going to run the program like an NFL team, this definition of the formation of the new programs sounds a tad complex: “The department&#39;s New Leadership Model will be similar to an NFL approach using a general manager structure. It&#39;s a collaborative approach to managing the ASU football program that includes sport and administrative divisions, which will operate as distinct but collective units focused on elevating all aspects of Sun Devil Football. This structure will allow the department to form a multi-layered method to the talent evaluation and recruiting processes, increase its emphasis on both student-athlete and coach development and retention, and provide a boost in resource allocation and generation.” I truly don’t know what it means. I do know, Herm, you’d better have a quarterback.</p><p>5. I think I love every Charger uniform. The sky blue is my favorite. A very close second: Sunday’s deep-blue jerseys, deep-blue pants, deep-blue socks. Sartorially, the Chargers are running away with the AFC West. </p><p>6. I think this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while—the combined forces of Sports Illustrated<em>, </em>CBS Sports and the NFL Players Association to find <a href="https://www.si.com/specials/nfl-most-valuable-performer/index.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:the NFL’s Most Valuable Performer off the field" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">the NFL’s Most Valuable Performer off the field</a>. You’ll see an NFL player who juggles, another who plays the violin, another channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix. The video alone is worth the price of admission. Lucky for you, it’s free. </p><p>7. I think it’d be nice to read this sort of column—in <em>Time, </em>Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy wrote about <a href="http://time.com/5016104/stan-van-gundy-nfl-protests/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:how protesting NFL players are patriots" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">how protesting NFL players are patriots</a>—from an NFL coach. Writes Van Gundy: “Colin Kaepernick has been denied employment for the act of taking a knee to draw attention to the issue of police killings of men of color. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were denied employment and advancement in their post-athletic careers because they raised a fist on the victory stand at the 1968 Olympics. These athletes and many others are risking future contracts and endorsement opportunities to speak out on issues of racial injustice because they feel duty-bound to do so. These are patriots of the highest order.”</p><p>8. I think these would have been my four for the NCAA playoff: Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama … setting up Alabama-Clemson in the national playoffs for the third straight year. Take the over; 85 and 66 points scored in the previous two bowl games between the two.</p><p>9. I think, regarding Albert Breer University, I really don’t see how a two-loss team with a 31-point loss to unranked Iowa has much of a case to jump 11-1 Alabama, scarred only by a 12-point loss to an Auburn team that entered play Saturday ranked second by the college football playoff committee. I know Ohio State’s schedule was tougher, but I just can’t get over Iowa 55, Ohio State 24.</p><p>10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:</p><p>a. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/local/las-vegas-teens/?undefined=&#38;utm_term=.8e9efed0f1ba&#38;wpisrc=nl_mustreads&#38;wpmm=1" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Story of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Story of the Week</a>, by John Woodrow Cox of the Washington Post<em>, </em>“The wounds they carry,” about six Las Vegas-area high school students who went to the Route 91 Harvest music festival … and the scars they carry with them from the mass shooting two months ago. Cox follows the students to their Homecoming weekend, and the effects of the shooting. Harrowing.</p><p>b. Is it time yet to discuss <em>anything </em>pertaining to gun control or limiting the type of weapons or accessories use to perpetrate mass murder by shooting? Or are we still in thoughts-and-prayers mode? Do something, Washington. Have some guts.</p><p>c. The cost of Christmas trees has doubled in eight years. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/30/business/christmas-tree-shortage-recession.html?_r=0" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Nice look at it" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Nice look at it</a> by Tiffany Hsu of the New York Times.</p><p>d. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/26/business/dealbook/time-inc-meredith-corporation-koch-brothers.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hello, Meredith Corp" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hello, Meredith Corp</a>. Be good to your new properties at Time Inc.</p><p>e. <a href="https://deadspin.com/what-the-hell-is-the-hopewell-fund-1820881123" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:NFL Journalism of the Week" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">NFL Journalism of the Week</a>, from Deadspin, on one of the firms overseeing the dispersal of money the NFL is using for the civil rights donations it’s making to players.</p><p>f. The problem with groups overseeing supposedly wonderful and worthy and transparent donations and causes is that if they too are not altogether transparent and wonderful and worthy as well, it looks like a sham.</p><p>g. Perhaps You’d Like To Have That Headline Back Headline of the Week: “Rose’s departure would be a huge loss for the NBA,” on ESPN.com. I empathize with the multiple injuries Derrick Rose has been through, and the anguish that he must have gone through (and must be going through now) while being injured so much since being NBA MVP, what, six years ago? But Rose, who has taken a leave from the Cavs, has played in 42 percent of his team’s games over the past six seasons. How possibly could he be a huge loss for NBA? He’d have been a huge loss in 2012 or ’13. But time marches on. The NBA’s been growing pretty well without him.</p><p>h. Coffeenerdness: Best coffee-related value of my year: Bought a 12-ounce <a href="http://amzn.to/2nrKguK" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hydro Flask" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hydro Flask</a> (one of those great thermal double-walled drink containers) for the morning coffee, and the best thing I can say about it is it keeps the Italian Roast tasting like fresh, piping-hot Italian Roast for a good three hours. I’m sort of a slow coffee drinker, and it’s annoying with a ceramic cup to have to microwave the coffee three or four times in 90 minutes.</p><p>i. Beernerdness: Had the Two Roads Holiday Ale (<a href="https://tworoadsbrewing.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Two Roads Brewing Company" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Two Roads Brewing Company</a>, Stratford, Conn.) at a restaurant in Stratford the other night, and found it distinctive and lighter than a normal holiday ale, which I liked. Malty. Not memorable, but a nice dinner beer.</p><p>j. There is only one word for the college football coaching business, in which Jimbo Fisher, coming off a 5-6 season at Florida State, gets hired/legally hijacked by Texas A&#38;M for a salary actually close to Bill Belichick’s: insanity. Three words, actually: absolute friggin’ insanity.</p><p>k. Run, or drive fast, to see <em>Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri</em>. I’m not a filmofile, but I do recall Frances McDormand’s common-sense greatness from <em>Fargo</em>, and this movie’s brutality reminds me of that one (no wood-chipper here, though). After a cold case of the rape and murder of her daughter is basically abandoned in a small Missouri town, Mildred Hayes (McDormand) begins to attack it. She begins with three billboards in Ebbing, Mo. Thus the title. It’s a bit uncomfortable, but it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. Go.</p><p>l. I believe I have these things in common with Matt Lauer, and these things only: We were born in 1957, went to Ohio University in the mid-’70s to pursue media careers, left Athens in 1979, and ended up working in New York for big media companies.</p><p>m. Man, are there any married men left who didn’t hit on younger women? This is awful.</p><p>n. RIP, Jim Nabors. “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” about a country kid becoming a Marine, was a fixture in the King house from 1964 to 1969, which explains my weirdo sense of humor. Good man, that Jim Nabors. Amazing, to look back on it, that TV could have made a sitcom about Marine life in the ’60s and, to the best of my memory, never mention “Vietnam.” </p><p>o. By the way, Gomer Pyle’s girlfriend from back home in North Carolina had the best girlfriend name in TV history: Lou Ann Poovie.</p><h3>Who I Like Tonight</h3><p><strong>Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 20.</strong> Still gawking at Antonio Brown from the past couple weeks, with his five touchdowns and 20 catches and 313 yards. What’s amazing about Brown is how productive he is when everyone in the stadium knows he’s going to get the ball. They’ll know in Cincinnati too. The Bengals have handled Brown quite respectably in the past three meetings. In fact, Brown had 169 yards and two touchdown catches last week … and he has 162 yards and one touchdown, only, in his last three games against the physical Bengals. I look for Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones to be physical with Brown tonight, and I’m sure Vontaze Burfict will stop by the say hello early in the first quarter too. I just don’t think it’ll be enough for Cincy to win the game.</p><h3>The Adieu Haiku</h3><p>The Goodell contract:<br>It’s a fait accompli, folks.<br>Jerry wants to puke.</p><p><strong><em>• We have a newsletter, and you can subscribe, and it’s free</em></strong>. Get “The Morning Huddle” delivered to your inbox first thing each weekday, by <a href="https://www.si.com/static/newsletter/signup" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:going here and checking The MMQB newsletter box." class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><em>going here and checking The MMQB newsletter box.</em></a> Start your day with the best of the NFL, from The MMQB.</p><p><strong>• <em>Question or comment? Story idea?</em></strong> Email us at <span><em>talkback@themmqb.com</em></span>.</p>
Ten Things I Think I Think: Rob Gronkowski Deserves Suspension For Dirty Hit on Tre’Davious White

1. I think my first reaction to Rob Gronkowski’s dirty hit was that he didn’t deserve a suspension. He’s no Vontaze Burfict, no gratuitous offender with a long track record. But then I went back and watched it eight or 10 times. It’s gruesome, a forearm shiver from a much bigger man to the back of the head of Tre’Davious White, the Buffalo cornerback. Suspensions should not be doled out easily. But in this era of football, when the ills of hits to the head and head trauma and concussions are rightfully and universally decried, the violence of a hit like Gronkowski’s has far-reaching implications.

• It left White with a suspected concussion. Knowing what we know about the dangers of concussions and how, once a concussion is suffered, future concussions can come easier, it’s inexcusable for a concussion to happen voluntarily. Gronkowski surely didn’t mean to concuss White, but whatever he meant doesn’t matter; it was a purposeful hit to the back of his head.

• The NFL has to show it’s serious about policing hits that result in concussions, particularly those that can be avoided. This is the perfect example of a hit that had nothing to do with football, and it could potentially plague White in the future. If the NFL lets this hit be adjudicated simply by a fine to a player making $6.75 million this season, what’s the lesson?

• A suspension hurts Gronkowski, and hurts the Patriots. To deter Gronkowski from ever doing it again, regardless of his frustration over officiating (he said that’s what made him boil over on Sunday in Buffalo), the league has to come down hard … and show Gronkowski that a simple apology isn’t enough, and show the rest of the NFL that there will be no tolerance for bush-league fouls like this.

2. I think these are my quick thoughts on Week 13:

a. With the regular season 75 percent complete, my MVP top three: 1. Tom Brady, 2. Russell Wilson, 3. Carson Wentz. Why has Wilson jumped Wentz for the time being, despite having won two fewer games? The head-to-head performance Sunday night helped. But more than anything, it’s the fact that Wilson performs at such a high level with a line far inferior to Philadelphia’s.

b. How often does Alvin Kamara make tacklers miss—or make potential tacklers dive by him flailing at air? He is going to be a star in the league for a long time. Look at the way he just blew through the Kurt Coleman tackle for the Saints’ fourth touchdown against Carolina. It’s like Coleman, a sure tackler, wasn’t there.

c. It’s like the Giants’ defensive backs are playing with olive oil on their hands and arms and jerseys. Two absolutely gigantic drops of easy interceptions in Oakland.

d. Tremendous point by Tony Romo on Pats-Bills, with New England near the Buffalo goal line, and the picture showing Tom Brady fake-patting his center on left buttock. (There’s phraseology I never thought I’d use.) Romo made the point that when defensive players see the rapid movement of Brady’s left hand, they’ll think he’s about to start a silent snap count in a very noisy stadium. But if he doesn’t actually hit the center’s rear end but only appears to be hitting it, it’s going to fool the edge defenders and prevent them from getting a fast start off the snap of the ball. Very informative.

e. Big breakup of what looked to be a sure touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Keenan Allen by Jason McCourty, who punched out the ball at the last moment. McCourty continues to show he absolutely was not washed up when the Titans let him go.

f. When Anthony Lynn dreams, it’s not about winning the lottery. He dreams of a competent field-goal kicker walking through the doors of his practice facility in southern California.

g. Jermaine Kearse: Catch of the day, with his one-hander going to the ground on the sideline against the Chiefs, channeling his inner Doug Baldwin. He’s been a good pickup for the Jets.

h. Memo to FOX: More Chris Spielman. I love his passion and his realness on the games, calling out loafers and interpreting the why of football so well.

i. Lions-Ravens, second quarter, play-action TD pass from Joe Flacco to fullback Patrick Ricard, Spielman disgusted with Lions letting Ricard bleed free from the backfield, the same as with an earlier short TD to Ben Watson: “They [the Lions] just have no communication on that play. This is something that happens all the time. They cannot defend the play-action pass on goal-line and short yardage.”

j. I went back and looked at the first TD, to Watson. Almost exactly the same. And the Lions didn’t cover Watson either. Crazy.

k. Detroit, biggest underachievers in the NFL the past three years: 7-9, 9-8, 6-6. Talk about a franchise wasting the prime of a franchise quarterback’s years. This is Matt Stafford’s ninth season. He turns 30 Feb. 7. He’s taken significant abuse.

l. Stafford isn’t without blame here, though. He was, at best, average on Sunday before going out with a hand injury.

m. Great third-down pass breakup by Minnesota cornerback Mackensie Alexander off Matt Ryan, in a key late-first-half spot.

n. There is no one better than DeAndre Hopkins on the toe-tap on the sidelines … and that includes Julio Jones. Jones might be as good, but he’s not better than Hopkins. No one is.

o. Terrific run defense by Tennessee defensive end Austin Williams, smothering Albert Blue of Houston to force a Houston field goal in a tie game.

p. Kyle Fuller hasn’t had many good games for the Bears in his career, but Sunday was one of them. Great cutdown of Carlos Hyde to prevent a second-and-one end-sweep conversion with the Niners threatening.

q. Horrendous lunging, diving, almost-to-the-ground desperate interception returned for touchdown thrown by Jameis Winston at Green Bay. This is a continuing problem with Winston. This is three years of the occasional brain-cramp throw. That’s got to end, or a potentially starry career will never happen.

r. Yet Winston made some strong plays in the game. All is not lost. He’s just got to take coaching.

s. Man, Jimmy and Dee Haslam want to keep the front office and coaching staff for another year. They don’t want to blow it up again. But this iteration of the Browns is 1-27 with Green Bay and Baltimore at home, then Chicago and Pittsburgh on the road. My gut feeling is the Haslams will do something of either partial or complete deconstruction, and be miserable doing it.

t. I wonder what gives Haslam, the biggest booster of the woebegone Vols there is, more pain: His college Tennessee Volunteers or his professional Cleveland Browns.

u. Cleveland at Chicago. Christmas Eve. Noon. Soldier Field. Provide your own laugh track.

v. Look at the stunting in the run game Joey Bosa did against Cleveland, smashing Duke Johnson to the ground for a loss. Bosa just doesn’t have a weakness to his game—including his instincts. They’re veteran instincts.

3. I think those close to the process believe the Roger Goodell contract extension will be finished by the time owners meet in Dallas on Dec. 13. It may even be done early this week, after the six members of the Compensation Committee finish calling the other 26 owners in the league. I’m told all six committee members are in favor of the final iteration of the Goodell contract, and the final few calls to owners could result in minor changes. According to one source close to the process, the message from the committee to owners is they want to put this to bed so they can focus more “on the important things we need to do as a league. There’s a common feeling in these conversations—the owners want to address TV ratings, attendance, no-shows, the anthem issues, civil rights issues. Basically, the owners want to get on with it.” Does Jerry Jones have time to mount any organized opposition to the Goodell deal? Does he want to still? Time is of the essence now.

4. I think it’s great that Arizona State picked Herman Edwards to be its football coach, and I mean that. I’ve known Edwards for 20 years, and he’s one of the most genuine and good-hearted people I know in any walk of life, and the players he imports to the program will be better human beings for knowing him. Now, as far as winning, I have no idea. Can he recruit? Can he get a good staff to teach and coach the recruits, especially in a big-league conference like the Pac-12? I just don’t know. And while I appreciated the fact that ASU is going to run the program like an NFL team, this definition of the formation of the new programs sounds a tad complex: “The department's New Leadership Model will be similar to an NFL approach using a general manager structure. It's a collaborative approach to managing the ASU football program that includes sport and administrative divisions, which will operate as distinct but collective units focused on elevating all aspects of Sun Devil Football. This structure will allow the department to form a multi-layered method to the talent evaluation and recruiting processes, increase its emphasis on both student-athlete and coach development and retention, and provide a boost in resource allocation and generation.” I truly don’t know what it means. I do know, Herm, you’d better have a quarterback.

5. I think I love every Charger uniform. The sky blue is my favorite. A very close second: Sunday’s deep-blue jerseys, deep-blue pants, deep-blue socks. Sartorially, the Chargers are running away with the AFC West.

6. I think this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while—the combined forces of Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and the NFL Players Association to find the NFL’s Most Valuable Performer off the field. You’ll see an NFL player who juggles, another who plays the violin, another channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix. The video alone is worth the price of admission. Lucky for you, it’s free.

7. I think it’d be nice to read this sort of column—in Time, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy wrote about how protesting NFL players are patriots—from an NFL coach. Writes Van Gundy: “Colin Kaepernick has been denied employment for the act of taking a knee to draw attention to the issue of police killings of men of color. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were denied employment and advancement in their post-athletic careers because they raised a fist on the victory stand at the 1968 Olympics. These athletes and many others are risking future contracts and endorsement opportunities to speak out on issues of racial injustice because they feel duty-bound to do so. These are patriots of the highest order.”

8. I think these would have been my four for the NCAA playoff: Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama … setting up Alabama-Clemson in the national playoffs for the third straight year. Take the over; 85 and 66 points scored in the previous two bowl games between the two.

9. I think, regarding Albert Breer University, I really don’t see how a two-loss team with a 31-point loss to unranked Iowa has much of a case to jump 11-1 Alabama, scarred only by a 12-point loss to an Auburn team that entered play Saturday ranked second by the college football playoff committee. I know Ohio State’s schedule was tougher, but I just can’t get over Iowa 55, Ohio State 24.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Story of the Week, by John Woodrow Cox of the Washington Post, “The wounds they carry,” about six Las Vegas-area high school students who went to the Route 91 Harvest music festival … and the scars they carry with them from the mass shooting two months ago. Cox follows the students to their Homecoming weekend, and the effects of the shooting. Harrowing.

b. Is it time yet to discuss anything pertaining to gun control or limiting the type of weapons or accessories use to perpetrate mass murder by shooting? Or are we still in thoughts-and-prayers mode? Do something, Washington. Have some guts.

c. The cost of Christmas trees has doubled in eight years. Nice look at it by Tiffany Hsu of the New York Times.

d. Hello, Meredith Corp. Be good to your new properties at Time Inc.

e. NFL Journalism of the Week, from Deadspin, on one of the firms overseeing the dispersal of money the NFL is using for the civil rights donations it’s making to players.

f. The problem with groups overseeing supposedly wonderful and worthy and transparent donations and causes is that if they too are not altogether transparent and wonderful and worthy as well, it looks like a sham.

g. Perhaps You’d Like To Have That Headline Back Headline of the Week: “Rose’s departure would be a huge loss for the NBA,” on ESPN.com. I empathize with the multiple injuries Derrick Rose has been through, and the anguish that he must have gone through (and must be going through now) while being injured so much since being NBA MVP, what, six years ago? But Rose, who has taken a leave from the Cavs, has played in 42 percent of his team’s games over the past six seasons. How possibly could he be a huge loss for NBA? He’d have been a huge loss in 2012 or ’13. But time marches on. The NBA’s been growing pretty well without him.

h. Coffeenerdness: Best coffee-related value of my year: Bought a 12-ounce Hydro Flask (one of those great thermal double-walled drink containers) for the morning coffee, and the best thing I can say about it is it keeps the Italian Roast tasting like fresh, piping-hot Italian Roast for a good three hours. I’m sort of a slow coffee drinker, and it’s annoying with a ceramic cup to have to microwave the coffee three or four times in 90 minutes.

i. Beernerdness: Had the Two Roads Holiday Ale (Two Roads Brewing Company, Stratford, Conn.) at a restaurant in Stratford the other night, and found it distinctive and lighter than a normal holiday ale, which I liked. Malty. Not memorable, but a nice dinner beer.

j. There is only one word for the college football coaching business, in which Jimbo Fisher, coming off a 5-6 season at Florida State, gets hired/legally hijacked by Texas A&M for a salary actually close to Bill Belichick’s: insanity. Three words, actually: absolute friggin’ insanity.

k. Run, or drive fast, to see Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri. I’m not a filmofile, but I do recall Frances McDormand’s common-sense greatness from Fargo, and this movie’s brutality reminds me of that one (no wood-chipper here, though). After a cold case of the rape and murder of her daughter is basically abandoned in a small Missouri town, Mildred Hayes (McDormand) begins to attack it. She begins with three billboards in Ebbing, Mo. Thus the title. It’s a bit uncomfortable, but it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. Go.

l. I believe I have these things in common with Matt Lauer, and these things only: We were born in 1957, went to Ohio University in the mid-’70s to pursue media careers, left Athens in 1979, and ended up working in New York for big media companies.

m. Man, are there any married men left who didn’t hit on younger women? This is awful.

n. RIP, Jim Nabors. “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” about a country kid becoming a Marine, was a fixture in the King house from 1964 to 1969, which explains my weirdo sense of humor. Good man, that Jim Nabors. Amazing, to look back on it, that TV could have made a sitcom about Marine life in the ’60s and, to the best of my memory, never mention “Vietnam.”

o. By the way, Gomer Pyle’s girlfriend from back home in North Carolina had the best girlfriend name in TV history: Lou Ann Poovie.

Who I Like Tonight

Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 20. Still gawking at Antonio Brown from the past couple weeks, with his five touchdowns and 20 catches and 313 yards. What’s amazing about Brown is how productive he is when everyone in the stadium knows he’s going to get the ball. They’ll know in Cincinnati too. The Bengals have handled Brown quite respectably in the past three meetings. In fact, Brown had 169 yards and two touchdown catches last week … and he has 162 yards and one touchdown, only, in his last three games against the physical Bengals. I look for Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones to be physical with Brown tonight, and I’m sure Vontaze Burfict will stop by the say hello early in the first quarter too. I just don’t think it’ll be enough for Cincy to win the game.

The Adieu Haiku

The Goodell contract:
It’s a fait accompli, folks.
Jerry wants to puke.

• We have a newsletter, and you can subscribe, and it’s free. Get “The Morning Huddle” delivered to your inbox first thing each weekday, by going here and checking The MMQB newsletter box. Start your day with the best of the NFL, from The MMQB.

Question or comment? Story idea? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.