Rivals Roundtable: Rankings, NBA Draft, conference tournaments
Each week recruiting analysts Rob Cassidy, Dan McDonald, Jamie Shaw and Russ Wood tackle several topics about college basketball and recruiting. In this installment the group discusses the most intriguing conference tournaments, potential NBA steals and which prospect should shoot up the rankings when they are updated in the spring.
Cassidy's Takeaways: Day 1 of the IMG Academy Beach Blast
2023 Rankings: Top 30
1. Which prospect is making a case to move up the rankings when we update them this spring?
Cassidy: The easy answer here is Brandin Podziemski. And while I usually like to go off the beaten paths with these questions, it’s impossible to ignore the work the 6-foot-6 guard has been doing this spring. He has the length, the three-level scoring prowess and the court vision to be a special player at the college level. Not only should he crash the Rivals150, he should probably also add a star. We’ll see what the future holds, but Podziemski’s trajectory is encouraging to say the least. Kansas, Illinois, Wake Forest and a long list of others have now gotten involved in his recruitment.
McDonald: Podziemski has routinely posted huge stat lines this season up in Wisconsin and is one of the top available wings in the 2021 class. With his size and ability to stretch defenses with his three-point stroke, he’s more than worthy of a spot in the next update of the Rivals150. If he picks the right spot, look for him to be an impact player right away next year.
Shaw: While I feel unranked prospects such as 2022 standouts Darren Buchannan and DJ Jefferson and 2021 guard PJ Edwards will crack the next Rivals150, this question specifically asks which player will move up. This wording leaves me looking squarely at Moussa Diabate.
Currently coming in at No. 26 in the 2021 Rivals150, I think Diabate is the best defensive player in the country. He has a unique player profile on that end of the floor, and in today's game of fluid basketball, switchable bigs and rim protection the Michigan commit checks all the boxes and then some. Juwan Howard is getting the big man who moves like no other big man in the country, the one with great length and who is an elite athlete both laterally and vertically. Looking at Diabate’s future, past college, switchable, rim-protecting five men are making a lot of money right now.
Wood: I’m going back to a guy I mentioned earlier this month – Podziemski. Granted he would be a debut in the rankings but that’s still moving up right? The 6-foot-6 guard out of Delafield (Wisc.) St. John's Northwestern Military Academy is a skilled lefty who can dribble, pass and shoot it. Podziemski is a floor stretcher with NBA three-point range. I love his feel for the game and his high basketball IQ allows him to create scoring opportunities for his teammates. The competition he faces isn’t the toughest but he is straight dominating them.
2. Which prospect outside the top five in most mock drafts might be a steal for an NBA franchise?
Cassidy: I’ll go with Florida State’s Scottie Barnes because the battles he’s fighting from a development standpoint seem to be with constancy. Barnes plays positionless basketball in a way that few others do and presents a matchup nightmare for almost everyone, not to mention he can guard 1-4. He has so many tools and seems to be refining all of them as his freshman season progresses. Barnes probably won’t be a top-five pick, but I think he’ll provide an NBA team with top-five value. There may not be a more versatile player in the class.
McDonald: I’m intrigued by what Moses Moody can bring to the table at the next level. He checks the box for size as a shooting guard. He’s a shot maker from deep and he’ll get after it defensively. He’s starting to become a more complete scorer and he just plays an efficient game. He seems like a guy that could be a steal in the late lottery for the right team.
Shaw: It is perplexing how Jaden Springer started this season at the tail end, or even all the way out, of the first round in many mock drafts. The 6-foot-4, 205 pound Springer is a noted winner, he did so at the prep level, winning the Geico Nationals Championship his junior season at IMG, and finishing 50-8 over his two years at the school. Springer can pass, shoot, and handle, all the while playing top level, if not elite perimeter defense. As of this writing, Springer has started in the last eight games for Tennessee and has averaged 15.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.2 steals per game during that stretch while shooting 52 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from three. He is a player with versatility on both ends, who plays with a fearless chip on his shoulder. Also, he will not turn 19 until September.
Wood: I think there is so much Dennis Rodman in Isaiah Jackson of Kentucky. He needs to get a whole lot stronger for the NBA but Jackson is blocking 2.70 shots per game and is third in block percentage at 13.3. That puts him in the same block percentage neighborhood as Anthony Davis (13.8), Nerlens Noel (13.2), and Willie Cauley-Stein (12.3). If he can become an effective roll man in ball screen action – which shouldn’t be too difficult for an NBA staff to teach him – he’d definitely be a steal in the draft.
3. Which conference tournament do you find most intriguing this year?
Cassidy: The obvious answer is probably the Big Ten because the matchups will be the most fun and the league is absolutely stacked. Obvious is boring, though, so let’s talk about the NEC, baby. Gimme the intrigue of a one-bid league with a number of teams that could steal the title. Every single team in this league has at least four conference losses, and all but maybe three teams will think they have a real chance to capture the bid. Wagner, Bryant and Marrimack are the favorites but teams such as LIU tend to pull upsets in this league. Preseason favorite, Fairleigh Dickinson, is 7-8 in conference play and looks shaky to say the least. This tournament will be total chaos, and there’s nothing better than a little college basketball anarchy.
McDonald: I’m not even going to try to get creative here. There is only one correct answer and it’s the Big Ten. If the bracket goes chalk, the semifinal round of Ohio State, Michigan, Illinois and then either Wisconsin or Iowa would be a ton of fun. The Buckeyes, Wolverines and Illini will likely be fighting to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Shaw: The Missouri Valley Conference, for a long time, was a multi-bid league. However, with Creighton and Wichita State now elsewhere, only four times over the past 14 years has the MVC had multiple teams go to the tournament. As things stand as of this writing, Loyola-Chicago is ranked first in the conference and it started the week ranked No. 22 in the country. Loyola-Chicago sits at 14-2 in the league, with its losses coming to Drake and Indiana State. Drake currently sits as the No. 2 seed and Indiana State at No. 4 in the MVC Tournament. The intrigue comes if Loyola-Chicago is not able to run the table in the conference tournament, at that point the NCAA tournament selection committee will have a decision to make with their at-large bids.
Wood: I have watched so much Big Ten basketball this season, so I am going to go with a conference I haven’t seen much of. The Pac-12 has my curiosity. Using the NCAA NET rankings, the Pac-12 started the weekend with USC, UCLA and Colorado safely in the NCAA tournament (Arizona is ineligible). Oregon and Stanford are bubble teams, Utah probably has to get to the Pac-12 championship game to get in the tournament and the rest of the league needs to win the Pac-12 championship. Plus, I’d get to listen to Bill Walton’s game analysis and who wouldn’t enjoy that?