by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

In the expansive “who knows” category of 2020 is college basketball, which when last seen had abruptly halted its season a week before the NCAA Tournament eight months ago, with March Madness limited to the handful of early conference tournaments that had completed a week before others. Perhaps nothing summed up the oddities of mid-March 2020 better than a Big East Tourney quarterfinal game between Creighton and St. John’s, the first game of Thursday, March 12, called off at halftime with St. John’s leading 38-35.

The last completed game of the 2019-20 season came the night before in the late game of the Pac-12 Tourney at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, when we were among a few dozen people (including Bill Walton and his TV duties) watching Washington State upset Colorado in the nightcap. As that one completed, the thought was the games would continue the next day with only media members allowed in attendance...no fans. About 12 hours later, the entire tournament was cancelled, with the Big Dance itself called off shortly thereafter.

Well, here we are, moving toward late November, with college hoops tentatively scheduled to tip off on November 25. Given events of the past week, whether that happens or not is anyone’s guess. At the moment, lots of options are still on the table, including starting the season as planned. Some, however, are offering alternatives; Rick Pitino, back in business as Iona’s new coach, has suggested a two-month delay. Why not May Madness, Pitino and a few others are wondering? And they might have a point. Meanwhile, the Ivy League has already scotched its entire season, and we wonder if any other leagues will follow suit. Stay tuned.

Whatever. At the moment the season likely commences in the last week of November, and as always, we’ll be prepared for it at TGS. Given that college hoops has been off of the radar for an awfully long time, we are including two features in this issue. First, a quick “TGS Top 25" for the (hopefully) upcoming season. And second, as a refresher of sorts, our “Superlatives” from the truncated 2019-20 college hoops campaign, which our normal readership might have missed as it was a website-only feature in the early days of Covid lockdowns and after we had stopped publishing TGS Hoops. But as a reminder that there was indeed a 2019-20 season...about 7/8 of a season...we want to make sure to remember some of what happened last winter on the college hardwood. Covid might have erased the NCAA Tournament, but it didn’t erase the four or so months of college hoops that preceded it.

So, here goes with a look at our early 2020-21 TGS College Hoops Top 25. Let’s hope we can get back to a somewhat normal hoops season and some of our favorite features not too far down the road like our always-enjoyable Bracketology updates!

1-Gonzaga... It’s not as if the Zags are bringing everyone back from last season when they once again rolled thru the WCC. Without the departures of frontliners Filip Petrusev and Killian Tillie, this would be an easier call. It could have been worse for Mark Few, but F Corey Kispert and SG Joey Ayayi pulled their names from the NBA Draft. Their returns, along with ready-to-blossom 6-10 Drew Timme, and the addition of heralded newcomers such as 6-4 frosh PG Jalen Suggs, the highest-ranked recruit ever signed by the Zags, and Southern Illinois transfer G Aaron Cook, and Few dominates the WCC again, with a good chance to be the top overall seed in March (or...May?).

2-Villanova... Jay Wright has won the whole thing a couple of times at Nova with veteran squads and it looks like this edition of the Cats at least has the experience quotient. Senior PG Collin Gillespie is in the tradition of heady Nova on-court pilots, while Big East onlookers are  waiting for 6-9 soph PF Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and 6-7 wing Jermaine Samuels to assume full feature roles. An interesting addition is Tulane transfer G Caleb Daniels, who scored almost 17 ppg for the Green Wave two years ago and can likely replace some of the offense lost when F Saddiq Bey declared early for the draft.

3-Wisconsin... We have a hunch that experienced teams might be the ones to watch at the top of the polls this season rather than those depending so heavily on frosh. And the Badgers have a lot of experience with six seniors on hand from last season's co-champs of the Big Ten. Senior D’Mitrick Trice and Brad Davison have logged nearly 3100 minutes of court time as a pair of three-year starters, and 6-11 Nate Reuvers is an established post threat. A quality crop of incoming frosh is likely to provide the depth pieces that HC Greg Gard will need as the season progresses.

4-Virginia... We never want to underestimate HC Tony Bennett, who even in a reloading campaign last term had the Cavs peaking late and looking like a tough out in the Dance that never happened. Now the ‘Hoos have some real teeth again with Marquette transfer wing Sam Hauser and blue chip frosh addition 6-7 Jabri Abdur-Rahim to plug in alongside jr. PG Kihei Clark, a key cog in the 2019 title run. Rest assured UVa’s notorious Pack-Line defense will come to play as usual after leading the nation in scoring defense for the third straight time a season ago.

5-Baylor... The Bears didn’t lose in the continental US until their 26th game (only loss until late February came in an early-season tilt in Alaska against Washington), by which point they had spent five weeks atop the polls. Scott Drew brings back the nucleus of that team led by the All-Big 12 backcourt tandem of Jared Butler and MaCio Teague, who resisted the temptation to jump early into the NBA. Defense was exceptional last season, holding foes to beneath 40% FGs, and with essentially the same roster as a year ago, no reason the Bears can’t again live near the top of the rankings.

6-Tennessee...Rick Barnes has had teams with a Final Four look in the past without quite getting there, including his best UT team a couple of years ago that flamed out in the Sweet 16. SEC observers believe Barnes should at least get that far this season, especially if a couple of transfers (Sacred Heart’s 6-7 frontliner E.J. Anoskie, one of the nation’s top rebounders last term) and explosive Oregon transfer G Victor Bailey, fit into rotations that will feature perhaps the SEC’s best frontline tandem in 6-9 PF John Fulkerson and versatile 6-6 F Yves Pones.

7-Kansas... Never too far out of the national mix, Bill Self has what looks like another serious contender in Lawrence, with a solid group of holdovers led by National Defensive Player of the Year 6-5 PG Marcus Garrett augmented by highly-touted 6-5 frosh wing Bryce Thompson and 6-7 juco wing Tyon Grant-Foster. We wonder, however, how much Self might miss rim-protector deluxe Udoka Azubuike, who allowed Garrett to get real aggressive on the perimeter, knowing he had an effective goalie waiting behind him. Now, is the NCAA ever going to get around throwing the book at the Jayhawks? (More to come on that front in coming months, we’re sure.)

8-Iowa... The biggest development of the offseason in the Big Ten was sure-fire NBA first-rounder 6-11 Luke Garza deciding not to enter the draft and return for another year in Iowa City, where he opens as the likely favorite for the Wooden Award. A key development will be the health of PG Jordan Bohannon, slowed by hip problems and limited to ten games last season. A healthy Bohannon, plus complementary pieces 6-3 C.J. Frederick & 6-6 Joe Weiskamp back in the fold, plus Garza, makes the Hawkeyes a threat for their first Final Four since Lute Olson’s 1980 team.

9-Duke... We never want to count out Coach K, but he did lose more than 46 ppg of scoring with Vernon Carey, Tre Jones, and Cassius Stanley all key veteran departures. That trio carried much of the load last season, so it’s up to the likes of 6-9 Matthew Hurt and 6-5 Wendell Moore to develop a bit more consistency in their games. Otherwise, the Blue Devils will be relying heavily upon touted freshmen such as PG Jeremy Roach & C Jalen Johnson. Coach K’s best teams have mixed top-notch frosh with productive vets; we’re not sure about the latter this winter.

10-Creighton... Picking up again on the experience theme, we like the Bluejays with four starters back in the fold from the Big East regular-season co-champs. Headliner jr. G Marcus Zegarowski returns after a late-season knee injury last March that might have kept him out of the Dance (had there been one). But he’s back as are athletic 6-5 wings Damien Jefferson and Denzel Mahoney who both took a look at the NBA Draft before deciding to stay in Omaha for anopther year. Dagger-thrower Mitch Ballock is another returning DD scorer who will also pick up some of the slack for the departed T-shon Alexander.

11-Texas Tech... Even thought he Red Raiders topped out at 18 wins a year ago in a mild letdown from their title game appearance the previous spring, we still think HC Chris Beard is a miracle worker, and we like the addition of 6-7 VCU grad transfer and interior beast Marcus Santos-Silva. 12-UCLA... Mick Cronin got the Bruins turned around at midseason a year ago and UCLA had the look of a team to avoid in the Dance. There was finally a buy-in to Cronin’s play-defense-or-else philosophy on the roster last season with plenty returning and experienced talent led by 6-9 F Chris Smith and exciting soph PG Tyger Campbell. 13-Illinois... Maybe no coach was happier to see his top players pull out of the NBA Draft than the Illini’s Brad Underwood, who was thinking PG Ayo Dosunmu & C Kofi Cockburn were headed out of Champaign-Urbana. Instead they’re back for another go and the rest of the Big Ten could only sigh. 14-Michigan State... Tom Izzo’s recent Covid diagnosis is a concern, but as long as he recovers as expected he should be ready for the beginning of the season and steward another contender in East Lansing. Cassisus Winston leaves a big gap in the backcourt but regional sources believe Rocket Watts is ready to step into the breach, and the addition of Marquette transfer wing Joey Hauser might also spur 6-6 wing Aaron Henry into becoming a more consistent offensive threat. 15-Alabama... We are big fans of HC Nate Oats from his days at Buffalo and suspect he might be ready for a breakthrough in his second year at Tuscaloosa with four returning starters plus an cast of recruits with an international flavor including a couple of Canadians and a Frenchman to watch, 6-11 Alex Tchikou. Though it might be touted 6-6 juco Keon Ellis who makes the biggest impact.

16-Oregon...Dana Altman has Oregon to the point were it is reloading each year, so expect the Ducks to weather the loss of do-everything PG Payton Pritchard, who was the last holdover from the 2017 Final Four team. But we’re not sure anybody will get more mileage out of transfers this winter than Altman, who counts three among them (ex-UNLV PG Amauri Hardy, ex-Rutgers PF Eugene Omoruyi, and ex-Duquesne PF Eric Williams) to fit in alongside 6-5 G Will Richardson and explosive 6-6 wing Chris Duarte, who has flashed some real upside during his career. 17-Richmond... Always tricky to project a mid-major this high. But the Spiders look the best in the A-10, especially with a three-pronged backcourt of vets Blake Francis, Jacob Gilyard, and Nick Sherod, and a coach (Chris Mooney) who always seems to get the best out of the material on hand. 18-Kentucky... John Calipari has another frosh-heavy roster, and while no one is comparing this crop to Anthony Davis and friends, or the Karl-Anthony Towns side that stayed unbeaten into the Final Four of 2015, this new bunch could cause problems in the SEC if they can mesh soon enough. Another collection of Top 40 recruits includes a likely starting backcourt of Devin Askew and B.J. Boston. Calipari did add a bit of experience, too, as PG Davion Mintz started all 35 games two years ago as a junior at Creighton before missing last season with ankle problems. 19-Florida State... More than a few people thought the Noles were Final Four threat last season when they won the ACC regular-season crown en route to 26 wins. Leonard Hamilton lost some key pieces from that juggernaut but returns some experienced components augmented by ballyhooed 6-9 frosh Scottie Barnes. 20-LSU... We keep waiting for the NCAA to throw the book at Will Wade’s Tigers, which might happen soon. In the meantime, however, with several key cogs (Javonte Smart, Darius Day, and Trendon Watford) opting out of the NBA Draft, plus 6-3 frosh G Cam Thomas, a potential points machine who left storied Oak Hill Academy as the program’s all-time leading scorer, LSU promises to be exciting if nothing else.

21-West Virginia... Bob Huggins is likely to cause some more trouble in the Big 12 with this batch of Mountaineers that returns four starters from last year’s 21-win team. WVU even has a more rugged look than usual with 6-9 Oscar Tshiebwe & 6-10 Derek Culver perhaps the top frontline tandem in the Big 12. A key to a move up the rankings would be soph SG Miles McBride, a streaky shooter who could really open up the paint for Culver & Tshiebwe if he develops a bit more consistency from the perimeter. 22-North Carolina... The worst season of the Roy Williams era has some on Tobacco Road wondering when Roy might decide to simply retire to a preferred golf course. Roy is going to need his top incoming frosh–especially Gs Caleb Love & R.J. Davis–to produce right away as the Heels need to upgrade their perimeter work to complement frontline holdovers 6-10 Garrison Brooks & 6-10 Armando Bacot. 23-Texas... Time is running out on Shaka Smart to deliver something other than a one-and-done in the Dance for the Horns, as another NIT title (as in 2019) might not suffice the anxious Texas-exes. Shaka does return almost everyone from last year’s 19-win team plus touted 6-9 frosh F Greg Brown III, one of the Big 12's top recruits. 24-Rutgers... Steve Pickiell had the Scarlet Knights poised to qualify for the Dance for the first times since 1999, and should get a chance to complete that task with a mostly-similar roster to last season featuring 6-4 G Geo Baker and 6-6 battering ram Ron Harper, Jr. Pickiell’s team was also 18-1 at the RAC last season, developing one of the best home-court edges in the Big Ten. 25-Arizona State... Bobby Hurley looks like he might be able to sustain some success in Tempe, adding high-end recruits 6-5 wing Josh Christopher and 6-8 F Marcus Bagley to a roster that got good news in the offseason when high-scoring G Remy Martin (19.3 ppg last season) deciding to stay put another year and not test the NBA Draft. The transfer of F Romello White to Ole Miss stings a bit, but Hurley believes he can compensate on his roster.



OBI TOPPIN, 6-9 Soph, Dayton
VERNON CAREY, 6-10 Frosh, Duke
FILIP PETRUSEV, 6-11 Soph, Gonzaga
LUKA GARZA, 6-11 Jr., Iowa
UDOKA AZUBUIKE, 7-0 Sr., Kansas
JARED BUTLER, 6-3 Soph, Baylor
DEVON DOTSON, 6-2 Soph, Kansas
MYLES POWELL, 6-2 Sr., Seton Hall
MALACHI FLYNN, 6-1 Jr., San Diego State
CASSIUS WINSTON, 6-0 Sr., Michigan State
MARKUS HOWARD, 5-11 Sr., Marquette

Due to popular demand, for the fifth straight year we have expanded our A-A team to a “full roster” of twelve players for this season!

TGS PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Obi Toppin, Dayton...We’ll never get to find out if Dayton could have made a run all of the way in the Big Dance after taking a 29-2 SU mark into the A-10 Tournament before college hoops shut down in mid-March. But at 29-2, this was the Flyers’ chance, and they would have likely been seeded number one in the East Regional had the Dance commenced in a normal fashion. Along the way, Toppin dominated his conference (the A-10) more than any player in the country, and while he might not have been able to boss the paint as easily in the Big East or Big Ten, no player impacted proceedings as much this season. Toppin also had more flair than the normal post player as he posted eight double-doubles and scored in double digits all but one game this term.

TGS COACH OF THE YEAR: Brian Dutcher, San Diego State...Across the past two decades, San Diego State has had plenty of outstanding teams. But even those that featured Kawhi Leonard never scaled the heights as did this year’s Aztecs for Dutcher, who had already fostered a smooth transition from mentor Steve Fisher. With a transfer-heavy lineup featuring Gs Malachi Flynn (Washington State) and K.J. Feagin (Santa Clara) plus frontline Yannu Wetzel (Vanderbilt), SDSU hit the court running in November and stayed unbeaten longer than any team (into later February) while climbing as high as fourth in the polls en route. Along the way the Aztecs exemplified team-oriented basketball as the perimeter-oriented offense played an effective and aesthetically-pleasing style, helping SDSU pile up 30 wins. Though this 2019-20 campaign will always have an incomplete grade, for the games that were completed, Dutcher is a proper honoree after fostering such a seamless transition with so many new faces.

Honorable mention (in no particular order): Scott Drew, Baylor; Craig Smith, Utah State; Casey Alexander, Belmont; Anthony Grant, Dayton; Pat Kelsey, Winthrop; Leonard Hamilton, Florida State; Marc Turgeon, Maryland; Mark Few, Gonzaga; Bill Self, Kansas; John Groce, Akron; Eric Musselman, Arkansas; Joe Mihalich, Hofstra; Steve Forbes, East Tennessee State; Greg Ggard, Wisconsin; Kevin Willard, Seton Hall; Darrell Walker, Little Rock; Carmen Maciarello, Siena; Todd Golden, San Francisco; Mike Boynton, Oklahoma State; Greg McDermott, Creighton; Bobby Hurley, Arizona State; Frank Haith, Tulsa; Chris Mack, Louisville; Ed Cooley, Providence; Bon Richey, Furman; Andy Enfield, USC; Eric Konkol, La Tech; Chris Mooney, Richmond; Ritchie McKay, Liberty; Herb Sendek, Santa Clara; Grant McCasland, North Texas; Michael Huger, Bowling Green; Mark Pope, BYU; Frank Martin, South Carolina; David Richman, North Dakota State; Steve Pikiell, Rutgers; Jeff Linder, Northern Colorado; Niko Medved, Colorado State; Russell Turner, UC Irvine; Bob Huggins, West Virginia; Randy Bennett, Saint Mary’s; Kyle Keller, Stephen F Austin; LaVall Jordan, Butler; Chris Jans, New Mexico State; Fran McCaffery, Iowa; Tony Bennett, Virginia; Leon Rice, Boise State; Dana Altman, Oregon; Penny Hardaway, Memphis; Donnie Jones, Stetson; Bruce Pearl, Auburn; James Jones, Yale; Juwan Howard, Michigan; Patrick Chambers, Penn State; Kelvin Sampson, Houston; Brad Underwood, Illinois; Shantay Legans, Eastern Washington; Mick Cronin, UCLA; John Calipari, Kentucky; Lon Kruger, Oklahoma; Tom Izzo, Michigan State; Jay Wright, Villanova.


Another overlooked collection that we at TGS also believe warrants some extra attention, hence another expanded grouping...two teams worth, a full 24 honorees!

KEVON HARRIS, 6-6 Sr., Stephen F Austin
ANTHONY LAMB, 6-6 Sr., Vermont
AJ BRODEUR, 6-8 Sr., Penn
LOUDON LOVE, 6-8 Jr., Wright State
DOUGLAS WILSON, 6-8 Jr., South Dakota State
SCOTTIE JAMES, 6-8 Sr., Liberty
PAUL ATKINSON, 6-10 Jr. Yale
NATHAN KNIGHT, 6-10 Senior, William & Mary
NIJAL PEARSON, 6-5 Jr., Texas State
TRAY BOYD III, 6-4 Sr., East Tennessee State
JALEN PICKETT, 6-4 Soph, Siena
JUSTIN TURNER, 6-4 Jr., Bowling Green
MILAN ACQUAAH, 6-3 Jr., Cal Baptist
ADAM KUNKEL, 6-3 Soph, Belmont
GRANT RILLER, 6-3 Sr., Charleston
JORDAN FORD, 6-1 Sr., Saint Mary’s
JERICK HARDING, 6-1 Sr., Weber State
COLBEY ROSS, 6-1 Jr., Pepperdine
EUGENE GERMAN, 6-0 Sr., Northern Illinois
DESURE BUIE, 5-11 Sr., Hofstra
JORDAN LYONS, 5-11 Sr., Furman
LOREN JACKSON, 5-8 Jr., Akron
                                   MARKQUIS NOWELL, 5-7 Soph, Little Rock

TGS MID-MAJOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Nathan Knight, William & Mary...In the end if was another disappointment for the Tribe, which continued, along with St. Francis-NY, as the only school to miss out on every Big Dance since its inception in 1939 (yes, we know there was no Dance this season, but W&M had already eliminated itself by losing once more in the CAA Tourney...and we don’t think the Tribe was going to be on the at-large radar of the Selection Committee). W&M’s ongoing March agony aside, Knight was nonetheless one of the most-beastly performers in the nation, distorting Colonial defenses as he rampaged through the league as one of the rare serious post threats in the loop. Knight averaged a double-double, ranking among the nation’s leaders in scoring (20.7 pg) and rebounding (10.5 pg). Not to mention performing just as well on the stop end, where he was named the CAA’s Defensive Player of the Year. We suspect Knight would have also proven a load had he performed in the ACC or Big East.


An often-overlooked category, these workhorses are deserving of their own special honors.

YVES PONS, 6-6 Jr., Tennessee
TYLER BEY, 6-7 Jr., Colorado
TREVON SCOTT, 6-8 Sr., Cincinnati
MAMADI DIAKITE, 6-9 Sr., Virginia
NATHAN KNIGHT, 6-10 Sr., William & Mary
DANIEL OTURU, 6-10 Soph, Minnesota
ROMARO GILL, 7-2 Sr., Seton Hall
MARCUS GARRETT, 6-5 Jr., Kansas
JABRIL TRIPP, 6-5 Sr., Pacific
MALACHI FLYNN, 6-1 Jr., San Diego State
JACOB GILYARD, 5-9 Jr., Richmond

TGS DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Osasumwen Osaghae, FIU...This feels like a bit of a throwback selection, but the best friend of any defender is a fierce shot-blocker, and no one did that any better this season than Osaghae, who led the nation with nearly four swats (3.8) per game. For good measure, Osaghae was also named Conference USA’s Defensive Player of the Year.

TGS DISAPPOINTING TEAM OF THE SEASON: VCU...There are usually a few strong candidates for this ignominious award. And, certainly, North Carolina’s worst season in a generation meant the Tar Heels warranted strong consideration here. But this was hardly a vintage Roy Williams edition, and injuries helped disrupt the season in Chapel Hill. Defending A-10 champ VCU had a couple of injury issues, too, but we thought its performance was even more disappointing, as the Rams were still expected by almost all of the pundits to make a return trip, and their ninth in ten seasons, to the Dance. Yet even with almost everyone back in the fold from last year's crackling 25-8 VCU edition that ranked among the nation’s top defenses for HC Mike Rhoades (a Shaka Smart disciple who preaches the familiar “Shaka Ball” style in Richmond), the Rams stalled after a quick 6-0 break from the gate that included a home win over LSU and a spot in the national rankings. Until, that is, Thanksgiving week, when back-to-back losses to Purdue and Tennessee began to reveal cracks in the foundation. When the dust settled in March the Rams were a second-division team in their modest loop, one in which they couldn’t even get above .500 (just 8-10 in league play), and limping to the finish line with losses in 7 of their last 8 games before the opening-round game vs. UMass in the A-10 Tourney at Brooklyn was cancelled. In VCU’s case, that was probably a relief. Regression of sr. G Marcus Evans (who admittedly battled knee problems and missed action late on the season), a lack of offensive versatility, and sr. G De’Riante Jenkins leaving the team in late February to deal with a health matter all helped contribute to the slow finish. Though the Rams been undershooting for a while before their late skid.

TGS GAME OF THE YEAR: Kansas 90-84 over Dayton in OT, Nov. 27 at Maui Classic...For the second consecutive season, we rate the Maui finale as our Game of the Year after Gonzaga's thriller over Duke won the honor last term. But the Jayhawks and Flyers might have matched the preceding Blue Devils-Zags classic from 12 months earlier with a breathless battle in Lahaina that featured 21 lead changes in regulation time and enough dunks and three-pointers to fill any ESPN highlight reel. After a see-saw affair, Kansas looked to have finally wrested control down the stretch in regulation when an 11-0 run stakled it to a 3-point lead inside of 2 minutes to play, but Dayton's Jalen Crutcher buried a 3-pointer from five feet behind the arc with 2.1 seconds to play to force the OT. The Jayhawks never trailed in the added 5 minutes, but the Flyers had their chances, and after a Crutcher steal inside of 20 seconds, he missed a layup that would heve cut the lead to one point. Instead, in the final 17 seconds, a few KU free throws, a couple of missed Dayton FTs and an errant 3-pointer by Crutcher helped stretch the final margin to 6, the biggest lead either team enjoyed during the Wednesday afternoon thriller.

In the end, Maui provided a platform for our eventual TGS Player of the Year, Flyer frotnliner Obi Toppin, to be introduced to the nation, though the star of the finale ended up being Kansas counterpart and Toppin's fellow TGS All-American, Udoka Azubiuke, with 29 points. Eventually, this matchup proved even more poignant, as each were on course for number one seeds before the Big Dance was cancelled in March. In retropect, KU-Dayton in Maiu might have been a preview of a Final Four or national title matchup that could have taken place in Atlanta.

POINTSPREAD CHAMP: Hofstra (25-8). Other spread champs...South Dakota State 21-9, Georgia Tech 20-10.

POINTSPREAD CHUMP: Samford (8-21). Other spread chumps... Milwaukee 8-20, James Madison 8-19.

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