Last month, all the news is college basketball centered on who was going leaving school for the NBA. Now the shoe is on the other foot with players reversing course and returning to school. Let’s play catch-up on the biggest NCAA basketball stories of the past week.
Going (Back) to Carolina
North Carolina’s Luke Maye has been one of the biggest names to return to college after going through the pre-draft process. Maye averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game this past season and will likely be a pre-season All American. When announcing his decision, Maye specifically mentioned playing with Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams as part of the reason for his return. That trio figures to form the nucleus of a Tar Heels team that will no doubt have its eye on another national championship.
Return to Manhattan
Kansas State’s hopes for next season got a big boost this past week with Barry Brown Jr. announcing he would pull out of the draft and return to school for his senior year. The 6’3’’ guard was the team’s second-leading scorer last season at 16 points per game. With Brown back, the Wildcats will now return all five starters and most of their key bench players from the team that went to the Elite Eight as a 9 seed in 2018.
In other Kansas State news, head coach Bruce Weber was rewarded for the team’s Elite Eight run this past week with a two-year contract extension that will keep him in Manhattan through the 2023 season. Weber has taken the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament four times in his six seasons, but this past season was the first time they advanced past the first round.
Rock Me Like A Hurricane
Miami Hurricanes forward Dewan Huell has also decided to return to school. As a sophomore this past season, the 6’11’’ forward averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He figures to be a focal point for the Hurricanes next season, as Miami is losing underclassmen Bruce Brown Jr. and Lonnie Walker IV, who are both going to remain in the draft.
Staying with the Pack
Another player who is withdrawing from the draft to return to his school is N.C. State’s Torin Dorn. The 6’5’’ guard averaged 14 points and six rebounds per game as a junior last season. However, his 31% three-point shooting percentage was no doubt disappointing, leaving him with plenty to work on during his senior season with the Wolfpack. Without Dorn, N.C. State would have lost their top three scorers from last season, so it’s vital for the Wolfpack that he’s coming back.
One More Year
Maryland big man Bruno Fernando will spend at least one more season at College Park after taking his name out of the draft. The 6’10’’ forward averaged 10 points and 6.5 rebounds per game while being named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team. He says he received good feedback during the draft process but ultimately decided to return to school. Maryland should have a nice inside-outside combination next season with Fernando and point guard Anthony Cowan. However, the Terrapins are still waiting to learn if sharpshooter Kevin Huerter will keep his name in the draft or not.
A Little Extra
The NCAA actually did a nice thing this past week, granting Florida State’s Phil Cofer an extra year of eligibility. The 6’8’’ forward was limited to 11 games during the 2015-16 season because of a foot injury, and so the NCAA decided to give him an injury redshirt for that season, giving him one more year of eligibility. Cofer averaged 29 minutes a game this past season, averaging 13 points and five rebounds every time out. With him sticking around for another year, the Seminoles will return four starters from the team that reached the Elite Eight this past season.
The Rumor Mill
Reports surfaced this past week that the Orlando Magic are interested in Michigan State’s Tom Izzo for their coaching vacancy. There’s no word on if Izzo has interest in going to the NBA or if there has been any meeting between him and the Magic. Nevertheless, it could be a situation worth monitoring.
The matchups for this season’s SEC-Big 12 Challenge came out last week, with a game between Kansas and Kentucky serving as the obvious headliner. The two perennial powerhouse programs will meet at Rupp Arena on January 26. In total, there will be 10 games, with 13 of the teams involved being NCAA Tournament teams last season. Among the other matchups in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge are West Virginia at Tennessee, Vanderbilt at Oklahoma, Kansas State at Texas A&M, and Florida at TCU.