McDonald's Nuggets: Coaching carousel; Eric Gaines to LSU
Dan McDonald is back with his weekend primer, McDonald's Nuggets. This week’s edition includes thoughts on the upcoming coaching carousel, the Commit of the Week, the “too close to call” Team of the Week and his Wagers of the Week.
2022 Rankings: Top 75
WHAT’S ON MY MIND: Coaching carousel
It’s almost that time of year when seasons end and coaches change places. Last year around this time I predicted - and it wasn’t hard to see it coming - that there would be a lot of movement at the highest level of college basketball. This year, I’m thinking it will be just the opposite, for a few reasons.
If you go through league standings in college basketball, the teams at the bottom of power conferences mostly have newer coaches that still need more time - or in rare cases it is a school like North Carolina just having a bad year. There are maybe one or two schools where it appears likely a change is imminent.
Another reason schools often make a change is if there is a great candidate out there that would be an upgrade over the current coach. In the past few years, there have been coaches such as Will Wade, Kevin Keatts, Nate Oats, Eric Musselman, Kermit Davis and Dan Hurley who were just waiting to be poached by a bigger school from their mid-major job. There have also been coaches such as Fred Hoiberg, Tom Crean and Thad Matta out of work but worthy of another shot at a big job. If you look at this year’s candidates for schools wanting to make a change, it’s really John Beilein in his upper 60s and not really any other coach with serious buzz around his name. There will also be schools who would like to make a change this off-season but won’t do it because a massive buyout prevents it from happening.
That all being said, there are some potentially big dominoes that could fall. What Texas does with Shaka Smart could have some ripple effects throughout the sport. The Longhorns are playing better right now with two big wins this week and there is a significant buyout, but there is still some uncertainty around Smart’s future in Austin. I also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Smart leaving on his own if the right spot opens. Texas could potentially steal a top coach from another school and cause some shock waves elsewhere.
The obvious elephant in the room here is the fallout from the FBI investigation into the sport. It’s possible the NCAA hands down serious punishments as early as this summer that could lead to jobs opening up, but at that point it would probably result in interim coaches taking over for next season with the school searching for a replacement next off-season.
Could a coach under NCAA investigation decide to get out before penalties are handed down by taking an NBA job? Could there be a surprise retirement or resignation? It certainly wouldn’t shock me, but outside of something along those lines, it will mostly be a quiet off-season for coaching changes.
COMMIT OF THE WEEK: Eric Gaines to LSU
LSU doubled up on Sunday with commitments from four-star guard Eric Gaines in the 2020 class and four-star big man Jerrell Colbert in the 2021 class. But let’s focus on Gaines here. Will Wade and his staff deserve a ton of credit for getting involved with Gaines before other high-major programs caught on and they sealed the deal before any other school could really make up much ground on the lead the Tigers built early. Alabama, Memphis, TCU and Washington State were also involved before the Georgia native decided to officially visit Baton Rouge last weekend and ultimately commit.
What is LSU getting here? In my opinion, one of the most talented guards in the class of 2020. Gaines shot up to somewhere in the 6-foot-3/6-4 range in the past year and he’s an explosive athlete with length. He’s an absolutely effortless scorer from all three levels. I view him as more of a combo guard that should be in a scoring role, but he’s very unselfish and makes pretty good decisions with the ball, so don’t be surprised if he does play more point guard.
Defensively, he could be as good as anyone in the SEC if he’s locked in and committed. I personally wouldn’t be shocked if he makes it to the NBA, but it will all come down to his level of focus and commitment, because the talent is there.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Too close to call
Texas had a big 48 hours with road wins at Texas Tech and Oklahoma via a buzzer beater. The timing couldn’t have been any better for Shaka Smart’s future, as we discussed above. Smart’s predecessor, Rick Barnes, has also had a bumpy season at Tennessee, but he pulled off two big wins this week, including a comeback win at Rupp Arena over a top 10 Kentucky team.
And lastly, Virginia knocked off Duke at home and followed up with an offensively challenged road win at Miami. I spent way too much time trying to figure out which team had the best week, and Michigan State is the right answer here. But I’m feeling generous this week, so let’s just give everyone a trophy.
WAGERS OF THE WEEK
Last week was the third time in four weeks we won big with a 4-1 record to put us at 27-23 on the season. I feel great about his week’s picks as well, which include some conference tournament action.
Starting with the Southern Conference tournament in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina, let’s take VMI (-4) against Samford. It’s hard to beat a team three times in a season when the two teams are pretty evenly matched. Samford won two close games this season, including a six-point win last weekend in the season finale. Staying in Asheville, let’s take Wofford (-14) against Citadel. The Bulldogs have lost the last six games by an average of 18.5 points. The Terriers should come out focused and handle business.
And then we get a couple rare Friday night ACC games to make some wagers on! Take Georgia Tech (+4) at Clemson. The Yellow Jackets have won five out of six, including a home win over the Tigers, and they are the better team here. Roll with NC State (-7.5) at home against Wake Forest. Kevin Keatts will have the Wolfpack focused, as they can't afford a bad loss because they need to stay on the right side of the bubble. Let’s also go with the under (151.5).