Evans Seven: Storylines to follow in the second half of 2020
In today's Evans Seven, Rivals.com Basketball Analyst Corey Evans examines which the most intriguing storylines to monitor over the second half of 2020, including Cade Cunningham and Makur Maker’s unique college decisions, the new G League initiative and if there will even be a college season.
Three-Point Play: Michigan State, predictions, Marquette
2022 Rankings: Top 75
OKLAHOMA STATE'S NCAA BATTLE AND THE CADE EFFECT
We could write an entire article on the various angles of Oklahoma State’s 2020-21 season. What Mike Boynton has been able to do up to this point - landing a top-five recruiting class, steadying the boat after the NCAA sanctions were revealed and keeping Cade Cunningham’s commitment - has been nothing short of amazing work.
In the second half of 2020, we will get to see the Cowboys fight their postseason ban and watch how good Cunningham actually is. Can Cunningham solidify his spot as the universal No. 1 selection in the 2021 NBA Draft while also leading the Pokes, if allowed, to the NCAA Tournament? These are shaping up to be the biggest storylines to follow over the coming months.
WHAT DOES THE MAKUR MAKER EXPERIENCE LOOK LIKE AT HOWARD?
Makur Maker has already turned into a trailblazer of sorts thanks to his decision to commit to Howard over college basketball Goliaths like Kentucky and UCLA. However, will Maker even make it to Kenny Blakeney’s program? Maker's name remains in the 2020 NBA Draft and, with the Aug. 3 withdrawal deadline approaching, there is a chance that he could bypass college entirely.
If Maker does make it onto Howard’s campus, there will be a lot of attention on how well he flourishes this winter. Can he boost his draft stock and, by extension, strengthen the argument that one does not need a high-major platform in order to make it to the NBA? Is the coaching, competition and talent good enough at the HBCU level for even more standouts to follow in Maker's footsteps?
HOW DO THE BLUEBLOODS BOUNCE BACK?
The coronavirus-shortened offseason will make things difficult for every program this season, but there will be a lot of eyes on the bluebloods to see how they react to the limited preparation with near brand-new rosters. Maybe Duke can maneuver through things a bit easier than Kentucky, which will be returning just one player (Keion Brooks) that saw action last season.
This could be John Calipari’s toughest challenge yet in Lexington, putting together everything with a six-man recruiting class, potentially two immediately eligible transfers and Dontaie Allen.
Finally, Coach K at least has Wendell Moore and Matthew Hurt back in the fold but relying another group of freshmen, namely Jeremy Roach and D.J. Steward along the perimeter, could be boom or bust for the Blue Devils.
WHO WILL HAVE PROGRAM-BEST SEASONS?
Much could change in the coming weeks depending upon what happens with the NBA Draft. Iowa, with Luka Garza manning the interior, could compete for a Big Ten and national title. Baylor isn’t far off with similar expectations as long as Jared Butler and MaCio Teague return to Waco. Gonzaga, despite the tremendous success that it has enjoyed this century, could deploy its best roster yet, but that depends heavily on Corey Kispert, Filip Petrusev and Joel Ayayi putting off the NBA for another year.
There's always the possibility of a surprise mid-major team, like we saw with Dayton last season, and don’t underestimate Leonard Hamilton’s bunch at Florida State. If Scottie Barnes makes for a seamless transition to the college game, the Seminoles could be something special.
WILL THERE BE A SEASON?
That is the million-dollar, check that, billion-dollar question. Last month, it seemed like there was growing optimism throughout college athletics that a football and then basketball season could go off without a major hiccup. Those sentiments have changed quickly. If there is no football in the fall and/or the student body is not allowed on most campuses, does that translate to a completely lost basketball season, too? That is the feeling currently felt throughout various basketball offices.
HOW DOES THE NEW G LEAGUE INITIATIVE FAIR?
There is no denying the talent headed into the new G League’s select program, from Jalen Green to Isaiah Todd to Daishen Nix and, potentially, Jon Kuminga. How the brand-new initiative fairs in its first go-around, especially during a pandemic, is anyone’s guess. Kudos to Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Rod Strickland for leading the program, displaying a willingness and a strong investment in keeping the best talent in the United States instead of Australia, but loads of questions remain as in how Green, Todd and Nix’s draft stock appear six months from now compared to how things look today.
HOW WILL THE NCAA HANDLE WAIVER REQUESTS?
There was once a point where most in college basketball expected the NCAA to pass a new one-time transfer rule in the spring, allowing all first-time transfers eligible to play immediately in the fall. There was not a lot of transparency with this process and, in light of the ongoing pandemic, the NABC decided to put off the ruling for another year. This means that there are a number of transfers that already changed programs based off a belief that they would see the floor right away.
Now, unless they win a waiver appeal, that will not be the case, but there is a growing suspicion in the industry that the NCAA will be generous in granting requests in the coming months. UCLA’s Johnny Juzang and Marquette’s D.J. Carton have already won their appeals, and now we wait to find out what happens at Kentucky with Olivier Sarr, Memphis with DeAndre Williams and Landers Nolley, and Texas Tech with Mac McClung. Those decisions could significantly alter the national championship picture next season.