Ten key questions facing top programs as practice opens

It’s no mystery why John Calipari has adopted “positionless basketball” as his favorite catchphrase of the offseason to describe his program. The Kentucky coach needs his team to buy into that concept because his top three backcourt players ostensibly all project as point guards at the next level.

One is the reigning co-Big East player of the year, a senior known as much for his infectious hustle and enthusiasm as for his knack for sinking big shots. The second is an obvious breakout candidate, a highly touted sophomore who was productive and efficient in limited minutes last season. The third is one of the most coveted incoming freshmen Jay Wright has ever recruited, a McDonald’s All-American who starred on the US U-19 world championship team this past summer.

One year after watching from home as his former teammates celebrated winning the national title, dismissed Duke shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon will have a chance to experience that same joy with his new team. The senior has joined a Maryland program that could emerge as a title contender if Sulaimon can recapture the form he displayed early in his college career.

The missing element in Kansas’ frontcourt last season was a big man who could alter shots at one end and finish above the rim or in transition at the other. The Jayhawks filled that void with the signing of McDonald’s All-American Cheick Diallo last spring, but the NCAA has yet to rule whether the 6-foot-9 Mali native will be academically eligible to play this season or not.

Friday is the first day of practice for most Division I college basketball teams. Yahoo Sports begins its season preview coverage with a look at some of the key questions facing the nation’s top programs and the answers that could emerge between now and the new season tipping off Nov. 13.  

When Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis all announced this past spring that they would be returning to Gonzaga, it created a compelling dilemma for Zags coach Mark Few. Could he figure out a way to get his three best players on the floor at the same time next season when each member of the trio stands at least 6-foot-10?

A former McDonald’s All-American who averaged 11.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as a freshman at Duke, Sulaimon probably would have been a first-round draft pick had he left school the following spring. Instead his playing time and productivity diminished the following two years as other talented wings eclipsed him in Duke’s rotation, leading to issues behind the scenes.

At issue are the three-plus years Diallo spent at Our Savior New American, a private school in Centereach, N.Y. Kansas coach Bill Self told reporters earlier this week that Diallo is practicing with the team and that he’s hopeful the freshman will be cleared to play by the start of the season. Freshman Carlton Bragg and veteran Jamari Traylor are the other options to start alongside Perry Ellis if Diallo is unavailable.

3. How does Virginia replace Justin Anderson in its starting lineup?

The leading candidates to absorb Anderson’s playing time are senior Evan Nolte and sophomore Marial Shayok, the former a long-range shooter whose 3-point shot deserted him last season and the latter an athletic wing who showed flashes of promise on both ends of the floor as a freshman. Tony Bennett also emerged from the summer pleased with the improvement of 6-foot-4 Tennessee transfer Darius Thompson and 6-foot-5 sophomore Devon Hall as well.

10. Will Purdue’s trio of centers be an asset or a hindrance?

Ultimately, the three-big look may not be the lineup with which Gonzaga starts or finishes most games, but it makes sense for the Zags to have it in their arsenal. Their backcourt is unproven with Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell and Byron Wesley all graduating and they have a fourth big man, redshirt sophomore Ryan Edwards, capable of contributing off the bench too.

Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has known Sulaimon since high school and is confident he’ll be an asset for the Terrapins. Sulaimon doesn’t need to be a superstar for Maryland to be an elite team, but it would help if he can ease the burden on sophomore Melo Trimble, replace some of the scoring Dez Wells provided last season and guard opposing teams’ top perimeter threat.

4. Can Kentucky’s three point guards coexist and work together?

Whoever plays alongside returning starters London Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon in the Virginia backcourt, the Cavaliers are hopeful it goes more smoothly than it did last season when Anderson fractured his left pinkie in early February. The 30-win Cavaliers never looked quite the same again, losing to both remaining Top 25 opponents on their schedule and then falling to Michigan State in the NCAA tournament’s round of 32.

How the rest of the rotation looks is anyone’s guess. Combo guard Kadeem Allen averaged 25 points per game in junior college and drew high praise for his performance on the scout team last year. San Francisco transfer Mark Tollefson is versatile scorer who can play either forward spot. Senior guard Gabe York is a sharpshooter whose defense and all-around game have improved every year. And then there are the freshmen. Highly touted wing Alonzo Trier may be the most polished and college-ready, but Justin Simon can defend all three perimeter spots and Ray Smith is the only true small forward on the roster.

It’s a testament to the size of Purdue’s frontcourt that a McDonald’s All-American nicknamed “Biggie” will be dwarfed by the two other centers in the Boilermakers’ rotation. Six-foot-9 freshman Caleb Swanigan joins all-conference 7-foot senior A.J. Hammons and promising 7-foot-2 sophomore Isaac Haas to form a trio that will cause plenty of matchup issues both for Purdue and its opponents.

Had Justin Anderson returned for his senior year, Virginia might have entered the season as the nation’s preseason No. 1 team. Instead the athletic, do-it-all wing capitalized on a strong 2014-15 season and entered the NBA draft, leaving the Cavaliers in search of a way to replace his 12.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 45 percent 3-point shooting.

5. Is point guard Derryck Thornton ready to step in right away for Duke?

Can Indiana make a dramatic improvement this season even though its perimeter corps is the same as last year and its only scholarship player taller than 6-foot-8 will be a true freshman? Despite external skepticism, Tom Crean seems to think so. He intends to drill his players on getting over the top of screens, rotating quick enough on help defense and closing out on shooters. And, hey, maybe that back-to-basics emphasis will help. To become a top 15 team, Indiana doesn’t have to be elite defensively. The Hoosiers just can’t be incompetent either.

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Five-foot-9 sophomore Tyler Ulis is a classic pass-first point guard who controls tempo, creates for teammates off the dribble, knocks down open shots and pesters opponents defensively. Six-foot-3 freshman Isaiah Briscoe is a strong, athletic lead guard who generates shots for himself and his teammates in transition and is at his best bullying smaller guards and finishing through contact. Six-foot-4 freshman Jamal Murray is the most comfortable of the three playing off ball because of his deep range as a spot-up shooter yet he also can score off the dribble, set up big men out of a pick-and-roll or find open shooters.

If Diallo is cleared, he’d be the perfect complement to Ellis in the Kansas frontcourt because their strengths are so different. Ellis atones for modest length and athleticism with a polished repertoire of back-to-the-basket moves and mid-range jump shots. Diallo isn’t going to scare anyone if Kansas feeds him the ball in the high post or on the low block, but he runs the floor exceptionally, finishes at the rim, rebounds at both ends and has impressive timing blocking shots.

8. Will Cheick Diallo be eligible for Kansas?

Indiana finished the season 275th in points per possession surrendered, only better than Missouri, Virginia Tech and DePaul among major-conference programs. Many of the Hoosiers’ perimeter players struggled staying in front of their man or closing out on shooters and the team lacked any semblance of a rim protector besides foul-prone 6-foot-9 center Hanner Mosquera-Perea.

Assuming Purdue coach Matt Painter opts to slide Swanigan to power forward and start him alongside Hammons, that will create some challenges for the Boilermakers at both ends. Swanigan will have to prove he can stay in front of more mobile forwards off the dribble and can defend pick-and-pops out to the perimeter, two areas in which he probably doesn’t have too much experience. Swanigan should be able to seal off smaller defenders at the other end, but providing Hammons and Haas enough space to operate in the post also will depend on his ability to play outside the paint and knock down mid-range jump shots.

What will help Thornton make a positive impact right away is that his greatest strength is his decision making. He is a lethal scorer, a skilled playmaker and a solid defender but he needs to add strength and increase the consistency of his jump shot.

The one certainty appears to be the center position, where returning starter Kaleb Tarczewski will once again see the majority of the playing time with sophomore Dusan Ristic providing scoring and rebounding off the bench. It’s also a good bet that 5-foot-10 offensive spark plug Parker Jackson-Cartwright will inherit the starting point guard job from T.J. McConnell and high-scoring Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson will start at power forward.

1. Can Gonzaga’s three frontcourt stars play together?

7. Who will join Kaleb Tarczewski in Arizona’s starting lineup?

2. Has Indiana gotten any better defensively?

Few has said he intends to try it for stretches of games, a gamble that comes with plenty of advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, the 6-foot-10, highly skilled Wiltjer should be able to back down smaller defenders in the post when opponents play man-to-man or rain down 3-pointers if they go zone. On the other hand, Wiltjer struggled to stay in front of quick face-up power forwards last season, so Gonzaga may have to go zone to hide him defensively instead of asking him to guard opposing wings.

6. How will Villanova divvy up playing time among its three point guards?

The bad news is that all three are best with the ball in their hands yet there’s only one basketball to go around. The good news is they’re playing for a coach who has shown an uncanny ability to get future pros to willingly sacrifice stats for the good of the team. All three have already forged a strong bond and are already saying the right things publicly. Plus, Kentucky’s defense shouldn’t suffer because Briscoe and Murray have the size and length to defend opposing wings.

For a team that lost four of its five starters to graduation or the NBA draft this past spring, Arizona enters the new season in remarkably good shape. The return of four rotation players, the arrival of four promising freshmen and the addition of three potential impact transfers give Sean Miller the deepest, most offensively gifted roster he’s had since coming to Tucson and a litany of options for how to assemble his starting lineup.

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Once Tyus Jones decided to parlay his brilliant freshman season into an NBA contract this past spring, one of college basketball’s most talent-rich programs was left in an unusual position. Not only did Duke not have a single point guard on its 2015-16 roster, all the elite point guards in Class of 2015 had also already signed with other schools.

Mike Krzyzewski and his staff solved this problem by putting the full-court press on Class of 2016 prospect Derryck Thornton and persuading him to graduate a year ahead of time to take advantage for the chance to start immediately. His youth and inexperience make him the biggest question mark on a Duke team that will likely start returning standouts Grayson Allen and Matt Jones at the wings with veterans Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee competing for playing time with highly touted freshmen Brandon Ingram and Chase Jeter in the frontcourt.

Thanks to the presence of an elite point guard and an array of wings who could either rain down 3-pointers or score off the dribble, Indiana boasted one of the nation’s most efficient offenses last season. What prevented the Hoosiers from being anything more than a marginal NCAA tournament team was that their defense was every bit as inept as their offense was dynamic.

9. What will Maryland get out of Rasheed Sulaimon?

Ultimately, Purdue’s most effective lineup for spacing purposes and defensive versatility might feature promising combo forward Vince Edwards at the four, but can Painter utilize that lineup frequently and still keep his trio of big men happy? Hammons is an all-conference senior with NBA aspirations, Swanigan is Purdue’s most ballyhooed recruit in years and Haas showed promise in limited minutes as a freshman. All three will expect to play a significant role for the Boilermakers this season.

Ryan Arcidiacono, Phil Booth and Jalen Brunson are each standout point guards who would start for most teams around the nation, so how will Wright utilize all three of them? The most likely scenario is that at least two of the three will be on the court together at all times with Arcidiacono and Brunson starting alongside one-another and Booth playing 25 minutes per game as the first guard off the bench.

For Villanova, the advantage of that lineup is always having at least two guards on the floor who are capable of handling the ball, attacking the rim and creating for themselves or their teammates. A lack of size and strength at the shooting guard position could pose problems defensively, but the Wildcats will likely call on 6-foot-5 small forward Josh Hart to defend opposing teams’ best wing.

Geno Auriemma is really as entertaining as always in the latest rant

He’s honest, clever and funny, which surely goes a lengthy way when attempting for connecting by having an elite recruit or her parents throughout an in-home visit. He’s also hyper-conscious of every slight hurled in the direction, which without doubt helps him avoid complacency and turn into motivated regardless of his program’s juggernaut status.

“Let us say we obtain two senior high school All-People in america each year. Let us just say. The folks we beat will also get two. Therefore if there’s 20 kids which make first team All-American, that participate in the Carl’s junior All-American Game so we get two. Or three. What goes on to another 17 men? So clearly we are doing something quite different than simply obtaining the best gamers. No. 1, we obtain the best gamers, therefore we attempt to perform the right factor by them.”

Maybe many people get upset easily when coaches use salty language. Possibly many people want their coaches to become as vanilla as you possibly can.

“She runs completely in front in our bench before our whole team, looks me within the eye, and states, ‘Get the f— using this zone at this time,A Auriemma stated. “I simply cracked up. It had been pretty funny. The rest of the gamers had this stunned check out their face, and that i just switched around and stated, ‘Don’t everyone have any ideas. She’s permitted to get this done. Nobody.AInch

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Auriemma also railed against individuals who dislike UConn later within the podcast.

It is a shame Auriemma’s rants against his experts have obtained a lot attention since the most compelling a part of his interview was really a tale he told about Diana Taurasi.

Me, I really like it when coaches speak freely and in the heart, and that’s why my response to Geno Auriemma’s latest rant against his experts was laughter not outrage. 

While Auriemma results in a little thin-skinned and oversensitive here, his surveys are also a great window into why is him so effective. 

The truth is, the UConn women’s program receives much more accolades than critique for his or her contributions to women’s basketball. For each column or message-board publish worrying UConn’s reign of terror helps make the sport dull, you will find one half dozen others lauding Auriemma for engineering the finest college basketball empire since John Wooden’s UCLA teams.

“There’s this belief that people only win because we obtain the best gamers. I heard this WNBA coach say, ‘I can’t stand Connecticut. They are harmful to the overall game simply because they dominate a lot. They obtain the best gamers plus they kill everyone.’ And I am like, ‘That’s probably the most idiotic statement I have heard.A That simply proves you the way ignorant many people are.

Half way with an entertaining hour-lengthy interview on the Grantland podcast the 2009 week, host Zach Lowe requested Auriemma if he ever will get bored leading a course so dominant it makes eight straight Final Fours and taken 10 from the last 20 national game titles. While reacting, Auriemma tore right into a segment from the UConn group of followers that’s been critical regardless of the program’s overwhelming success.

Shaun Eisenberg may be the editor from the Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Possess a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

When Auriemma instructed the united states Women’s team to visit zone from the Czech Republic late within the title bet on this years World Titles, an opposing player required benefit of a late close-out by Tina Charles and hidden a 3-pointer. The following possession, Taurasi sprinted down again court to allow her former college coach understand what she considered his tactics.

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“A lot of our fans are extremely g– d— stupid it’s unbelievable,” Auriemma stated. “They complain lots of occasions we have no competition which it’s boring. Then when we play an excellent team, don’t play our A-game so we lose, they bitch that something’s wrong with UConn. The way the hell did we lose that game? ‘This kid’s no good. That kid’s no good. Geno Auriemma got outcoached with this coach.’ It’s unbelievable.”

Why the appeals court's split decision really was a victory for that NCAA

Shaun Eisenberg may be the editor from the Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Possess a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Restricting the quantity college sports athletes could be compensated towards the arbitrary figure of $5,000 was always a unique idea, but it is significant the appeals court didn’t present an alternative proposal for paying sports athletes beyond their educational expenses.

There’s still an opportunity the O’Bannon suit can lead to further change if each side appeals this decision towards the Top Court, but for the time being the NCAA should enjoy a this outcome. The appeals court’s decision would be a setback for individuals pushing to inflate the present college sports model along with a victory for things as they are. 

But to date, 2015 is a good year for individuals safeguarding the colle sports establishment. They have handled to obstruct inevitable change and be sure that the embattled perception of amateurism attending college athletics survives a little longer. 

A federal appeals court worked advocates of athletes’ privileges a substantial blow Wednesday morning if this upheld the idea of amateurism attending college athletics and ruled schools must only compensate scholarship sports athletes for the price of attendance.

Should there be a silver lining to Wednesday’s ruling for school sports athletes, it’s the appeals court reaffirmed the concept that the NCAA merits further scrutiny and should adhere to anti-trust laws and regulations. That can be harmful for that NCAA with the amount of challenges still coming — most particularly a suit filed through the sports lawyer Jeffrey Kessler trying to set up a free marketplace for top college sports athletes.

Formally, round a couple of O’Bannon versus. the NCAA goes lower like a split decision.

These victories aren’t likely to steer clear of the push for athletes’ privileges, however they do function as road blocks to individuals pushing for change.

“Once that lines are entered, we have seen no grounds for coming back to some rule of amateurism with no defined preventing point,” the ruling read. “We’ve little question that litigants continuously challenge the arbitrary limit enforced through the district court until they’ve taken the entire worth of their NIL. At that time the NCAA may have surrendered its amateurism concepts entirely and moved forward from the “particular make of football” to minor league status.”

The battle between O’Bannon and also the college sports establishment started in ’09 once the former UCLA All-American prosecuted the NCAA for implementing his title, image and likeness on television broadcasts as well as in game titles without payment. The suit has since arrived at exemplify the larger debate over whether college sports athletes in revenue sports should receive more compensation than simply their scholarship grants.

The appeals court recommended that O’Bannon’s lawyers didn’t prove that further compensation wouldn’t be dangerous towards the traditional college sports model, a hard burden to allow them to meet. The ruling also went to date as to consult having to pay sports athletes greater than price of attendance like a “quantum leap” the appeals court wasn’t prepared to take.

“We haven’t completely examined the court’s 78-page decision, but we agree to the court the injunction ‘allowing students to become compensated cash compensation as high as $5,000 each year was erroneous,'” NCAA Leader Mark Emmert stated inside a statement following a court’s decision. “Since August. 1, the NCAA has permitted member schools to supply as much as full price of attendance however, we disagree that it ought to be mandated through the courts.” 

The 3-judge panel backed federal judge Claudia Wilken’s 2014 ruling the NCAA “isn’t above antitrust laws and regulations” and it has been “more limited than essential to maintain its tradition of amateurism.” However, the appeals court struck lower Wilken’s proposal that colleges pay their sports athletes as much as $5,000 each for using their names and similarities.

What that passage means is the fact that Erectile dysfunction O’Bannon’s suit from the NCAA has so far only created one significant change despite six many years of legal wrangling and untold millions in legal costs. It’s forced colleges to prevent hiding behind scholarship limits and provide sports athletes the entire price of attendance, a big change the NCAA already approved captured but likely will not have without legal pressure. 

The truth is, it is a ruling which should have people of school sports’ old guard puffing on victory cigars.

Despite significant countrywide momentum for change, the NCAA has accomplished several victories this season which have permitted it to stem the tide and then hang on to the idea of amateurism. Among the greatest just before Wednesday came recently once the National Labor Relations Board overturned a regional director’s previous decision that Northwestern’s football gamers were employees with the proper to unionize under federal labor law.