With Nov. 6 and the start of the college basketball season rapidly approaching, I needed answers. Because Matthew Mayer is no longer playing at the college level, who is the next player to get caffeine poisoning from five Monster energy drinks and a night of gaming?
Okay, maybe we didn’t talk about that (missed opportunity). But no sport is more unpredictable than college hoops. With the season on the horizon, I hopped on the phone with FOX/NBC commentator Robbie Hummel to talk about the Big 10 and beyond.
The interview below has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Will Riddell: What have you been keeping an eye on this off-season?
Robbie Hummel: You know, I think with college basketball, it’s wild because there are certainly some interesting aspects of NIL. I’m very pro the player being able to make money off of that because I think that should have been the case for a long time now. But some of it has certainly gotten out of control from a recruiting standpoint. I will say that, with NIL, it gave college basketball a feeling of almost what you get with NBA free agency, where I think college basketball was much more relevant in the summer because of guys changing teams and big players like Hunter Dickinson in the transfer portal who decided to go elsewhere. Conference realignment is definitely a huge part of all college sports – with the Big 10 adding USC, UCLA, Oregon, Washington, and (then) Texas and Oklahoma going to the SEC next year. Even the Big 12 making their additions, where you have Houston, Cincinnati, BYU and UCF coming into the Big 12 this season. And now Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado heading there (to the Big 12) as well. It was definitely an interesting off-season, that’s for sure.
Riddell: What’s the key to success for Purdue this season?
Hummel: Well, I think first off is probably moving on. Moving on but not forgetting what happened and having that drive you in the off-season and even this year. You bring back Zach Edey, who is just a force in college basketball. His numbers speak for themselves. There’s a reason that he was a consensus National Player of the Year. Purdue is bringing back essentially everybody save for Brandon Newman and David Jenkins. I think you look at your guards, they get a year older, those guys Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer go from freshmen to sophomores. And a healthy summer for Braden Smith will do him good. Purdue brings in Lance Jones from Southern Illinois, which by all accounts, he’s been a really positive addition to the team. Jones can guard and get to the basket. And then Purdue has a really deep frontcourt. You look at Mason Gillis, and Caleb Furst and Trey Kaufman-Renn – that’s a lot of pieces to put around Zach Edey. Matt Painter is going to have some tough decisions to make, I think, from a playing time standpoint.
Riddell: Purdue brings a ton of talent back, but IU (Indiana University) lost a lot of star power to the draft. Where do the Hoosiers go from here?
Hummel: They really had a lot of turnover from last season. IU got a nice spark with Xavier Johnson being granted an extra year of eligibility, so he’ll certainly start at point guard. Trey Galloway is going to be another guy in that backcourt that fits I’d say a proven commodity; he plays hard and shot it really well from three last year, but I think he got a lot of looks because of the fact they had Hood-Schifino, and a guy l like, Trayce Jackson-Davis, who was commanding so much attention. Mackenzie Mgbako was a huge addition. He’s one of the top 15 players in the country. They’ve got some real frontcourt depth with Malik Renu back, Kel’el Ware transferred in from Oregon, Anthony Walker transferred in from Miami, Kaleb Banks is back and then Payton Sparks comes in from Ball State. My big question for Indiana is certainly going to be guard depth. Past Xavier Johnson and Trey Galloway, who are the next guys?
Riddell: Who are some transfers to watch in college basketball this year?
Hummel: I think the first has to be Hunter Dickinson, just because he’s such a big name. He’s an All-American, and he ends up going to Kansas, so I think he certainly would be number one. Max Abmas is a big one. Really, really big-time scorer. Not a big body by any means, but a guy that can put the ball in the basket. Harrison Ingram from Stanford: he’s going to North Carolina. Kel’el Ware I mentioned; he’s going to Indiana from Oregon. LJ Cryer is a big transfer. He was a point guard at Baylor last year and now heads to Kelvin Sampson and the Houston Cougars. Kerr Kriisa I think is interesting: an Arizona kid and he’s going to West Virginia. Ryan Nembhard, I would finish with him. His brother transferred from Florida to Gonzaga, and Ryan Nembhard did the same thing going from Creighton to Gonzaga to run the show for Mark Few.
Riddell: Who’s a team that could be flying under the radar this season?
Hummel: I’ll give you two: Miami, even though they lose my man Isaiah Wong. The Hurricanes are ranked 19th or 20th (No. 13 in the preseason AP Poll), and I just really like who they have back with Nigel Pack, Wooga Poplar, Bensley Joseph and Norchad Omier. I really think FSU transfer Matthew Cleveland can be a guy that thrives with the way Jim Larrañaga coaches. I’ll go with St. Mary’s as well. They bring back a ton. They really guard you. Sophomore Aidan Mahaney is a great point guard. The Gaels just know how to play.
Riddell: Who’s going to hoist that championship trophy at State Farm Stadium in Glendale?
Hummel: Let’s go with Purdue. We’re due for some positive NCAA Tournament juju.
Riddell: And if it’s not the Boilers?
Hummel: Let’s go with Marquette. I think Tyler Kolek is an elite point guard. Even though they lost Olivier–Maxence Prosper, they still bring back Stevie Mitchell, Kam Jones, David Joplin and Oso Ighodaro. I like what Shaka’s got; we’ll go with the Marquette Golden Eagles.
Riddell: This time of the year, you’re doing a lot of traveling. What’s something you always take with you on the road?
Hummel: Foam roller. Some of those planes can get a little cramped, and being 6’8, it’s not the easiest deal. I have this little fold-up foam roller, and it goes everywhere with me.