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2013-14 Big 12 Post-Mortem

by - Published June 30, 2014 in Columns, Conference Notes
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Top to bottom, the Big 12 was the best college basketball conference in the country this year. Let’s get that out of the way right now.

In fact, when it comes to overall depth, the Big 12 this season may have been one of the strongest leagues in a long time. The conference sent seven of its 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament, the first time in 21 years and just the fifth time ever that a league sent 70% or more of its teams to the tourney. And as good as those seven teams were, the league’s eighth and ninth teams may have spoken most to the Big 12’s depth.
… Continue Reading

An improbable run by Kansas? That’s what this is

by - Published April 2, 2012 in Columns
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One team was supposed to be here, one team wasn’t. The latter could be said in more ways than one. But as Monday night’s national championship game beckons, Kentucky and Kansas are something of a study in contrasts from the standpoint of how they got to this point. While there will surely be a lot of talk of about recent history between these two teams and head coaches, a better subject is the contrast in the expectations many had of these teams, and how one of them has reached here in what was thought to be more of a rebuilding year than a contending one. In doing so, we find that Bill Self may have done his best coaching job yet.

“We have kind of flown under the radar, by Kansas standards of late, which I think has been very healthy for a team that’s just trying to find themselves,” said Self.

… Continue Reading

Harvard’s path to the elusive NCAA Tournament bid just got tougher

by - Published February 26, 2012 in Columns, Full Court Sprints
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Harvard is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious institution of higher learning. Many of the brightest young people grow up dreaming of attending the school, unless you’re like me and dreamed of going to MIT (or Cal Tech) because of engineering. The university has produced a number of high achievers in just about every field imaginable.

On the hardwood, it’s been a different story. Harvard has had seasons of 20 or more wins, and they’ve been to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament and NIT the past two seasons. But they have yet to get to the holy grail of college basketball, the NCAA Tournament. That has eluded them, including last year when they went to a one-game playoff against Princeton and lost on a buzzer-beating jumper in New Haven. And after Saturday night, they might be on a path to such a game once more, as Penn came to Lavietes Pavilion and stunned Harvard 55-54 on Senior Night.

… Continue Reading

Baylor is clearly third in the Big 12

by - Published February 12, 2012 in Columns
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At this time of the year, we find out who teams are. The importance of each game in the standings is clearer, teams have injuries, seniors are playing their final games and freshmen have about 20 games under their belt.

Every season, there are some teams that look very good for a while, even good enough in our minds to be Final Four and/or national championship contenders. They have the talent, experience and early on a few good wins. They might not lose a game for a while, even beating some good teams. Then sooner or later, they get tested, and we find that they’re not quite at that level.

Enter this year’s Baylor Bears, 72-57 losers at Missouri on Saturday. … Continue Reading

The NCAA’s $2,000 hot mess

by - Published December 15, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

We go coast to coast with other news from the college basketball nation

The NCAA is entering new levels of ridiculous mismanagement. The Associated Press reports that the NCAA might reconsider giving new scholarship student-athletes a $2,000 stipend, though it would have to allow players who have already signed letters of intent to receive the extra cash while banning those who sign later.

Ohio State superstar Jared Sullinger is still hurting from recurring back spasms, and coach Thad Matta didn’t want to say when Sullinger will be back in the lineup for the Buckeyes, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report. But Sullinger answered that question Wednesday night when the Buckeyes beat down USC Upstate 82-58 and Sullinger played 24 minutes and got 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Nobody will face criminal charges in the Xavier/Cincinnati brawl, the Associated Press reports. Joe Deters, a Hamilton County, Ohio, prosecutor, looked into the matter, deciding not to pursue charges against anyone. One of the factors was Xavier center Kenny Frease’s satisfaction with an apology from Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates, who decked Frease in the head during the debacle.

Seton Hall will gain some more depth this weekend with the return of freshman Brandon Mobley, who had been out with a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum since the summer, according to the Associated Press.

Don’t skip your court appearances. Nothing good can happen. Just ask Kansas’ Ben McLemore. The freshman is under arrest after skipping a Dec. 6 court appearance for a citation related to underage alcohol possession, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report.

Also on the list of bad behavior is taunting fans by grabbing your crotch. New Mexico State sophomore Christian Kabongo did that, and now he’s suspended, writes Diamond Leung for ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog.

Syracuse still has Melo — Fab Melo that is. If you thought I was talking about Carmelo Anthony, well, I kinda was. The NBA star who led the Cuse to a championship is convinced that Melo 2.0 and the rest of the crew have the talent to win another championship for the first time since 2003.

I’m not gonna lie — I love the fan experience. And if you tell me that a team in California’s tradition is to throw tortillas when a victory is in hand, I find it amusing. I mean, a flying tortilla — presumably uncooked soft tortilla — won’t hurt anyone. Except when your team is only up two and the officials consider giving the home crowd a technical. Yep, that’s how UC-Santa Barbara’s 65-61 win against San Diego went down, writes Diamond Leung for ESPN.com. When the fans started tossing tortillas, the officials considered tossing out a T. They opted to go with a public announcement that any more thrown items would produce two free throws for the Toreros. The fans settled down, and the Gauchos won.

TIQ Player Ratings Reveal Top Returning Talent

by - Published October 22, 2011 in Columns

It’s good to be a fan in the Midwest, if the top returning players according to the Total Impact Quotient ratings mean anything.

As we prepare for the 2011-12 season, let’s take a look back at the top players from the 2010-11 season. To tally the top 50, I added the top players in various statistical categories to the list of players from major conferences. That adds the likes of Cleveland State’s Norris Cole, College of Charleston’s Andrew Goudelock and Morehead State’s Kenneth Faried to a list that predictably includes Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams. … Continue Reading

Selfish NCAA Rule Betrays Mission to Student-Athletes

by - Published May 2, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a roundup of news from across the nation.

  1. Starting next season, players will no longer be able to test the NBA Draft waters. According to the Associated Press, the NCAA approved a rules change that forces players to decide whether they wish to remain eligible for the NBA Draft by the first day of the spring signing period for recruits. This move helps college coaches replace departing players. But it kills players’ opportunity to gauge their draft stock as few NBA teams are prepared to provide full predictions by mid-April.
  2. George Mason wasted no time in finding a new coach. According to the Associated Press, the Colonials picked former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, who was fired at Georgia Tech this past season after 11 years and a 190-162 record. In more than a decade with the Yellow Jackets, Hewitt established a reputation for recruiting top-notch talent, but he only made one deep run in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Connecticut in the 2004 championship game. He replaces Jim Larranaga, who left the school to coach Miami.
  3. Nearby, in Washington, D.C., George Washington will be in search of a new coach after firing Karl Hobbs, according to the Associated Press. Hobbs led the Colonials for 10 years, including a great 2005-06 season in which George Washington finished 27-3 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
  4. And in Atlanta, Georgia Tech replaced Paul Hewitt with Brian Gregory, choosing Dayton’s coach over several other candidates, including a 15-year-old from Connecticut. Wha?! According to the Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy, Ethan Peikes sent Georgia Tech Athletic Director Dan Radakovich a letter containing a cogent argument for why Peikes should become the Yellow Jackets’ next coach.
  5. Colgate presumably didn’t get any applications from 15-year-olds, but the school did find its coach from a relatively young member of the coaching ranks. According to the Associated Press, Colgate hired 33-year-old Temple assistant Matt Langel to replace Emmett Davis, who was dismissed after 13 seasons and a 165-212 record.
  6. Wisconsin extended the contract of coach Bo Ryan through 2015-16, ensuring stability for one of the best programs in the Big Ten, according to the Associated Press. Ryan has a 242-91 record in 10 seasons in Madison, and his teams regularly excel in the NCAA Tournament and enjoy one of the toughest home court advantages in basketball.
  7. Likewise, in Athens, Ga., coach Mark Fox received an extension with Georgia. The Bulldogs will keep Fox through 2015-16 and increase his pay to $1.7 million per year, according to the Associated Press.
  8. Amid coaching changes, some players decide it’s time for a fresh start, especially if a new coach has a significantly different system. That looks to be the case at North Carolina State, according to Eamonn Brennan of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. Freshman point guard Ryan Harrow will leave the Wolfpack to look for a fresh start rather than play for new coach Mark Gottfried.
  9. Give coach Bill Self credit. Even though Kansas is losing plenty of firepower this off-season, the Jayhawks will face a brutal schedule next season, with Kentucky and Ohio State definitely on the horizon, according to the Associated Press. Kansas also will be in the Maui Invitational with Duke, UCLA, Georgetown, Memphis, Tennessee and Michigan.
  10. And Kansas might find some tougher competition out of Oklahoma in the Big 12 than originally expected. New Sooners coach Lon Kruger has added two Juco players recently to help hasten the rebuilding of the Oklahoma program, according to Sports Illustrated’s “Fan Nation” blog.
  11. Louisville coach Rick Pitino has completed a major overhaul of his staff, according to the Associated Press. Pitino added Kevin Keatts as an assistant coach. Keatts arrives at Louisville after coaching Hargrave Military Academy for 10 seasons and winning two national prep championships. Keatts joins Wyking Jones and Pitino’s son Richard on the staff.
  12. Quick hits from the NCAA’s attendance report, via ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan for the “College Basketball Nation” blog: total number of people attending games is up compared with 2009-10, average per Division I game is down a tad (because of more Division I schools), and average NCAA Tournament attendance is down slightly.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

The general consensus is that the NCAA is being selfish in its decision to change the rules on players testing the NBA Draft as early entrants. It’s hard to argue with that sentiment, though the NCAA has an opportunity to do right by student-athletes.

The NCAA is responsible for guiding student-athletes through the collegiate educational experience. That’s not my take; it’s theirs. From the NCAA’s website:

The NCAA’s core purpose is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.

By shifting the deadline for players to decide whether they will remain in the NBA Draft or return to school to mid-April, the NCAA is robbing student-athletes of a chance to maximize their educational experience. To borrow a Texas Hold ‘Em poker analogy, the NCAA will be forcing players to go all-in or fold before the flop while letting them see only one card.

In recent years, players have been able to figure out the strength of their draft hand — to see that other card — by receiving evaluations from NBA scouts during late April and May. A few years ago, players had until June to decide whether they’d remain in the draft or return to school. NCAA coaches hated that because they didn’t know what their roster would like and how they should adjust their recruiting strategy in the spring.

The first step in this anti-player direction was a change to the players’ decision deadline to early May. That prevents players from receiving much information, but they can at least make an educated decision about the likelihood that a team will pick them in the first round.

To clarify what’s at stake, the NBA only guarantees contracts to first-round picks. If you’re No. 31, you have to compete with every other unrestricted free agent, NBA Developmental League player and international walk-on who wants a shot at an NBA contract. Good luck. Oh, and you can’t go back to your college team. When early entrants remain in the draft, they’re no longer eligible. You don’t hear of too many players who pay to earn a degree without a scholarship from a school if they fall out of the first round and don’t receive a contract.

For NCAA early entrants, the NBA Draft can be a life-altering decision. Because the NCAA will restrict the relevant information that student-athletes can gather by the mid-April deadline, the NCAA has the responsibility to fulfill its core purpose: ensure that the educational experience is paramount. And that experience is paramount to the self-centered interests of coaches who fear they’ll lose their jobs without NBA-caliber players on their roster instead of leftover recruits.

For the NCAA to fulfill that purpose, it needs to create a method for student-athletes to receive NBA evaluations throughout the season. Perhaps the NCAA should form a consortium of current or former NBA scouts who provide monthly ratings or reviews, citing comments from NBA executives. If the NCAA wants to follow the money, it would need to wade into the world of sports agents, who are perhaps most motivated to gauge players’ value and translate that into NBA dollars. An objective sports agent might not exist, but that’s for the NCAA to figure out.

As the rules stand now, the NCAA is failing its student-athletes. A failed system is bound too fall apart as soon as a better alternative presents itself. And that could quickly emerge from the heavily financed underworld of unscrupulous sports agencies and self-employed talent consultants, who might take an even more aggressive stance and try to fill a need in this evaluation process — if the NCAA doesn’t step up to fully educate its players.

Health Comes Before Hoops

by - Published April 18, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a roundup of news from across the nation.

When forward Emmanuel Negedu transferred to New Mexico, he figured he had a fresh start ahead after heart problems at Tennessee. While with the Volunteers, he entered a sudden cardiac arrest in 2009. He had the all-clear to play, barring any more bad news. But more bad news struck in December 2010 when he a bad reading on a defibrillator, according to Diamond Leung of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog. And that means Negedu’s playing career is through, though he’ll remain on scholarship to complete his degree as a Lobo.

Washington State fans are holding their breath that Klay Thompson won’t follow junior DeAngelo Casto to the NBA after the Cougar forward announced that he’ll enter the draft and hire an agent, according to the Associated Press. Casto was Wazzu’s top big man last season, with 12 points and 7.3 rebounds per game.

In addition to losing Josh Selby and the Morris brothers to the NBA and Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Mario Little to graduation, Kansas will be without guard Royce Woolridge, who announced he is transferring, according to the Associated Press. Woolridge said he wants more playing time, which he apparently isn’t convinced he’d get in Lawrence despite the roster turnover.

In other transfer news, Loyola Chicago is getting some Big Ten talent in Iowa guard Cully Payne, who will have three years of remaining eligibility, according to ESPN Chicago’s Scott Powers. And sparingly used forward J.J. Richardson is leaving Pittsburgh in search of a better fit, according to the Associated Press.

On the flip side, the Jayhawks could be on the receiving end of a transfer if La Salle’s Aaric Murray picks Kansas over West Virginia. According to Jon Rothstein, the sophomore big man is leaving the Explorers for one of those destinations after averaging 15.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this past season.

Miami’s coaching search continues, writes the Miami Herald’s Michelle Kaufman, as new athletic director Shawn Eichorst talked to Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter about the position. Eichorst has connections to the state after coming to Miami from Wisconsin, where he was an associate athletic director at the school.

Whoever ends up in south Florida as the Hurricanes’ coach might not bring highly regarded recruit Bishop Daniels to Coral Gables. According to Barry Jackson’s “Sports Buzz” blog at Miami Herald.com, Daniels wants a release from his letter of intent so that he can choose Tennessee or Rutgers. Given that the Scarlet Knights are the only team of the three with a returning coaching staff, that could bode well for Mike Rice’s squad.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

You’ve got to feel for New Mexico’s Emmanuel Negedu.

The Lobos sophomore overcame the scare of a cardiac arrest at Tennessee and found a fresh start in Albuquerque. New Mexico is one of the top programs of the Mountain West Conference, especially with BYU bolting for the West Coast Conference.

But it just wasn’t in the cards for Negedu to make an impact on the court. A bad reading on a defibrillator means team doctors won’t clear him to play ever again. It’s just too risky.

Although Negedu must manage his condition carefully, his life is still full of opportunity. The Lobos intend to keep Negedu on scholarship, which will give him the opportunity to earn his degree as a Lobo. And if Negedu has interest in contributing to team activities, the squad should be able to find an off-court role for him.

For players gifted enough to earn a Division I scholarship, the concept of imminent mortality might not be an everyday realization. But Negedu now has a perspective that gives him the opportunity to keep his teammates grounded in the face of adversity and focused on greater goals.

And that’s a perspective that could allow Negedu to make an on-court impact vicariously through the rest of the Lobos.

Globetrotters’ Basketball Soul Outshines Rash of Rough News

by - Published April 15, 2011 in Full Court Sprints

BASELINE TO BASELINE

Go coast to coast with a round up of the nation’s top stories.

1. Although Phil Jackson seems pretty convinced that there won’t be a next season for the NBA next season, several college players are gambling that they’ll still be making NBA money within a few months. Here are a few of the players who announced during the past few days that they’ll be entering the NBA Draft.

2. ESPN.com’s Andy Katz breaks down the NCAA Legislative Committee’s proposal to move up the deadline for declaring for the draft. If the Board of Directors approves the measure, players will need to decide by April 10 whether they intend to declare for the draft — and they can’t turn back. It essentially ends the test-the-waters approach, which isn’t good for the kids, Katz writes.

3. One player who won’t be testing the waters this season is Baylor’s Perry Jones, ESPN.com’s Andy Katz writes. Somewhat surprisingly, Jones will return to the Bears, who had a disappointing season but will return a start-studded team, anchored by Jones.

4. Despite the uproar about the early entry deadline, that’s small change compared to the fiasco in San Diego. The Associated Press reported this week that the FBI is investigating former members of the Toreros program for running a sports betting business, and 10 people have been charged in the case, including the team’s all-time leading scorer, Brandon Johnson. In addition to Johnson, former player Brandon Dowdy is accused of fixing games.

5. Jorts-mania could be coming to a town near you. Kentucky’s Josh Harrellson will be launching a Jorts Tour — after his now-famous nickname — to sign autographs and hawk his clothing line, according to Diamond Leung of ESPN.com’s “College Basketball Nation” blog.

6. As Nebraska prepares to move to the Big 10 next season, the Huskers have reworked coach Doc Sadler’s deal to pay him an extra $100,000 per year, making his salary $900,000 per year through 2015-16, according to a CBS Sports.com wire report.

7. One of Nebraska’s former Big 12 rivals, Iowa State, is dealing with some drama after police arrested freshman center Jordan Railey for punching a man late Wednesday night along a hot spot for Ames restaurants and bars, according to the Associated Press. Coach Fred Hoiberg has suspended Railey while gathering more information about the incident.

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE

Man, what a rough week for news in the world of college basketball.

Several players landed in trouble with the law (Nebraska, Florida). An NBA-minded freshman skipped his team’s season-closing banquet to work out in Vegas (Kansas). And speaking of Sin City, the gambling bug apparently migrated south to San Diego, where the very integrity of the game is in question after the FBI unearthed a supposed sports business ring that included former Torero players who are accused of fixing games.

And just to pile on, the NCAA looks pretty selfish and uninterested in the welfare of student-athletes after moving forward with a proposal to give players until about a week after the championship game to decide whether they want to return to school or enter the NBA Draft. Needing only an affirmative vote by the NCAA’s Board of Directors to become official, the proposal applies tortured logic that benefits schools and coaches but not players. And the players already are limited because the NCAA won’t let them profit from their name or likeness in commercial products, such as video games. However, the NCAA is happy to take its cut from those sales.

That’s enough to get you pretty down about the game.

Thankfully, I watched the Harlem Globetrotters play tonight on ESPN. And that evaporated my creeping cynicism. The figure-eight weaves, between-the-legs passes and crowd-pleasing interludes don’t look like traditional basketball. All those fancy moves make for great entertainment, and everyone in the arena is having fun — even the tough-luck Generals.

Basketball is supposed to be fun. Yes, the game can be a means to a career — and a small fortune — for the most talented players. But for the 99 percent of players who don’t come within sniffing distance of an NBA pay check, the game needs to be fun. If it’s not, why play? The Globetrotters take fun to an extreme, but they embody the soul of the game.

Despite the spate of bad news, the game goes on. By November, optimism will be the mood du jour as nearly 350 Division I teams embark on the journey toward a 2012 championship. And with any luck, most of them will have plenty of fun along the way.

Bracket Breakdown: Critical Questions for the Elite Eight – Part 2

by - Published March 26, 2011 in Columns

(11) VCU 71 (1) Kansas61

Will Cinderella’s slipper fit on VCU? At this point, the better question might be: Why wouldn’t it?

Led by coach Shaka Smart and point guard Joey Rodriguez, the Rams have burned through USC, Georgetown, Purdue and Florida State to move within one game of going from the First Four to the Final Four. If they make it happen, the run will look awfully familiar.

Five years ago, George Mason captured the country’s attention by receiving a controversial at-large bid as a No. 11 seed, then tore through Michigan State, North Carolina and Wichita State to set up a meeting with tournament-favorite Connecticut. The Colonials shocked the world with an overtime upset of the Huskies. … Continue Reading

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Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

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Your Phil of Hoops

Watson’s transfer will sting BU the most

April 11, 2014 by

bostonuniversity

Boston University recently saw three players transfer. The impact of the departure of one of them will be felt more than the other two.

Mihalich’s first year at Hofstra is over but will have plenty of value

March 9, 2014 by

hofstra

The first year for Hofstra under Joe Mihalich is in the books. Many expected that wins would be hard to come by, and they were, but this season was about more than that and is hardly a throwaway year.

Cornell’s future can only be better

March 2, 2014 by

cornell

Cornell has had a rough season, as could be expected given some personnel losses. It’s almost in the books, and the future at least looks brighter.

Hoopville Archives

2014 Prep School Tour

Missed a recap of an open gym workout? We have them all right here for you.

Sept. 9: Putnam Science Academy
Sept 10: Commonwealth Academy
Sept. 11: St. Andrew's
Sept. 12: Northfield Mount Hermon
Sept. 16: Brewster Academy and Phillips Exeter
Sept. 17: Brooks School
Sept. 21: Holderness School
Sept. 23: St. Thomas More and Marianapolis Prep
Sept. 24: South Kent School and Kent School
Sept. 25: Williston Northampton
Sept. 28: Wilbraham and Monson Academy and Suffield Academy
Sept. 30: New Hampton
Oct. 5: Worcester Academy
Oct. 7: Brimmer and May
Oct. 8: Cushing Academy
Oct. 9: Tilton
Oct. 12: Tabor Academy and Rivers School
Oct. 14: The Master's School
Oct. 16: Vermont Academy

You can also find them all right here.

Even More: City Hoops Recruiting

Mass Elite and Boston Warriors hold college showcase

Mass Elite and Boston Warriors, two of the largest programs in Massachusetts, teamed up for a college showcase on Wednesday night. Here are some evaluations from that event.

Massachusetts 11th grade AAU Tournament recap

Teams gathered at Mass Premier Courts to chase the state title in the oldest age group, and one champion was a familiar one.

Travel team profile: All For One

All For One has been one of the better travel programs in Massachusetts for players before they reach high school

Travel team profile: Blackstone Valley Chaos

Size and options on the wing are not lacking for this year’s junior team

Travel team profile: Expressions Elite

Expressions Elite has quickly become one of the deeper programs in New England

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Marianapolis Prep will battle in Class AA

October 20, 2014 by

marianapolis

Marianapolis Prep is far from loaded with talent, but they have enough perimeter talent to be dangerous. As is usually the case, they will battle and be a tough out in Class AA.

New Vermont Academy coach has put together a contender

October 17, 2014 by

vermontacademy

Vermont Academy has a new coach for the second year in a row, but they shouldn’t skip a beat. They have enough talent to win a lot of games and make a deep run in NEPSAC Class AA.

The Master’s School has good students and talent

October 15, 2014 by

mastersschool

The Master’s School has a number of good students, and they will continue to head to college later. This time around, they also have some talent on the hardwood and should win a few more games.

Rivers will try to build on a breakthrough season

October 13, 2014 by

riversschool

The Rivers School had a breakthrough season last year, winning the Independent School League. They will try to build on that with a team that loses a lot but also returns a lot from last season’s team.

Tabor Academy looks to have more depth this time around

October 13, 2014 by

taboracademy

Tabor Academy will once again be headlined by a frontcourt player. This time around, though, the Seawolves appear to have a deeper support cast than in recent years.