By Lauren Brownlow, WRALSportsFan columnist/reporter
Hello again, friends! It's Mailbag time again. This week, you guys had a ton of transfer portal questions, so I tackled as many as I could. I also let you know a few of my favorite books I've read both recently and ever. And, on the even sillier side, we get into ranking ACC basketball coaches based on the likelihood they know who (or what?) Bluey is.
So let's get straight into the questions!
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I don't think that we can really answer that yet. I think it's still too soon. We're really only like, what, two seasons into this? Three? Not very many. And we've had a different national champion every year, which should tell you something.
I will say this: one thing I like about the transfer portal is that it brings back an element of coaching that is far too often overlooked, and that's RECRUITING. But what's the most important part of recruiting for the vast majority of teams that can't hand-select their players? Development is important, sure, but it's also EVALUATION. You can't know if a player is right for your system or your team if you can't properly evaluate them. And even with all due diligence in terms of that, a player can still transfer in, get homesick or not click with his teammates or break up with a significant other and then that player doesn't give you what you're expecting. There are a lot of variables involved. But if you're going to credit Jim Larranaga for using the transfer portal well (and you should!), why wouldn't you also credit Jon Scheyer with recruiting well? Some people do, sure, but look at the Coach of the Year votes year after year and show me how often (or even how many votes!) a coach with a top recruiting class wins. And yet it's arguably THE most important element in the game today.
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We've seen coaches use it well. We've seen coaches not use it at all. We know the latter doesn't work. But we've sometimes seen the same coaches who use it well also use it poorly the next season. To me, what it does is introduce yet another variable into the equation and that fills college basketball with uncertainty. If I were a coach, I'd have a grad assistant (and maybe even a real one) whose sole job it was to scout potential transfers. And you look at what your team needs, right? UNC had two guys that were too similar in 2021-22 in Dawson Garcia and Brady Manek. Then Garcia left the team and you saw what happened after that. You essentially have 1-2 years of a guy who might have a bad year or get hurt or have bad chemistry with your team and you have to hope and pray it works out, along with the rest of your incoming recruits that you also don't know will work for sure. I mean, I'd take the money coaches make but I would not take the stress.
In the next few years, I think we'll be able to better answer that question. But the sample size is too small right now, in my opinion.
Thanks, Scott! I'll start with the sports book: every single one of you need to read Play Their Hearts Out by George Dohrmann, probably one of the only books to make me cry more than twice. Also, if you perhaps watched the Friday Night Lights movie and watched the TV show but have not read Buzz Bissinger's book, it is truly great. He ... has his issues, but he's a BRILLIANT writer. And the book is almost perfect.
The last book I finished that I really loved was Jenny Lawson's Furiously Happy. As someone going through my own mental health struggles who doesn't always adult as well as she'd like, I found her both funny and incredibly insightful about anxiety and depression. She made me feel like there's actually a world of us disorganized screw-ups out there and I'm not alone, and I really needed it.
And if anyone's asking, my favorite book is either The Stand or The World According to Garp. I'm frankly overdue for a re-read of both. I love the book It as well but honestly, the ending was just ... it doesn't age well and it was too much then too. I'll just leave it at that.
I like to play a game on Ken Pomeroy's website. I like to assume every player that's not a senior is transfer-eligible (not too far from the truth, right?) and sort his stats by various categories to find guys I would want. This is why I am (not) paid the big bucks to (not) do this for a real team.
With the note that if a player caught my eye and I googled him and saw that he had entered the NBA Draft, is a senior or has a new home I then left said player off my list, here's my top 5 that I'd have my eye on:
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1. LJ Cryer, Baylor. The rising senior was part of the team Carolina upset last year in the NCAA Tournament, but the 6-1 guard played just over a third of his team's available minutes that season and in just 19 games overall, including missing the NCAA Tournament. But that was because he was dealing with a foot injury. But this year, he averaged 15 points while shooting 41.5% from 3. He wants to play a little more point guard, but he was incredibly efficient as a shooter and was a 4-star recruit coming out of high school. He already is one of the hottest commodoties on the transfer market.
2. Hunter Dickinson, Michigan. I LOVE watching Dickinson play. It was really the only part of watching Michigan that I enjoyed. The 7-foot-1 junior increased his 3-point percentage nearly 10 percentage points to 42.8% this year and remains a good rebounder and shot-blocker. A stretch 5 with touch around the basket who can also defend? I mean, yes. Sign everyone up.
3. Walter Clayton Jr., Iona. To be clear, he's very likely to land with his former head coach Rick Pitino at St. John's. But the 6-2 sophomore finished the year ranked 51st in 3-point percentage (43.1%) and SECOND IN THE COUNTRY in free-throw percentage (95.3%). He also has a good assist rate, isn't crazy with turnovers and has one of the better steal percentages in the country as well. He's going to be a hot commodity.
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4. Taran Armstrong, Houston Baptist. If you're looking for the likeliest small-school star to emerge on the national scene, Armstrong should be on your radar. Everyone needs a point guard that can make plays for others, and that's what Armstrong does. AND he is 6-foot-5, which is incredibly helpful. He also had the No. 19 assist rate in the country last year. He doesn't shoot a lot necessarily, but he can shoot, averaging just over 11 points per game last year. He could easily be the missing piece for someone.
5. Jacob Ognacevic, Lipscomb. The sophomore has the No. 2 ORtg (offensive efficiency rating) in the country among players used on 24% or more of their teams' possessions. To put that number in perspective, he's a spot behind Purdue's Zach Edey, threespots ahead of Marcus Sasser from Houston and five higher than last year's Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe. The one drawback to him is that he doesn't shoot 3s well and he's only 6-7. But the dude shoots 2-pointers INCREDIBLY well (70.3!) doesn't turn it over, draws fouls and avoids committing them.
So, right off the bat I have to confess that my kid was never really into Bluey. He's watched it some, and he doesn't hate it, but now when I bring it up he just wrinkles his nose and says it's for babies. So I think that ship has sailed for me.
I do know that it holds a special place in the hearts of parents as a kids' show that is not only tolerable but also makes you feel as if your children are consuming something besides fart jokes and Cocomelon.
Anyway, here we go:
1. Jon Scheyer, Duke. During his introductory press conference, his children had to be taken out for being too restless. His little ones are right in the age range for Bluey. And make no mistake about it: Jon Scheyer is all about that dad life. I think there is an almost 100% chance he knows it.
2. Jeff Capel, Pittsburgh. He has children in this age range FOR SURE. His son Elijah was 5 when Bluey came out. I don't know for a fact that his kids have seen it, but it wouldn't surprise me at all. I'm pretty confident he knows it.
3. Steve Forbes, Wake Forest. His children are too old for Bluey, but take a look at Forbes' Twitter feed (y'all can find it yourself). It's full of memes and GIFs. And he's on Twitter a lot. I just think it's pretty darned likely he has heard of it, especially compared to a lot of these coaches.
4. Jim Larranaga, Miami. He's a grandfather, and while his grandkids are getting older, they were young enough when Bluey came out to have watched. I imagine Larranaga being like the best grandpa ever. Which means he has heard of Bluey. He's America's grandfather, really. Not literally. He's not that old.
5. Earl Grant, Boston College. The man has three children and is 46 years old. His oldest son is I think 10, which makes it a little dicey but still possible.
6. Mike Young, Virginia Tech. He just strikes me as a guy that would enjoy it, even if his kids are older. He enjoys the simple pleasures in life, like popcorn. Bit of a reach, but hey.
7. Micah Shrewsberry, Notre Dame. I know next to nothing about him but he's at least young enough to potentially have children in the Bluey age range.
8. Hubert Davis, North Carolina. His kids are older, but I could see him happening by a few episodes and enjoying it.
9. Kevin Keatts, NC State. His kids are older, and while he has some awareness of pop culture (Keatts, that is), I don't know that that extends to Bluey.
10. Brad Brownell, Clemson. Brownell has older kids and no grandkids, but honestly? He surprises me a lot, and so that's why he's this high.
11. Tony Bennett, Virginia. He has older children but he also just does not strike me as a guy that has even casually happened by an episode of Bluey.
12. Adrian Autry, Syracuse. The new head man is 51 but two of his children already graduated from Syracuse so he's out.
13. Kenny Payne, Louisville. He also has older kids.
14. Damon Stoudamire, Georgia Tech. See above.
15. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State. The man has one grandchild that was just born. He is not going to be watching Bluey now or ever. There are just some things I know to be true and this is one of them. The man had never even seen The Wire before it was pointed out that he looks just like one of the characters from it. And I don't think he watched it even after that. We love you, Bunny Colvin. And I smile every single time I think about the look on Michael Snaer's face when I asked him about this at an ACC media day back in the day.
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