Category Archives: 2021

Jalen Johnson F-Duke: 2021 NBA Draft Preview (video)

Johnson, despite playing in just 13 games for the Blue Devils in 2020-21, remains a viable Top 15 prospect in the 2021 NBA Draft. The powerful 6-foot-9 forward has a diverse game that includes enough range, strength and open floor capability. The former Phenom U AAU

Jalen Johnson F-Duke, 2021 NBA Draft Preview
Former Duke forward Jalen Johnson (pictured in 2019 with the Phenom U AAU squad) put up 24 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, four blocked shots and two steals versus Pittsburgh on January 19, 2021.

product made stops at three different high schools before settling at the IMG Academy, where he never actually played. Nevertheless, Johnson -a former five-star recruit, earned a Jordan Brand Classic invitation.

DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson discussed in detail about the struggles of programs like Duke in late February, and Johnson’s decision to leave the program in mid-February ranked near the top of the list for the Blue Devils.

In the 13 games in which Johnson did play for the team, he averaged over 11 points per game and snagged six rebounds per contest. Turnovers, however were an issue, as he posted six games with at least three.

His midseason departure has left many NBA scouts in disagreement on his final draft status. Will he continue the Blue Devils’ recent tradition of forwards going high in the first round or fall out of it altogether? We take a look back at Johnson during his AAU prep level playing days.

Cam Thomas SG-LSU: 2021 NBA Draft Preview (video)

LSU’s Cam Thomas ended this past season as the nation’s fourth-leading scorer at 23 points per game. He has a game that combines savvy and footwork, which often ended up with him at the free throw line. Thomas shot 88-percent from the line in 2020-21 for the Tigers and that total ranked 19th nationally. Of the Top 20 players nationally in terms of free throw percentage, Thomas led the group with 220 attempts (7.58 per game) in 29 contests.

The former Oak Hill Academy (Va.) star transferred from Oscar F. Smith HS (Va.) and played for the Boo Williams AAU squad in the Nike EBYL. During his 2019 Offensive Player of the Year performance in the EBYL, he averaged nearly 30 points per game.

Cam Thomas vs. Jonathan Kuminga-2021 NBA Draft Preview
Cam Thomas (pictured vs. NY Renaissance SF Jonathan Kuminga) led the 2019 Nike EBYL in points per game (29.5).

We go inside his matchup with potential lottery selection Jonathan Kuminga in our spotlight on the first-team All-SEC guard.

Isaiah Todd PF-NBA G League Ignite: Washington Wizards (traded by Milwaukee via Indiana), 2021 NBA Draft, 2nd Round, 31st overall

If you’re looking for someone to pull for in the 2021 NBA Draft, please stop at former NBA G League Ignite forward Isaiah Todd. His story is not one of redemption but it very well could be. Following a mother, Marlene Venable, who remarkably turned her life around, Todd has displayed a maturity well beyond his years.

Take this past season for instance, where despite starting just two games in the NBA’s G League (for the Ignite), he still managed to average over 12 points per game. The 6-foot-10-inch forward has a chance to develop into a legitimate contributor for the team and he will begin his journey this summer.

Isaiah Todd PF-Washington 2021 NBA Draft Recap
Todd, pictured, averaged nearly 13 points and five rebounds per game for the NBA G League Ignite in 2020-21. He became the first pick of the second round in the 2021 NBA Draft and was subsequently traded to the Washington Wizards (through Milwaukee via Indiana).

It would not have been a surprise to see Todd, who played with fourth overall pick Scottie Barnes on the Nightrydas Elite AAU squad back in 2019, also go in the first round of this year’s draft. He has an 8’11.5″ standing reach, runs the floor well and has potential as a long distance shooter. Despite just two starts for the NBA G League Ignite, he averaged over 12 points per game and shot an impressive 82.4% from the free throw line.

Can Mann end Florida’s NBA Draft hiatus (video)?

Mann, a former four-star recruit, took a huge leap from his freshman to sophomore season and earned first-team All-SEC honors from the league’s coaches. He improved his field goal percentage by nearly 10 percentage points (.356-to-.459), his three-point percentage by nearly 13 percentage points (.275-to-.402) and averaged nearly 15 more minutes per contest.

Not everyone was on board with his increased production, and the fact that the Gators have not had a player drafted since 2013, when the Chicago Bulls selected Erik Murphy in the second round, leaves some to wonder if Mann will sneak into the first round.

After measuring in at 6’4 (w/shoes) and 177 pounds during the 2021 NBA Combine, has Florida guard Tre Mann’s stock begun to fall?

The extra muscle he added during the 2020 offseason resulted in an increase of 2.7 rebounds per game as a sophomore. After the untimely loss of Keyontae Johnson early in the 2020-21 campaign due to a medical ailment, Mann stepped up to fill the scoring load with similar efficiency.

Mann has an outside chance of hearing his name called in the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft, but should definitely go at some point during the draft’s proceedings in late July.

Barnes adding to FSU’s “basketball” tradition (video)

After a sparkling 2021 NBA Combine performance athletically, FSU’s Scottie Barnes re-affirmed his status as one of the most versatile players in this year’s draft class. His ability to guard multiple positions, run the floor and distribute makes him an amoeba-type prospect. In last year’s NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls surprised many by taking former Seminole Patrick Williams with the fourth overall pick. We spotlighted Williams prior to the draft as a high-riser. Could Barnes be the next Seminole to surprise and go in the top five picks of this year’s draft?

Even if he doesn’t, the cupboard continues to stay full for the basketball program in Tallahassee. Aside from Williams, DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson did a deep dive on his teammate, Devin Vassell, who was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the 11th overall pick in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft. In fact, the Seminoles have produced seven first or second round picks dating back to the 2016 NBA Draft. That list includes 2021 NBA playoffs star Terrence Mann, taken 48th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Scottie Barnes 2021 NBA Draft Preview (video)
Barnes (pictured in the 2018 Nike EBYL for Nike Team Florida) became one of the main cogs in the Florida State Seminoles’ journey to the Sweet Sixteen in 2021. Could he surprise and become the team’s second straight Top Five pick in the 2021 NBA Draft?

Despite playing slightly over 24 minutes per game, the former Seminole earned ACC Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2021. Not only did he average four assists and four rebounds per game, Barnes also averaged over 10 points per game. We went inside his game during his time on the Nike EBYL circuit, when he played alongside former Duke standout Vernon Carey, Jr. for Nike Team Florida (No. 23) in 2018 and then the Nightrydas (wearing No. 1) in 2019, when he starred alongside 2021 NBA prospect Isaiah Todd, who played for the NBA G League Ignite this past season.

2021 NBA Combine results (Barnes):

Scottie Barnes 2021 NBA Combine numbers

Cade Cunningham PG/SF-Oklahoma State: NBA Draft Preview (video)

Cunningham could become Oklahoma State’s first No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NBA Draft. The school has had just three Top 10 picks in the last 70 years (Joe Bradley-1950, Bryant Reeves-1995, Marcus Smart-2014) and the 2021 Big 12 Player of the Year is nearly a guarantee to become the fourth.

In his lone season on campus, Cunningham -a former AAU standout with the Texas Titans- averaged over 20 points per game, shot 40 percent from beyond the arc and pulled in six rebounds per contest. In addition, he shot a sparkling 85% from the free throw line. It all contributed to him being named the school’s first ever AP first-team All-American.

Cade Cunningham closes out defensively
Oklahoma State SF Cade Cunningham (seen pictured during the 2019 Nike EBYL playing for the Texas Titans) is competitive on both ends of the floor.

The former junior high school quarterback and 2021 Big 12 Freshman of the Year plays the game with a veteran’s feel and continues to increase his strength and explosiveness. The Detroit Pistons will strongly consider securing Cunningham with the first overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. If so, he will join former Oklahoma star Blake Griffin and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins as the only two modern Big 12 players to be selected with the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft. In 1988, Danny Manning was the first overall pick of the NBA Draft (Los Angeles Clippers), but at the time the conference was still known as the Big Eight.

Jonathan Kuminga SF-NBA G League Ignite: 2021 NBA Draft Preview

Kuminga, who was once ranked as the one of the top prospects in the 2021 recruiting cycle, reclassified to the 2020 class while at the prep level. After doing so, he turned down multiple collegiate offers and bypassed college altogether. The former five-star recruit signed with the NBA G League Ignite and averaged nearly 16 points per game in 2020-21 (15.8 PPG). Kuminga, a DR Congo native, has NBA and athletic bloodlines. Kuminga starred for the NY Rens in the Nike EBYL over a two-year period.

Kuminga played with former NY Rens AAU standouts Kofi Cockburn (Illinois) and Jalen Lecque in the Nike EBYL.

His brother, Joel Ntwambwe, averaged nearly 12 points and 5.5 rebounds for UNLV in 2018-19. Currently projected as a Top 5 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Kuminga’s diverse skill-set is complemented by very good bounce off the floor.

Choosing a National Champion… with analytics

Once the 2021 NCAA Tournament bracket was released on Sunday, millions of people made their picks. Some made their picks based on their fan allegiance, some by choosing high seeds, others by picking upsets but did any of you look at the hidden figures?

For example, did you know over the past 20 years, 14 of the 20 champions have been one seeds? Or that only once in the last 20 years, has a champion with just one NBA prospect won the title. What about that most head coaches (18 of the last 20) have coached at least 10 seasons before winning a ring?

DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson invented a model and took a peek at the past 20 collegiate champions to see if the numbers could tell a story and to predict a champion and Final Four contenders.

In this analysis, we first sought to look at a college basketball team as a whole: offensive production, defensive production, impact of a head coach, scheduling impact, seed impact and the importance of talent (future NBA prospects).

As you can see by our rows (spreadsheet attached at the bottom), we measured these figures with points scored, points against, players experience, seeds that won the championship and future pros.

We found that a typical championship team over the past 20 years fits a certain profile:

  1. Usually a 1 seed
  2. An experienced head coach (coached 10 seasons before a title)
  3. A roster that has on average 1.65 years of exp.
  4. Around 4-5 future NBA players (players that play at least one game in the NBA)
  5. 4 players that average double figures
  6. Plays about a top 15 strength of schedule
  7. Is either top 50 nationally in points scored OR top 50 in points against… interestingly enough, rarely is a team dominant in both areas. The 2011-2012 Kentucky Wildcats and 2006-2007 Florida Gators were the only teams to rank top 25 in both and win a title.

Based on this criteria, here’s how the top seeds fared. (Note: red- means a team failed to meet a metric.)

Gonzaga

  1. A 1 seed
  2. Experience coach- Mark Few
  3. Roster has 1.6 years of exp. (just barely missed the cutoff)
  4. Corey Kispert, Drew Timme, Jalen Suggs and Andrew Nembhard could play at the next level
  5. Exactly 4 players that averaged double figures
  6. 107 in SOS
  7. No. 1 in points scored per game

Michigan

  1. A 1 seed
  2. First year head coach in Juwan Howard
  3. Roster has 2.2 years of exp.
  4. Hunter Dickinson, Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers could be future pros but after that do you think Eli Brooks and Mike Smith can make it as undersized guards?
  5. 3 players averaging double figures
  6. 12th in SOS
  7. Doesn’t rank in the top 50 in points scored or points against

Baylor

  1. A 1 seed
  2. Experience coach- Scott Drew
  3. Roster has 1.9 years of exp.
  4. Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua could become pros
  5. 3 players averaging double figures
  6. 87th in SOS
  7. Ranks 3rd in points scored per game

Illinois

  1. A 1 seed
  2. Brad Underwood has only been a head coach since 2013
  3. Roster has 1.6 years of exp.
  4. Kofi Cockburn, Ayo Dosunmu and possibly Adam Miller could become future pros but I struggle to see a fourth
  5. 3 players averaging double figures
  6. 9th in SOS
  7. Ranked 15th in points scored per game

By our criteria, Gonzaga and Baylor would be the favorite to win the title with five of the seven boxes checked. Again, Gonzaga was a fraction away from checking six of the seven boxes and remember they defeated Kansas, West Virginia and Iowa in the non conference but their conference hurt their overall SOS.

Interestingly enough though, West Virginia was a sleeper team we found. The Mountaineers have a veteran head coach in Bob Huggins, a trio of guards and Derek Culver, who not only average double figures but could crack a NBA roster and rank in the top 25 in SOS. As well as top 50 in points scored per game and a roster that returned 73 percent of last year’s production.

It’s important to remember that SOS is a skewed stat toward the Big Ten conference since the league was so dominant in 2020-2021, claiming 9 total tournament spots. And don’t forget outliers like the 2013-2014, UCONN Huskies can happen. However, do any of the teams have guards like Shabazz Napier or Kemba Walker that can take over the tournament? Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu and Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham can. If not, our metric says Gonzaga, West Virginia and Baylor are solid bets. While the East and Midwest region could claim a Cinderella spot.

WinnersConf.CoachesSeedPlayer yrs. of exp.NBA playersPlayers that avg. 10+ PPGPPG (rank)P-Against-PG (rank)SOS
VirginiaACCTony Bennett1- South1.633210123
VillanovaBig EastJay Wright1- East1.656111410
UNCACCRoy Williams1- South1.944121297
VillanovaBig EastJay Wright2- South1.746571517
DukeACCMike Krzyzewski1- South1.18461116
UCONNBig EastKevin Ollie7- East2131436314
LouisvilleBig EastRick Pitino1- Midwest1.742292110
KentuckySECJohn Calipari1- South0.875152518
UCONNBig EastJim Calhoun3- West0.93275846
DukeACCMike Krzyzewski1- South27328289
UNCACCRoy Williams1- South275228518
KansasBig 12Bill Self1- Midwest274132113
FloridaSECBilly Donovan1- Midwest1.965114338
FloridaSECBilly Donovan3- Midwest1.255225164
UNCACCRoy Williams1- Syracuse26512183
UCONNBig EastJim Calhoun2- Phoenix1.563175625
SyracuseBig EastJim Boeheim3- East1241416617
UMDACCGary Williams1- East2.244517614
DukeACCMike Krzyzewski1- East1.75521495
MSUBig TenTom Izzo1- Midwest2.2449089

Did the numbers get it right? A follow up to “Choosing a National Champion With Analytics”

Last month, DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson presented a model, which was supposed to be a guide to choosing a champion in the NCAA Tournament, by way of studying the past 15 title winners.

Well, what did the numbers tell us?

First let’s revisit yesterday’s final score. Baylor led the entire game against Gonzaga in the National Championship, en route to a 86-70 victory.

Remember, we identified seven metrics that on average defined collegiate basketball champions and in the story, Baylor and Gonzaga were our top two choices because they fit 5/7 of the data points.

  1. Usually a 1 seed
  2. An experienced head coach (coached 10 seasons before a title)
  3. A roster that has on average 1.65 years of exp.
  4. Around 4-5 future NBA players (players that play at least one game in the NBA)
  5. 4 players that average double figures
  6. Plays about a top 15 strength of schedule
  7. Is either top 50 nationally in points scored OR top 50 in points against… interestingly enough, rarely is a team dominant in both areas. The 2011-2012 Kentucky Wildcats and 2006-2007 Florida Gators were the only teams to rank top 25 in both and win a title.

Another stat that stood out that wasn’t included in our model, was the importance of having a McDonald’s All American. Baylor became just the third champion to not have at least one McDonald’s All American (2014- UCONN and 2002- UMD).

We did state previously though that some teams in the past have had magical runs because of stellar guard play like those UCONN Huskies that were led by Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright or those Terps that had future pros: Juan Dixon and Steve Blake.

Well, 2021 was no different, UCLA’s Johnny Juzang and Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim also led their teams on magical runs after coming into the tournament as double digit seeds. Our model also did indicate that the Midwest and East regions could claim a Cinderella run because the two regions lacked a formidable one seed (both Illinois and Michigan failed to reach the Final Four).

Did the model hold true for the women’s champion?

On the women’s side, Stanford defeated Arizona, 54-53. Let’s see how they stacked up against the model.

Stanford Cardinal

  1. A 1 seed in the “Alamo Region”
  2. Head coach Tara VanDerveer has coached the team since 1996
  3. Roster featured 7 upperclass players and sophomore standouts like Haley Jones and Francesca Belibi
  4. Kiana Williams, Jones and Cameron Brink are pro ready. Belibi, Lexie Hull and Anna Wilson could also play at the next level.
  5. 3 players averaged double figures and Brink averaged 9.9
  6. Had a top 5 SOS
  7. The Cardinal also ranked 14th overall in scoring offense and 8th overall in scoring defense

Interestingly enough, the Stanford Cardinal fit the model like a glove and just missed checking every box by one tenth of a point (LITERALLY)! Despite, winning by the slimmest of margins, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the women took home the championship, their school’s first since 1992.

Why are blue blood college basketball programs struggling?

A blue blood is someone who is wealthy and powerful. In terms of college basketball, the phrase describes programs that have consistently produced postseason success, won championships and sent players to the NBA.

However, blue blood programs like Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State have suffered through varying degrees of struggles during the 2020-2021 season. 

What has caused this decline? The answer is multi-layered.

The number one problem could be the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused not only games to be postponed, but has had lasting effects on players who test positive. 

Former Duke star Jayson Tatum said he has struggled to breathe since returning to the floor after a bout with COVID. On the gridiron, Myles Garrett expressed similar sentiments. 

When it comes to tangible statistics, consider Purdue’s Sasha Stefanovic, who tested positive for COVID in January and since returning has scored a total of four points after leading the Big Ten in three-point shooting percentage. 

“I’ve talked to Mike (Krzyzewski), Roy (Williams) and all the guys I’m on the (NCAAB) committee with and a lot of people are talking about the exact same things and I don’t think you can appreciate it unless you have kids going through a tough time with the COVID,” MSU head coach Tom Izzo told local reporters during his weekly press conference on Feb. 18. “They always say mental health, it’s hard to handle yourself mentally with all the things that have been thrown at them this year (with the pandemic) so then you lose a little bit and it gets exacerbated. There’s no question about it.”

UNC sits at 13-7 while Kentucky, Duke and MSU (¾ of the Champions Classic) combine for a 26-29 record. A far cry from when these three teams were in the Final Four six seasons ago. 

But is COVID the sole reason behind the struggles? No, fans can also easily forget the importance of offseason practices, preseason exhibition games and the camaraderie of being in a team setting… all of which has been stripped away in the world of social distancing. 

Another interesting note is that the three blue bloods mentioned above rely heavily on either freshman or players that didn’t play over the past few seasons. Duke and Kentucky have gone the “one and done” recruiting route but their players never got a chance to assimilate into college basketball action before the season started.

Duke, Kentucky and MSU have also all used freshmen guards like A.J. Hoggard, Brandon Boston Jr. and Jeremy Roach to lead their teams. 

Conversely, the teams that lead the ACC, Big Ten and SEC have been able to rely on upperclassmen talent at the guard positions. Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu, Alabama’s John Petty Jr. and UVA’s Kihei Clark have all had big impacts. 

With that being said, how many years have teams like Illinois, Alabama, Tennessee, UVA and Iowa finished above the blue bloods in the standings and in the AP Top 10? Not only are the blue bloods struggling, but teams who haven’t enjoyed the same level of consistency over the past 20 years are now having all-time seasons.  

We talked about the lack of offseason, COVID-19, the importance of veteran guards and the emergence of new conference threats but should the blue bloods be worried long term? Probably not.

Longevity means something. Duke and MSU have made the NCAA tournament 24 and 22 consecutive years, respectively. That doesn’t happen by accident. John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats followed up missing the NCAA tournament in 2013 with a championship appearance in 2014, after winning the championship in 2012.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari (pictured sitting in the team huddle) talks to his team during the 2013-2014 season. Just a season prior, his team missed the tournament. Will the Wildcats make a similar turnaround next year?

In statistics, we would call the 2020-2021 season an outlier for the blue bloods so if you’re a fan of those teams… don’t worry it will probably get better and if you aren’t… enjoy the misery of some of college basketball’s elites.