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Pat Summitt, legendary former basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, died Tuesday morning of complications from Alzheimer's disease. Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA Division I basketball history, was 64.
Summitt was diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type in 2011, and stepped down from her role as head coach at the University of Tennessee a year later. From 1974 to 2012, Summitt led the Lady Vols to a 1,098-208 record with eight national titles.
Her remarkable career began when she took the head coaching reins at Tennessee at just 22 years old. Two years later, as a player she was named an assistant captain for the U.S. Olympic women's basketball team, and in 1984 took over head coaching duties. Under her guidance, the American women went undefeated and won their first-ever gold medal.
Three years later, Summitt's Lady Vols won the first of their eight national championships. Tennessee also won 16 SEC regular season championships and 16 SEC tournament championships under Summitt, the most recent coming in her final season. Summitt was an eight-time SEC Coach of the Year and a seven-time NCAA Coach of the Year, two of the many awards lavished on her throughout her 38-year career. She was also honored with the Naismith Award for Coach of the 20th Century and the 2012 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a civilian can win in the United States.
Summitt's record and legacy stand among the very best in American sports history, and she belongs in the company of coaching giants such as Vince Lombardi and Bear Bryant. Summitt began coaching at a time before women's basketball was an officially sanctioned NCAA sport and just two years after the passage of Title IX, which dramatically increased women's participation in intercollegiate athletics. Summitt became one of the most visible and effective faces of women's college sports for the entirety of her career. The UT program under Summitt produced some of the most notable players in women's basketball history, including Tamika Catchings, Chamique Holdsclaw and Candace Parker, all Naismith College Players of the Year.
Any player, opponent, referee, or administrator who took Summitt any less seriously because of her gender received a swift comeuppance. Summitt was one of the most fiery coaches in sports history, intense and unforgiving, always in support of her team. Summitt was offered the job of coaching Tennessee's men at least twice, but declined both times. A Sports Illustrated article in 1998 detailed Summitt's exacting mantras: she expected each player to sit in the first three rows of every one of their classes, with zero unexcused absences. She'd halt practices to ask players a simple, important question: "What have you done for your team today?"
After being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Summitt reduced her coaching duties and eventually assumed the role of head coach emeritus, visiting team practices and serving as a visible presence on the sidelines during games. In her final years, Summitt used her own illness as a means of bringing awareness and research to bear against Alzheimer's. She launched the Pat Summitt Foundation in November 2011, and the Pat Summitt Alzheimer's Clinic is slated to open at the University of Tennessee later this year.
In recent days, Summitt's health had taken a sharp turn for the worse. News that her family had gathered by her side brought an outpouring of sympathy from former players, rival coaches, and notable figures across the sports landscape.
Here's a statistic that should serve as a lesson for the 2017 draft class.
Of the 44 college players selected Thursday night in this year's NBA draft, all but two received invites to the draft combine in Chicago last month. The exceptions were Iowa State senior Abdel Nader and Cal senior Tyrone Wallace, two of the final three players selected in Thursday's second round.
What that suggests is future NBA hopefuls would be wise to take advantage of the new rules governing the early-entry process and wait until after the May combine to decide whether to stay in the draft or not. Those not among the roughly 70 draft combine invitees have little chance of being drafted and even less hope of being taken high enough to receive a guaranteed contract.
Whereas the NCAA's draconian rules have forced previous draft classes to decide by late-April whether to turn pro or return to school, a much-needed rule change allowed this year's prospects until one week after the May combine to make that choice. Many players wisely waited until deadline day, assessed the feedback they received and returned to school, but others were more rash.
USC's Julian Jacobs, Maryland's Robert Carter and Texas' Isaiah Taylor all declared for the draft and hired an agent before combine invites were sent out. Each went undrafted. Stanford's Rosco Allen and USC's Nikola Jovanovic learned they had not been invited to the combine in May and then hired an agent anyway. Both not surprisingly also went unselected.
It's important to note that going undrafted doesn't necessarily mean a prospect made the wrong decision to turn pro despite college eligibility remaining.
Some guys come from cash-strapped families that require them to begin earning a pay check even though they're not NBA-ready. Other guys have European ties and are content to play professionally overseas. There are also players like UC Irvine center Mamadou N'diaye, a 7-foot-6 center whose recurring knee problems require him to start making money off his size and skill now because his joints are unlikely to hold up as long as those of smaller players.
But what this year's dire stats should do is help future undecided prospects take a clear-headed look at where they stand in the pecking order rather than allowing themselves to be swayed by agents or friends and family members.
Only two players who NBA teams didn't feel were worthy of a combine invite last month managed to work their way into position to be drafted Thursday night. By contrast, all but 13 players who received a combine invite and opted to remain in the draft heard their name called.
That doesn't mean an NBA roster spot is guaranteed to a combine invitee, but the odds are certainly more favorable for those who make the cut than those who don't.
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The NCAA released its entire attendance report for the 2015-16 college basketball season on Wednesday morning. Here's a look at eight stats that stood out the most:
• Highest attendance per game: 1. Kentucky (23,361) 2. Syracuse (21,592) 3. Louisville (20,859)
Comment: Syracuse's two-year run as average attendance leaders ended this season at the hands of the team the Orange briefly eclipsed. Before the 2013-14 season, the Wildcats finished No. 1 in 17 of the previous 18 years.
• Lowest attendance per game: 1. Bryant (436) 2. South Carolina State (439) 3. Saint Peter's (479)
Comment: How did Bryant manage to draw smaller crowds than many high school teams last season? It had a lot to do with the product the Bulldogs put out on the floor. They went 8-23 and finished second-to-last in the Northeast Conference.
• Highest per-game attendance among non-major conference schools: 1. BYU (14,699), 2. New Mexico (13,030) 3. Dayton (12,941)
Comment: For the seventh straight season, BYU drew the largest crowds of any school in the West. The Cougars and Lobos top this list even though neither made the NCAA tournament. Third-place Dayton out-drew in-state fellow powers Ohio State, Xavier and Cincinnati.
• Lowest per game attendance among major-conference schools: 1. Washington State (2,856) 2. Boston College (3,411) 3. Stanford (4,393)
Comment: It has to be alarming for Washington State to be last for a third straight season. Under third-year coach Ernie Kent, the Cougars so far are neither making strides on the court or in the stands. USC also can't be thrilled being fourth-to-last in a season in which it boasted a fun team that made the NCAA tournament. Andy Enfield has rebuilt the Trojans into a quality team but he has yet to restore interest in basketball at the school.
• Highest per-game attendance among non-Division I schools: 1. Northern State (3,346), 2. Augustana (2,726) 3. Hope College 2,638
Comment: The only change from last year is Division III Hope College replacing Fort Hayes State in the top three.
• Largest average attendance increase from last year: 1. Maryland (+5,169), 2. Alabama (+2,934), 3. LSU (+2,485)
Comment: Maryland's massive jump was a product of ending its NCAA tournament drought in 2015 and bringing preseason top 10 expectations into last season. Alabama surged in anticipation of Avery Johnson's debut season as coach, while LSU's appearance is undoubtedly a product of the Ben Simmons effect.
• Best average attendance per conference: 1. Big Ten (12,555), 2. SEC (11,144), 3. ACC (11,131)
Comment: The Big Ten topped this category for a fifth straight year, while the SEC eclipsed the ACC for second place. The Big 12 was fourth in this category, followed by the Big East and Pac-12.
• Highest attendance in all games (home, road and neutral): 1. North Carolina (781,614), 2. Kentucky (694,871), 3. Syracuse (682,039)
Comment: North Carolina is a big draw at home and on the road. The national runner-up Tar Heels were fourth nationally in average attendance at home games behind only Kentucky, Syracuse and Louisville.
When Villanova visited the White House last week to celebrate its national championship, health issues kept revered former coach Rollie Massimino from joining the Wildcats.
President Obama noticed Massimino's absence and sent the 81-year-old a heartfelt note shared by Villanova coach Jay Wright on his Twitter account Monday afternoon.
President Obama's letter to Coach Mass ! Great respect for POTUS and RVM pic.twitter.com/IugcOlxEw7— Jay Wright (@VUCoachJWright) June 6, 2016
Massimino became a hero in Villanova circles for leading the 1985 Wildcats to an improbable national title. Eighth-seeded Villanova became the lowest seed to win the NCAA tournament, winning five games against top-five seeds capped by a monumental upset over Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown in the championship game.
For the past 10 years, Massimino has been the head coach at Keiser University, an NAIA powerhouse in West Palm Beach, Fla. Massimino sat courtside in Houston in April when Villanova edged North Carolina in the national title game on Kris Jenkins' game-winning buzzer beater.
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Texas' patience has at last been rewarded.
The Longhorns landed the most coveted remaining prospect in the 2016 recruiting class Friday when Jarrett Allen signed his scholarship papers. The 6-foot-9 forward from the Austin area is Rivals' No. 15 prospect in the class of 2016 and had received interest from Houston, Kansas, Notre Dame Kentucky and many others during different stages of his recruitment.
It wasn't a surprise that Allen eventually chose his hometown school, but how long it took for a commitment surely led to some anxiety among Texas fans. Only two other prospects in the Rivals 150 have yet to select a college destination.
The addition of Allen gives Texas a far better chance of contending in the Big 12 next season despite the loss of four starters from last year's NCAA tournament team. Leading scorer Isaiah Taylor entered the NBA draft despite it being unlikely he'll be selected, while guard Javan Felix, forward Connor Lammert and centers Prince Ibeh and Cameron Ridley all graduated.
An athletic big man who runs the floor well and has soft touch around the rim, Allen is likely to start right away and emerge as the focal point of the Texas frontcourt. He could play power forward alongside veteran Shaquille Cleare or freshman James Banks when Shaka Smart wants to go big. Or he could play center alongside forward Tevin Mack when Smart wants to go small.
Texas' backcourt will miss Taylor's creativity off the dribble, however, five-star freshman Andrew Jones is capable of inheriting the catalyst role. Returners Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis are also potential starters who are capable of taking on more responsibility next season.
That nucleus probably won't threaten Kansas' stranglehold on first place in the Big 12, but it's strong enough to vault Texas into contention for second place in the league. Fellow contenders West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor each lost multiple key players from NCAA tournament teams.
One of the questions when Texas hired Smart last year was how well he'd be able to recruit in a state in which he had few ties.
By landing Jones and Allen in his first full recruiting class, Smart has taken a big step toward alleviating any remaining concerns.
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At 18, he became Philadelphia's player of the year and a consensus five-star prospect. At 20, he was hailed as the face of St. John's basketball and a potential NBA prospect.
Now Rysheed Jordan's future doesn't look nearly as bright.
Jordan, 22, was arrested Wednesday for his alleged role in a May 27 shooting that took place in his native Philadelphia, 6ABCNews.com is reporting. Police told the television network that Jordan has been charged with attempted murder, robbery and other offenses.
The incident allegedly took place after Jordan and two other suspects arranged a meeting with three other men via Facebook in order to sell a cell phone. Police told 6ABCNews.com that Jordan and his accomplices tried to rob the victims and that when the victims fled, Jordan shot one of them in the arm.
The arrest is merely the latest sign that the supremely talented but enigmatic Jordan will probably never reach his full potential.
Jordan averaged 14.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists in helping St. John’s reach the NCAA Tournament as a sophomore, but the 6-foot-4 point guard also was frequently endured off-the-court issues. He was suspended one game for violating unspecified team rules as a freshman. He did not start another as a sophomore after sending a homophobic tweet. He also took a three-day leave of absence from St. John's during his sophomore season.
Certain he was going to enter the NBA draft after the 2014-15 season, Jordan lost focus academically during the spring semester. He missed so many classes and exams that he was unlikely to be eligible for the start of the 2015-16 season, a fact that forced him to turn pro even though his stock wasn't as high as he had anticipated.
Jordan went unselected in last June's NBA draft. The Delaware 87ers picked him fifth overall in last year's D-League draft but released him after just 11 games, during which he averaged 8.1 points but shot well below 40 percent from the field.
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John Calipari fervently believes the SEC tournament is not benefiting the league, so the Kentucky coach has proposed a harebrained idea to fix it.
He wants to move it up five months.
Calipari made his pitch to hold the SEC tournament in November instead of March during the conference's spring meetings Wednesday in Destin, Fla.
Under the Calipari plan, the SEC tournament would feature a consolation bracket, guaranteeing every team a minimum of three games. The SEC's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament would not be at stake during the event and instead would be awarded to the league's regular season champion.
“We go somewhere and all the fans come in and we celebrate our league, and they’re great games to start the year,” Calipari told reporters in Destin.
"You do it for one week. You maybe have two sites in the same city. Maybe it’s in Atlanta. We do it every year. Let’s all of our fans go to Atlanta. And everything is geared to SEC, and then you start the regular season."
Calipari elaborated on his idea on Twitter after speaking with reporters.
Why don't we play the games in the football stadium in Atlanta and set up two courts with stands split down the middle?— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) June 1, 2016
You could play the games where fans can go from side to side and watch multiple games.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) June 1, 2016
You could even have the winner's bracket on one court and the loser's bracket on the other court.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) June 1, 2016
Calipari's proposal comes at a time when the SEC is lagging behind its power-conference brethren in basketball clout. Kentucky and Florida have combined for three national titles and seven Final Fours in the past decade, but the league as a whole has produced only three NCAA tournament teams in three of the past four seasons and has not finished higher than sixth in conference RPI during that span.
Chief among Calipari's complaints about the SEC tournament's current format is that losses in the opening round or the quarterfinals are costing the league's bubble teams NCAA bids. He also doesn't believe that the SEC tournament champion is receiving a boost in seeding from the selection committee because the title game takes place on Selection Sunday just hours before the bracket is revealed.
When his team beat Texas A&M in the SEC title game in March but received a lesser seed than the Aggies, Calipari complained vociferously about the tournament concluding on Sunday instead of earlier in the week. Kentucky lost to fifth-seeded Indiana in the second round of the NCAA tournament, while Texas A&M made the Sweet 16.
Credit Calipari for always being willing to propose an outside-the-box idea, but this scheme is not one of his best.
How would it benefit the pigskin-crazed SEC to hold its conference tournament in November at the height of football season? How many fans would make the trip to Atlanta for the event when an NCAA tournament bid isn't at stake?
In reality, the solution to the SEC's basketball problem is far simpler than Calipari's wild scheme would make it seem. If the SEC wants to be more relevant in March, the rest of the league besides Kentucky just needs to get better.
Billy Donovan's departure from Florida and Mike Anderson's inability to turn things around at Arkansas are both big blows to the SEC, but some of the league's other programs have made promising coaching hires. Auburn's Bruce Pearl, Alabama's Avery Johnson and Mississippi State's Ben Howland are luring top recruits to their respective schools and Vanderbilt's Bryce Drew may do the same if given sufficient time.
Shrewd coaching hires, smarter scheduling and more robust budgets will go a long way toward bridging the gap between the SEC and the rest of college basketball's top conferences.
The SEC tournament's format isn't broken. The league just needs to improve.
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If Cal lands Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee this week, it will come at quite a price.
The roster spot now potentially earmarked for Lee became vacant Tuesday when the Bears' best perimeter scorer announced he was leaving.
Senior-to-be Jordan Mathews intends to graduate from Cal this summer and play his final college season elsewhere. The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 13.5 points per game last season, shot 41.6 percent from behind the arc and would have been Cal's leading returning scorer had he opted to come back.
"This decision was not easy but I am incredibly thankful for this experience," Mathews wrote on Twitter. "The relationships I have developed will last a lifetime. I will always be a Cal Bear and I will forever cherish my time in Berkeley."
Mathews' departure is a massive blow to a Cal team that had high expectations next season despite losing its top two scorers from last year's NCAA tournament team. With Ivan Rabb delaying his NBA dreams for at least one more year, the Bears boast one of college basketball's top returning big men and seemed to have some capable perimeter talent to complement him.
Without Matthews, Cal's perimeter shooting becomes a question mark. Jabari Bird is Cal's only returning player who hit more than 11 threes all of last season, though Columbia graduate transfer Grant Mullins is a proven shooter.
Cal's best-case scenario is Rabb becoming a monster, Bird finally taking a long-awaited leap forward, Mullins spacing the floor with his shooting and Sam Singer and Charlie Moore solidifying the point guard position. In that case, it's conceivable the Bears could finish in the upper half of the Pac-12 and return to the NCAA tournament.
Cal's worst-case scenario is Bird plateauing further, Mullins not being able to handle the jump from the Ivy League to the Pac-12 and Rabb facing too many double teams to make a consistent impact. In that case, the Bears are a lower-tier Pac-12 team unlikely to sniff the postseason.
As for Mathews' next destination, CBSSports.com reported that Gonzaga is the early favorite. His outside shooting and ability to space the floor would be an ideal fit for a Zags team with a strong frontcourt and a pair of slashing point guards in its starting backcourt.
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As if last week's return of forwards Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards weren't encouraging enough for Purdue, the Boilermakers released some more promising news Tuesday morning.
They announced that they have been selected to represent the United States at the World University Games in Chinese Taipei in August 2017.
“We are obviously very excited to represent our country at the World University Games," Purdue coach Matt Painter said in a statement released by the school. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our program."
The opportunity to play in the World University Games is beneficial to Purdue for several reasons, none more important than the chance for the 2017-18 Boilermakers to build chemistry and continuity via extra summer practices, an overseas trip and two weeks of games. The event also will bring notoriety to Purdue and could help coach Matt Painter's recruiting efforts this year as he can sell Class of 2017 prospects on the chance to represent their country.
The last college team to represent the U.S. at the World University Games is Kansas, which defeated Germany in double overtime last July to capture America's first gold medal in 10 years at the event. The World University Games served as a springboard for a Jayhawks team that went on to win 33 games, extend its Big 12 title streak to 12 in a row and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament before falling to eventual national champ Villanova in the Elite Eight.
Kansas was a safe choice because it has been consistently elite pretty much every season during Bill Self's tenure. Purdue is a greater risk because the Boilermakers have been more hit-and-miss under Painter and their prospects for the 2017-18 season are still a bit murky.
While the Boilermakers are expected to return to the NCAA tournament and perhaps even contend in the Big Ten next season, they may lose some key pieces next spring. Michigan transfer Spike Albrecht is the team's lone senior, however, Swanigan and Edwards may enter the NBA draft once again and it certainly wouldn't be a huge surprise if 7-footer Isaac Haas joined them.
But regardless of how strong a roster Purdue returns, representing the U.S. at the World University Games is a coup for the Boilermakers.
They've made back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. They're poised for an even better season next year. And they have something to look forward to the following summer as well.
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Until Monday, only one Rivals top 10 prospect in the past decade had transferred from the school with which he originally signed.
Now former Pittsburgh and UNLV forward Khem Birch has company on that list.
Mississippi State announced Monday that guard Malik Newman intends to transfer after an inconsistent, injury-plagued freshman season with the Bulldogs. Newman entered the NBA draft without signing with an agent last month before withdrawing last Wednesday.
"I appreciate all of Malik’s hard work, and I wish him the very best moving forward," Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said in a statement. "I want nothing but the best for Malik and his family."
Transferring is unusual among top 10 prospects because most expect to reach the NBA within a year or two. A freshman who transfers must sit out a full year before playing his sophomore season, something most top 10 prospects are unwilling to do even if they're unhappy with their playing time or how they're being used.
That Newman is the rare exception suggests he must have felt returning to Mississippi State was a very unfavorable option.
Expectations were sky high for Newman after he chose Mississippi State over Kentucky last spring, but he wasn't even the best freshman guard on his own team, let alone in the nation. He averaged a modest 11.3 points on anemic 39.1 percent shooting and tallied a mere nine more assists than turnovers the entire year.
When the feedback Newman received from NBA scouts reflected that he wasn't certain to be taken in the second round if he stayed in the draft, it left Newman with a difficult choice.
He could stay in the draft and try to fight his way into the NBA via the D-League. He could endure another year at Mississippi State in an ill-fitting system and hope to regain the trust of Howland. Or he could seek out another program that would provide a better opportunity to showcase himself even if it meant delaying his NBA dreams at least two years.
Newman chose option three, instantly making him one of the most coveted transfers on the market.
Only once in the past decade has a top 10 prospect been available on the rebound. Expect just as much interest in Newman this spring as there was for Birch four-plus years ago.
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The cooling off period in the Utah-BYU basketball rivalry won't last very long.
In a victory for common sense, Utah athletic director Chris Hill announced on Thursday that the Utes have agreed to resume the series with the Cougars in Provo in either Nov. or Dec. 2017. Hill said the two schools are in negotiations regarding future matchups.
The announcement comes four months after Utah backed out of a previously scheduled 2016 game at BYU and offered no assurances the series would resume thereafter. Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak cited incidents in two of the last three meetings between the two teams as his rationale for halting the series.
BYU guard Nick Emery was ejected and later suspended one game after punching Utah's Brandon Taylor late in the Utes' 83-75 victory at the Huntsman Center last season. Two years earlier, BYU center Eric Mika was ejected after a flagrant foul against Utes center Dallin Bachynski.
"The events that have occurred in our recent games with BYU led me to ask [athletic director Chris] Hill several weeks ago if we could take a cooling off period and put the rivalry on hold," Krystkowiak said in a January statement. "The level of emotions has escalated to the point where there is the potential for serious injury. Chris said he would support me in canceling next year's scheduled game against BYU."
Utah's decision to halt the series shocked and angered many around the state. The Utes and Cougars have played at least once every season since 1909 with the exception of 1944 when the season was cut short due to World War II.
One day after Utah put the rivalry on hold, members of the BYU student section showed up to a home game against Santa Clara wearing construction hats, bicycle helmets, football helmets and other forms of safety gear. They further mocked Krystkowiak's purported safety concerns by responding to any hard foul during the game with chants of "That's not safe!"
It wasn't only BYU students who weren't happy to see the rivalry in jeopardy. State legislators voiced their concern and Cougars coach Dave Rose couldn't hide his anger either.
"I disagree with the decision," Rose said in a January statement. "I know our students, our players, our fans and college basketball fans in the intermountain area want to see this longstanding rivalry continue."
That Utah reconsidered should be welcome news for both sides.
BYU needs the game more than Utah does from a strength of schedule standpoint because it plays in the WCC rather than the Pac-12. But the Utes benefit too from a quality non-conference game guaranteed to generate local and national interest annually and to draw a sellout crowd to the Huntsman Center every two years.
Resuscitating a century-old rivalry is also good for college basketball as a whole. In an era when conference realignment has already robbed the sport of some of its most iconic rivalries, there's no reason to needlessly eliminate another one.
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The deadline passed Wednesday night for prospects to decide whether or not to stay in the NBA draft, so the landscape for next year's college basketball season is finally becoming clearer.
Here's an updated version of the Dagger's way-too-early Top 20 that takes into account which early-entry candidates are turning pro and which are returning to school:
Key losses: F Brandon Ingram, C Marshall Plumlee, G, Derryck Thornton
Key returners: G Grayson Allen F Amile Jefferson, G Matt Jones, G Luke Kennard, F Chase Jeter
Notable newcomers: F Harry Giles, F Jayson Tatum, C Marques Bolden, G Frank Jackson, F Javin DeLaurier, F Jack White
Outlook: Already a strong candidate to be next year's preseason No. 1 even if Allen entered the NBA draft, Duke became a near lock last month when its leading scorer decided to pass. The high-scoring guard will be the centerpiece of a loaded Blue Devils team that returns four key players, gets Jefferson back from injury and welcomes the nation's most decorated recruiting class. Duke's greatest area of strength is at wing, where Allen and Tatum will likely start with the veteran Jones and the sharpshooting Kennard also likely to play big roles. Jefferson will start alongside a heralded freshman in the frontcourt, Giles if he's fully recovered from an ACL tear last fall or Bolden if not. The only potential position of weakness for Duke is point guard thanks to the transfer of Thornton. Jackson will get the first crack at the job but Allen is a capable secondary ball handler who could play out of position if the freshman struggles.
Key losses: G Tyler Ulis, G Jamal Murray, F Skal Labissiere, F Alex Poythress, F Marcus Lee
Key returners: G Isaiah Briscoe, F Derrick Willis, F Isaac Humphries, G Dominique Hawkins
Notable newcomers: G DeAaron Fox, G Malik Monk, C Bam Adebayo, F Wenyen Gabriel, F Sacha Killeya-Jones
Outlook: Here's a scary thought for Kentucky's future opponents: John Calipari has said this may be his best incoming recruiting class. Set to replace Ulis and Murray in the backcourt are Fox and Monk, the former the nation's most prized point guard and the latter the nation's most highly touted shooting guard. The 6-foot-4 Fox is explosive off the dribble, effective making plays and tough on defense too. Monk is a pure scorer who can blow by defenders who play him too tight and knock down jumpers if given free space. Those two will team with Briscoe to form a formidable backcourt. While Kentucky's frontcourt was the weak link this past season, the rugged, physical Adebayo could help change that. He should be a double-double machine in the paint and an ideal complement to the sweet-shooting Willis. Lee's departure and Marques Bolden's decision to go to Duke hurts Kentucky's frontcourt depth, but Gabriel and Killeya-Jones are capable of making an impact off the bench.
Key losses: G Ryan Arcidiacono, C Daniel Ochefu
Key returners: G Josh Hart, G Jalen Brunson, F Kris Jenkins, F Darryl Reynolds, F Mikal Bridges, G Phil Booth
Notable newcomers: F Omari Spellman, C Dylan Painter, F Eric Paschall
Outlook: The reigning champions are expected to return all but two rotation players now that Hart has decided to come back for his senior season. Thus it's entirely realistic Villanova could not only capture a fourth straight Big East title next season but also contend for a second straight national title. Departing seniors Arcidiacono and Ochefu have been crucial to Villanova's recent success, but the Wildcats have promising replacements for both ready to embrace bigger roles. Ex-McDonald's All-American Brunson will likely share point guard duties with Booth next season after splitting them with Arcidiacono this past season. Reynolds could move into the starting lineup in Ochefu's stead next season, though the senior-to-be will be pushed by Spellman, Villanova's most promising incoming freshman. Villanova has some depth at wing too. The talented Bridges might be the team's best long-term prospect.
Key losses: F Perry Ellis, G Wayne Selden, F Jamari Traylor, C Hunter Mickelson, G Brannen Greene, F Cheick Diallo
Key returners: G Frank Mason, G Devonte Graham, F Landen Lucas, G, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, F Carlton Bragg
Notable newcomers: G Josh Jackson, C Udoka Azubuike, F Mitch Lightfoot, C Evan Maxwell
Outlook: At a time when most of the rest of the Big 12's top teams appear poised to take a step backward, Kansas is just reloading. The Jayhawks bolstered an already strong roster last month when they landed an elite wing Rivals.com considers to be the best player in the 2016 class. The addition of McDonald's All-American Josh Jackson reduces the sting of wings Selden andGreene both entering the NBA draft. Jackson should slide into the starting lineup alongside returning guards Mason and Graham with the promising Mykhailiuk also playing heavy minutes off the bench. The frontcourt is more unproven, but it has potential. Bragg, a heralded sophomore-to-be, has the skill to replace some of the production that Ellis provided at power forward the past few years, while Lucas emerged late this past season as a strong defender and rebounder. That nucleus should be enough to make Kansas a heavy favorite to capture a 13th consecutive Big 12 title.
Key losses: F Elgin Cook, F Dwayne Benjamin
Key returners: F Dillon Brooks, G Tyler Dorsey, F Chris Boucher, F Jordan Bell, G Casey Benson, G Dylan Ennis, G Kendall Small
Notable newcomers: C Michael Cage, G Payton Pritchard, F Keith Smith, F Kavell Bigby-Williams
Outlook: It may be difficult for Oregon to exceed expectations in the Pac-12 preseason poll yet again next season. That's because the Ducks will almost certainly start the year as Pac-12 favorites now that Dorsey and Brooks have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Brooks averaged 16.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists last season, while Dorsey tallied 13.4 points per game and shot above 40 percent from behind the arc. Their return means that Oregon will have five of its seven leading scorers back from a 31-win team that won the Pac-12 and advanced to the Elite Eight. Oregon also adds depth via a recruiting class featuring Pritchard, a high-scoring point guard, Cage, a skilled, long-armed center, and Bigby-Williams, the national junior college player of the year. The wildcard is Ennis, a Villanova transfer who sat out all but two games this past season due to injury. If Ennis is granted a sixth year by the NCAA next month, he would certainly earn playing time both on and off ball.
6. North Carolina
Key losses: G Marcus Paige, F Brice Johnson, Joel James
Key returners: F Justin Jackson, C Kennedy Meeks, F Isaiah Hicks, G Joel Berry, G Nate Britt, F Theo Pinson
Notable newcomers: G Seventh Woods, G Brandon Robinson, C Tony Bradley
Outlook: Assuming potential sanctions stemming from the NCAA's academic fraud investigation don't impact North Carolina next season, the team that the national runner-ups will put on the floor has the potential to be very good. The Tar Heels lost their All-American power forward and a longtime stalwart in their backcourt, but Johnson and Paige were their only major departures after Jackson decided this week to withdraw from the draft. His return was critical for North Carolina because he'll start at small forward and perhaps inherit the role of go-to scorer. Meeks and Hicks should still be a pretty imposing low-post combo, Pinson and Berry seem ready to take on a bigger role in the backcourt and all three freshmen are four-star prospects capable of contributing off the bench right away.
7. Michigan State
Key losses: G Denzel Valentine, G Bryn Forbes, C Matt Costello, F Deyonta Davis, F Marvin Clark, F Javon Bess
Key returners: G Eron Harris, G TumTum Nairn, F Gavin Schilling, G Matt McQuaid, F Kenny Goins
Notable newcomers: F Miles Bridges, G Cassius Winston, G Josh Langford, C Nick Ward, F Ben Carter
Outlook: For a school that's losing a national player of the year winner, one of the country's most lethal outside shooters and the Big Ten's most improved big man, Michigan State will enter next season feeling pretty optimistic. The Spartans return several key rotation players from this season and add a recruiting class eclipsed only by Duke's and Kentucky's. At point guard, Michigan State will have Nairn and the promising Winston. At wing, returners Harris and McQuaid will compete for playing time with the highly touted Bridges and Langford. The frontcourt became an area of concern after Davis chose to enter the draft, but Bridges could definitely see playing time at the four spot similar to how Justise Winslow did at Duke his lone season. Michigan State also added UNLV graduate transfer Ben Carter to compete for frontcourt minutes along with returning big men Schilling and Goins.
Key losses: G Yogi Ferrell, F Troy Williams, G Nick Zeisloft, F Max Bielfeldt
Key returners: F Thomas Bryant, F O.G. Anunoby, G James Blackmon, G Robert Johnson, F Collin Hartman, F Juwan Morgan
Notable newcomers: G Josh Newkirk, C De'Ron Davis, G Devonte Green, G Curtis Jones, G Grant Gelon
Outlook: Indiana emerged as one of the big early-entry period winners because the Hoosiers lost only one of their four potential draft prospects. Yes, they said goodbye to the talented but erratic Williams. But keeping Bryant, Anunoby and Blacmon was huge, especially considering Bryant showed enough as a freshman that he likely would have been taken in the first round and Anunoby had flashed enough raw potential to be a potential second-round flier for a franchise willing to develop him. With those two back, Indiana's strength should be in the frontcourt, as Hartman, Morgan and the promising freshman Davis are also capable of making an impact. There's no single player who will replace everything that Ferrell did for Indiana this past season, but Indiana has options in the backcourt too. Newkirk, a Pittsburgh transfer, should compete for playing time at point guard with Johnson. A healthy Blackmon is likely to start at wing and Jones should also see playing time as well.
Key losses: G Malcolm Brogdon, F Anthony Gill, C Mike Tobey, F Evan Nolte
Key returners: G London Perrantes, F Isaiah Wilkins, G Devon Hall, G Marial Shayok, G Darius Thompson, C Jack Salt, F Jarred Reuter
Notable newcomers: F Austin Nichols, G Kyle Guy, F Mamadi Diakite, G Ty Jerome, F DeAndre Hunter, F Jay Huff
Outlook: The only silver lining to Virginia's late-game collapse against Syracuse in the Elite Eight was that it doesn't figure to be the Cavaliers' last chance at a Final Four. The way Tony Bennett is recruiting, the Cavaliers could be back in contention soon. While Virginia graduates four rotation players including the ACC player of the year in Brogdon and another all-conference standout in Gill, the talent entering the program should keep the Cavaliers from falling far. Nichols, a transfer who averaged 13.3 points and 3.4 blocks his final season at Memphis, should provide interior scoring and the rim protection the Cavaliers lacked last season. He'll anchor the Virginia frontcourt along with Wilkins, while Diakite competes for minutes with incoming freshman Huff and returners Salt and Reuter off the bench. Perrantes must take on a greater role as a scorer and a leader next season at point guard, but he'll have plenty of help. Hall and Shayok both have breakout potential at wing and Guy is the program's first McDonald's All-American in seven years.
Key losses: C Kaleb Tarczewski, G Gabe York, F Ryan Anderson, G Justin Simon, Mark Tollefsen
Key returners: G Allonzo Trier, G Parker Jackson-Cartwright, G Kadeem Allen, C Dusan Ristic, C Chance Comanche
Notable newcomers: F Ray Smith, G Terrance Ferguson, G Kobi Simmons, G Rawle Atkins, F Lauri Markkanen
Outlook: When Trier announced he would not enter the NBA draft last month and Ferguson decided to come to Tucson anyway, that left Sean Miller with a problem most coaches would kill to have. The Wildcats have so many talented perimeter players on next year's roster that it will be tough to find playing time for all of them. The only certain starter is Trier, a 6-foot-4 wing who averaged 14.8 points per game as a freshman. He will be the centerpiece of a backcourt that also features three incoming top 20 prospects, returners Jackson-Cartwright and Allen, as well as Smith, Arizona's most heralded recruit in the 2015 class before suffering a torn ACL. One option for Arizona could be playing the 6-7 Smith extended minutes as an undersized power forward, which would allow Ferguson to provide outside shooting alongside Trier at wing and also mask the one potential weak spot on the Arizona roster. While the Wildcats have Ristic and Comanche back at center, the lone true power forward on the roster is Markannen, another highly touted prospect but one that may not be ready to play 30 minutes per game right away.
Key losses: F James Farr, G Remy Abell, F Jalen Reynolds, G Larry Austin Jr.
Key returners: F Trevon Bluiett, G Edmond Sumner, G Myles Davis, G JP Macura, F Sean O'Mara, F Kaiser Gates,
Notable newcomers: G Quentin Goodin, F Tyrique Jones, C Eddie Ekiyor, F Rashid Gaston
Outlook: Don't hand the Big East title to Villanova just yet. The Wildcats will be challenged by a Xavier team that returns a handful of key players from a 28-win team that spent much of last season in the top 10 nationally. The Musketeers will rely on a loaded perimeter corps featuring the promising Sumner at point guard and veterans Davis and Macura on the wing. Leading returning scorer Bluiett can play either forward position effectively, allowing Xavier the freedom to go big with him on the perimeter or small with him at the four. Reynolds' early departure was a blow, but Xavier has enough depth to replace him and Farr in the frontcourt. O'Mara could see increased playing time and Norfolk State transfer Rashid Gaston averaged 15.5 points and 9.6 rebounds his final season for the Spartans.
Key losses: G Damion Lee, G Trey Lewis, C Chinanu Onuaku
Key returners: G Donovan Mitchell, G Quentin Snider, C Mangok Mathiang, F Raymond Spalding, F Jaylen Johnson, F Deng Adel, F Anas Mahmoud
Notable newcomers: G V.J. King, G Tony Hicks
Outlook: The lingering question hovering over the Louisville basketball program is whether the NCAA will be satisfied with its self-imposed 2015-16 postseason ban or levy further punishment next season. A nine-game suspension for Rick Pitino for failure to monitor his program seems inevitable and scholarship reductions are certainly a possibility, however, the Cardinals have team that can play deep into March next season if its allowed to participate in the NCAA tournament. Even though Onuaku chose to stay in the draft, Louisville has an array of big men capable of altering shots around the rim and attacking the glass at both ends. The key for the Cardinals will be whether they can replace the scoring of Lee and Lewis. Snider is a good offensive point guard, Mitchell and Adel are both candidates for breakout sophomore seasons and incoming McDonald's All-American King should also be able to make an immediate impact.
Key losses: None
Key returners: F Nigel Hayes, G Bronson Koenig, C Ethan Happ, F Vitto Brown, G Zak Showalter, G Jordan Hill, F Khalil Iverson
Notable newcomers: F Andy Van Vliet, G Brevin Pritzl, G D'Mitrik Trice, F Aleem Ford
Outlook: While Hayes undoubtedly intended to enter the NBA draft as a junior before this season began, he was wise to stay put for his senior year. He endured some rough patches this season as his revamped outside shot deserted him and he transitioned into a leadership role. He also has the chance to be part of another special season at Wisconsin if he returns because the Badgers return an astonishing 99.7 percent of their scoring and rebounding from a team that rebounded from a 9-9 start, blossomed during the second half of the season and came within a basket or two of the Elite Eight. Hayes will be part of a starting lineup that will also include co-star Bronson Koenig, fellow seniors Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter and reigning Big Ten freshman of the year Ethan Happ. Preseason expectations might not match the 2014-15 season, but the Badgers will definitely be expected to contend in the Big Ten and make another deep March run.
Key losses: F Kyle Wiltjer, F Domantas Sabonis (projected), G Eric McClellan, G Kyle Dranginis
Key returners: G Josh Perkins, C Przemek Karnowski (projected), G Silas Melson, C Ryan Edwards, G Bryan Alberts
Notable newcomers: G Nigel Williams-Goss, F Jonathan Williams III, C Zach Collins, G Zach Norvell, F Killian Tillie, F Jacob Larsen
Outlook: While the graduation of Wiltjer and the early departure of Sabonis will be a blow to Gonzaga, it's possible the Zags have a better year next season than they did this past year. That can happen if two transfers make the impact they're expected to and Karnowski regains his pre-back injury form. One of Gonzaga's transfers is Williams-Goss, a former McDonald's All-American who averaged 15.6 points and 5.9 assists at Washington his final season with the Huskies. He and Perkins are likely to both start and share point guard duties. The other transfer is Williams, who averaged 11.9 points and 7.1 rebounds at Missouri during the 2014-15 season. Williams, Karnowski and the heralded freshman Collins would form a frontcourt trio formidable enough to ease the sting from the departure of Wiltjer and Sabonis.
Key losses: F Tony Parker
Key returners: G Bryce Alford, G Aaron Holiday, G Prince Ali, G Isaac Hamilton, F Jonah Bolden, C Thomas Welsh
Notable newcomers: G Lonzo Ball, F T.J. Leaf, C Ike Anigbogu, G Kobe Paras
Outlook: One of this past season's biggest disappointments has the potential to return to national relevance next season. UCLA is expected to bring back all but one rotation player from a 15-win season and will add four coveted freshman capable of shoring up some of the holes in the roster. Chief among the additions is Ball, a point guard who this past season led his high school team to an undefeated season and a state championship in California's toughest division. The McDonald's All-American will likely be the centerpiece of a backcourt that also includes a volume shooter in Alford, a dynamic on-ball defender in Holiday and a streaky scorer in Hamilton. The addition of Leaf and Anigbogu gives UCLA's frontcourt a skilled power forward and a rim-protecting center — two things last year's team lacked. Anigbogu, in particular, could be key because this UCLA roster is loaded with players who are better scorers than defenders.
Key losses: C A.J. Hammons, G Rapheal Davis, G Kendall Stephens
Key returners: F Caleb Swanigan, F Vince Edwards, C Isaac Haas, F Basil Smotherman, F Jacquil Taylor, G Ryan Cline, G P.J. Thompson, G Dakota Mathias
Notable newcomers: G Carsen Edwards, G Spike Albrecht
Outlook: Swanigan's decision to withdraw from the NBA draft on Wednesday instantly elevates expectations for Purdue. Now the Boilermakers can play the same brand of big basketball in its frontcourt that carried them to the NCAA tournament a year ago. Hammons was Purdue's best player last season, but the Boilermakers have ample size and talent to replace the all-conference center. Haas will replace Hammons at center, Swanigan will start at power forward and Smotherman will spell both of them as a third big man off the bench. You can also put Edwards' name in ink in the starting lineup at small forward, but Purdue has more questions at guard. Can the Michigan transfer Albrecht stay healthy enough to lock down the point guard position that was such a problem for Purdue last year? And are either Cline or Mathias ready to emerge as the starter at shooting guard?
17. West Virginia
Key losses: F Jonathan Holton, G JaySean Paige, F Devin Williams
Key returners: G Jevon Carter, G Daxter Miles, G Tarik Phillip, F Elijah Macon, F Nathan Adrien, F Brandon Watkins, F Esa Ahmad, G Teyvon Myers
Notable newcomers: F Maciej Bender, G James "Beetle" Bolden, F Sagaba Konate, G Chase Harler
Outlook: West Virginia seemed to be the clear-cut top challenger to Kansas in the Big 12 before Williams chose to enter the draft. The double-double threat's departure is a blow to a Mountaineers team that already must replace the perimeter scoring of Paige and the offensive rebounding of Holton. One of the few certainties for West Virginia is that Miles will start and play off ball. Carter is another likely starter, either at point guard or at shooting guard if either Bolden or Phillip force their way into the starting lineup. The key to West Virginia's season could be whether Macon can gain the consistency he lacked last season and the promising Ahmad can make a jump between his freshman and sophomore seasons. Macon tapered off late this past season and Ahmad spent much of the season trying to get comfortable in Huggins' pressing scheme and only started to make strides on offense down the stretch.
Key losses: G Sterling Gibbs, F Shonn Miller, F Phillip Nolan, G Omar Calhoun, G Daniel Hamilton
Key returners: G Jalen Adams, G Rodney Purvis, C Amida Brimah, F Kentan Facey, F Steven Enoch
Notable newcomers: G Terry Larrier, F Juwan Durham, F Vance Jackson, G Alterique Gilbert, F Mamadou Diarra, Christian Vital
Outlook: Four of the seven Huskies who played at least nine minutes in their NCAA tournament finale are gone, yet UConn has a chance to be better than it was last season. The return of Brimah, Purvis and Adams and the arrival of a promising freshman class should help offset the departure of Hamilton to the NBA draft. UConn's strength defensively should be its frontcourt, which is highlighted by the shot-blocking Brimah, veteran Facey and Larrier, a highly touted VCU transfer who sat out all of last season. In the backcourt, Adams and Purvis will be pushed by freshmen Gilbert and Vital. Last season, UConn had to win the American Athletic Conference tournament to assure itself an NCAA bid. The Huskies have enough talent and experience not to cut it so close in 2017.
19. Rhode Island
Key losses: G Four McGlynn, C Earl Watson
Key returners: F Hassan Martin, G E.C. Matthews, G Jarvis Garrett, G Jared Terrell, F Kuran Iverson, G Christion Thompson, F Nicola Akele
Notable newcomers: F Stanford Robinson, F Mike Layssard Jr, G Jeff Dowtin, C Michael Tertsea, F Cyril Langevine
Outlook: It's easy to see why Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley resisted the temptation of accepting an offer from Rutgers this offseason. Hurley has a team at Rhode Island that's formidable enough to win the Atlantic 10, end the Rams' NCAA tournament drought and perhaps even advance a round or two. The biggest reason for optimism for Rhode Island is the return of Matthews, an all-conference guard who tore his ACL in the Rams' season opener last November. They'll also get back Martin, a defensive standout who missed the final month of last season with a knee injury. With those two back, last year's breakout stars Garrett and Terrell also returning and the Indiana transfer Robinson set to arrive, Rhode Island is well positioned heading into next season. Only another barrage of injuries could prevent the Rams from returning to national relevance.
Key losses: F Robert Carter, F Jake Layman, C Diamond Stone, G Rasheed Sulaimon
Key returners: G Melo Trimble, G Jared Nickens, G Dion Wiley, F Damonte Dodd, C Michal Cekovsky
Notable newcomers: G Anthony Cowan, G Kevin Huerter, F Micah Thomas, F L.G. Gill, F Justin Jackson
Outlook: Had Trimble decided to stay in the NBA draft, Maryland would have been in rebuilding mode with all five starters gone from last year's Sweet 16 team. Trimble instead waited until the dying hours of deadline day before announcing he was withdrawing from the draft, giving him a chance to solidify himself as a first-round pick next season and giving the Terps a star point guard to build around. The wealth of experienced talent surrounding Trimble last season is gone, but Maryland's cupboard is far from empty. The heralded Cowan will ease the pressure on Trimble by providing a second capable ball handler. Nickens, Wiley and Huerter should all see ample playing time at wing. Questions abound in the frontcourt, but Maryland will probably rely on Gill, a Duquesne graduate transfer to help fill the void left by Carter at power forward, while Dodd and Cekovsky team up to fortify the interior.
Others worthy of consideration: Cal, Creighton, Dayton, Florida State, Miami, NC State, Pittsburgh, Saint Mary's, San Diego State, Syracuse, Texas A&M, USC, Virginia Tech
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The deadline for early-entry prospects to withdraw from the NBA draft is only hours away, so the landscape for next year's college basketball season is finally becoming clearer.
Here's a look at which programs were hardest hit by draft declarations and which will begin next season in better-than-expected shape. This post will be updated as the final undecided prospects reveal their decisions.
EARLY-ENTRY DEADLINE WINNERS:
Who left early: Nobody
Who Stayed: Dillon Brooks, F, So., Tyler Dorsey, G, Fr., Chris Boucher, F, Jr.
Outlook: Oregon has consistently exceeded preseason expectations under Dana Altman, but that won't be easy next year. The Ducks will be Pac-12 favorites and preseason top 10 nationally after Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks both withdrew from the draft on Wednesday. Brooks averaged 16.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists last season, while Dorsey tallied 13.4 points per game and shot above 40 percent from behind the arc. Their return means that Oregon will have five of its seven leading scorers back from a team that won the Pac-12 and advanced to the Elite Eight. Oregon also adds depth via a recruiting class featuring high-scoring point guard Payton Pritchard, skilled center Michael Cage Jr. and national junior college player of the year Kavell Bigby-Williams.
Who left early: Nobody
Who Stayed: Josh Hart, G, Jr., Kris Jenkins, F, Jr.
Outlook: Title game hero Kris Jenkins hardly even flirted with leaving for the NBA draft. Potential second-round pick Josh Hart pulled out of the draft on the eve of Wednesday's deadline. As a result, Villanova may be as well positioned to repeat as any reigning champion since Florida won national titles in 2006 and 2007. All but two rotation players are back from the Wildcats team that won the Big East for a third straight season, shed the label of NCAA tournament underachievers and edged North Carolina in a classic title game. Granted the loss of Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu will be significant, but Villanova should still appear most preseason top fives even without them.
Who left early: Brandon Ingram, F, Fr.
Who Stayed: Grayson Allen, G, So.,
Outlook: Why is Duke an early-entry deadline winner despite Brandon Ingram's departure? Because the potential No. 1 overall pick is all the Blue Devils lost. Co-star Grayson Allen returned without testing the waters even though he had a chance to be a first-round pick after averaging 21.6 points and shooting 41.6 percent from the field. His decision makes him a potential first-team All-American next season and bolsters Duke's loaded roster for next season. The Blue Devils are a heavy favorite to earn the title of preseason No. 1 thanks to Allen's return, Amile Jefferson's renewed health and the arrival of a decorated class rated best in the nation.
Who left early: Jaylen Brown, F, Fr.
Who Stayed: Ivan Rabb, F, Fr.
Outlook: Had wing Jaylen Brown, big man Ivan Rabb and point guard Tyrone Wallace all left this spring, it would have been difficult for Cal to avoid entering rebuilding mode next season. The Bears instead retained Rabb for at least one more season, giving them a skilled interior standout around which to build. Rabb, a 6-foot-11 former McDonald's All-American, averaged 12.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in his debut season in Berkeley and showed the ability to make an impact at both ends. The impressive freshman likely would have been selected in the first round if he entered the draft and perhaps would have gone in the top 15 or 20.
Who left early: Troy Williams, F, Jr.
Who Stayed: Thomas Bryant, F, Fr., James Blackmon, G, So., O.G. Anunoby, F, Fr.
Outlook: If you told Tom Crean eight weeks ago that he'd only lose one of the four players above, he'd have probably wrapped you in a bear hug. Thomas Bryant passed on the chance to be a first-round pick this year in hopes of emerging as a lottery pick next year. O.G. Anunoby didn't even flirt with turning pro even though he'd flashed enough raw potential to be a potential second-round flier. And James Blackmon wisely came back as well rather than risking going undrafted this June. The lone underclassman staying in the draft is Troy Williams, an undeniably talented wing who hasn't put it all together yet. Someone may select Williams in the second round because of his physical tools, but his wayward shot selection, frequent turnovers and inconsistency may also land him in the D-League next season.
Who left early: Nobody
Who Stayed: Caleb Swanigan, F, Fr., Vince Edwards, F, So.
Outlook: While it was no surprise to see wing Vince Edwards return to Purdue, teammate Caleb Swanigan kept everyone guessing right up until deadline day. The 6-foot-8 big man ultimately opted to return to school, perhaps because his stock wasn't where he hoped and perhaps because he recognized a genuine opportunity to boost it by coming back for his sophomore season. Swanigan averaged nearly a double-double during a productive freshman season, but there's concern about how his skill set will translate to the NBA. He isn't tall or athletic enough to play center, nor does he possess the perimeter skills most modern-day power forwards have. Playing alongside 7-footer Isaac Haas next season, Swanigan will have the chance to slim down, log heavy minutes at power forward and work on his passing and outside shooting.
Who left early: Jalen Reynolds, F, Jr.
Who Stayed: Edmond Sumner, G, Fr., Trevon Bluiett F, So.
Outlook: Any lingering sting from forward Jalen Reynolds' early departure surely dissipated quickly because of all the talent Xavier returns. Promising point guard prospect Edmond Sumner didn't even test the waters and leading scorer Trevon Bluiett explored his stock but chose to return. Having both back gives the Musketeers the potential to meet or exceed their accomplishments from last season when they won 28 games and contended for the Big East title before getting bounced in the round of 32 by Wisconsin. They should be a more perimeter-oriented team next season led by Sumner, Bluiett, veteran combo guard Myles Davis and sharpshooter J.P Macura.
8. North Carolina
Who left early: Nobody
Who Stayed: Justin Jackson, F, So., Kennedy Meeks, C, Jr.
Outlook: North Carolina may not be able to replace the interior scoring of Brice Johnson or the veteran leadership of guard Marcus Paige, but the Tar Heels won't fall far despite the graduation of their two senior leaders. In fact, they should begin the new season in the top 10 in many polls thanks to Justin Jackson and Kennedy Meeks both withdrawing from the draft. Instead of potentially being taken in the second round next month, Jackson chose to return to Chapel Hill to improve the consistency of his outside shot and show he can evolve into North Carolina's next go-to threat. Meeks will likely start alongside Jackson and Isaiah Hicks in what should be one of college basketball's best frontcourts.
Who left early: Nobody
Who Stayed: Nigel Hayes, F, Jr.
Outlook: Although Hayes once had every intention of staying in the draft, his inefficient shooting the past six months forced him to reconsider. He almost certainly would not have been a first-round pick and he might have gone undrafted altogether. Hayes' return solidifies Wisconsin as a preseason top 15 team and a contender for the Big Ten title. The Badgers return Hayes, co-star Bronson Koenig, Big Ten freshman of the year Ethan Happ and virtually every other key player from a team that sputtered to a 9-9 start but rebounded to make the NCAA tournament and advance to the Sweet 16.
Who left early: Nobody
Who Stayed: Allonzo Trier, G, Fr.
Outlook: Instead of following in the one-and-done footsteps of Aaron Gordon and Stanley Johnson, Allonzo Trier opted to carve a different path. The high-scoring shooting guard passed on the possibility of being a late first-round pick this season in hopes of taking a leadership role on a formidable 2016-17 Arizona team. Trier will be the centerpiece of a loaded backcourt as deep and talented as any nationally. Also returning are point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, combo guard Kadeem Allen and wing Ray Smith, Arizona's most heralded recruit in the 2015 class before a torn ACL sidelined him all of this past season. The Wildcats also welcome three Rivals top 20 prospects: sharpshooter Terrance Ferguson, slashing wing Rawle Alkins and scoring point guard Kobi Simmons.
Who left early: Jamal Murray, G, Fr., Tyler Ulis, G, So., Skal Labissiere, F, Fr.
Who Stayed: Isaiah Briscoe, G, Fr.
Outlook: Three surefire first-round picks are leaving and Marcus Lee is transferring, yet Kentucky emerges from the draft deadline as more a winner than a loser. The reason is that Isaiah Briscoe chose Wednesday to return to Lexington rather than taking his chances as a borderline second-round pick. Briscoe will give freshman-laden Kentucky a veteran presence in its starting backcourt alongside freshmen Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox. He averaged 9.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists as a freshman and also emerged as Kentucky's best perimeter defender. Lee's decision to transfer diminishes Kentucky's interior depth, but he wasn't the Wildcats' most important returning power forward. They'll need Derek Willis' outside shooting ability to complement a backcourt that will be better attacking the rim than it will be from the perimeter.
EARLY-ENTRY DEADLINE LOSERS:
Who left early: Julian Jacobs, G, Jr., Nikola Jovanovic, F, Jr.
Who Stayed: Chimezie Metu, C, Fr.
Outlook: Andy Enfield is learning the same lesson that Ben Howland and Tim Floyd did before him: It's hard to retain draft prospects in Los Angeles even if they're not NBA-ready. USC is one of the only programs in the country to lose two starters to the draft even though there's a good chance neither of them will be selected. Point guard Julian Jacobs entered the draft and quickly hired an agent while power forward Nikola Jovanovic waited until the morning of the deadline to make his decision. USC can still build around a core of Jordan McLaughlin, Chimezie Metu, Bennie Boatwright and Elijah Stewart, but the Trojans' ceiling is much lower without their second and third leading scorers from last season. A return to the NCAA tournament is still possible. Pac-12 title contention likely isn't.
Who left early: Stephen Zimmerman, C, Fr., Derrick Jones Jr., G, Fr., Patrick McCaw, G, So., Chris Obekpa, C, Sr.
Who Stayed: No NBA prospects. (Heck, hardly any players at all)
Outlook: Early defections have been an annual issue for UNLV the past few years, but a botched coaching change caused a flurry of departures this spring. The school fired Dave Rice in January, chose not to retain interim coach Todd Simon in March, plucked Chris Beard from Arkansas-Little Rock just before the Final Four and finally settled for Marvin Menzies a few weeks later after Beard bolted for Texas Tech. The result was a long period of uncertainty fraught with transfers and draft declarations. Stephen Zimmerman's was probably inevitable since he has first-round potential. Eligibility concerns might also have played a role in Derrick Jones' otherwise ill-advised decision. But Patrick McCaw almost certainly would have considered coming back under different circumstances and St. John's transfer Chris Obekpa was expected to be the Rebels' starting center next year.
Who left early: Dejounte Murray, G, Fr., Marquese Chriss, F, Fr.
Who Stayed: No NBA prospects
Outlook: Though Washington last played in the NCAA tournament five years ago, the 2016-17 season appeared likely to be the Huskies' return to national prominence. Heralded point guard prospect Markelle Fultz would join last season's star-studded freshman class to form the nucleus of a team capable of contending in the Pac-12 and ending that NCAA tournament drought. Everything changed for Lorenzo Romar, however, when Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss opted to enter the draft and hire agents. In both cases, it's understandable — Chriss' long-term potential makes him a possible lottery pick and Murray would likely spend a lot of time off ball next season with Fultz arriving — but it's still a massive blow to Washington. Now the Huskies don't have anyone back who averaged more than 7.5 points last season.
4. West Virginia
Who left early: Devin Williams, F, Jr.
Who Stayed: No NBA prospects
Outlook: West Virginia would have been the clear-cut top challenger to Kansas in the Big 12 had Williams stayed for his senior season. Instead the power forward left school for an uncertain basketball future that will undoubtedly begin either overseas or in the D-League. Williams averaged 13.3 points and 9.5 rebounds last season, but the 6-foot-9 forward's modest length and explosiveness and lack of perimeter skills concern NBA scouts. They fear he can't finish consistently inside against NBA big men, nor are they confident he'll have the same impact on the glass that he had in college. Williams' departure is a blow to a Mountaineers team that already must replace the perimeter scoring of JaySean Paige and the offensive rebounding of Jonathan Holton. West Virginia can still be a top 25 team, but its ceiling is now lower.
Who left early: Isaiah Taylor, G, Jr.
Who Stayed: No NBA prospects
Outlook: The longterm outlook for Texas under Shaka Smart remains promising, but next season's prospects took a hit when Isaiah Taylor entered the draft and signed with an agent last month. The high-scoring combo guard left without waiting to see if he would be invited to the combine and is in jeopardy of going undrafted next month. With Taylor gone and five seniors graduating, Texas is left with a young, unproven roster. Elite freshman Andrew Jones and potential late addition Jarrett Allen are capable of contributing immediately, however, it would be far more ideal for the Longhorns if they could initially serve as understudies to an erstwhile senior leader.
6. Mississippi State
Who left early: Nobody
Who Stayed: Malik Newman, G, Fr.
Outlook: Malik Newman's decision to withdraw from the draft should have been cause for celebration in Starkville except for one small detail. There's reportedly a good chance he may transfer and sit out a year rather than play for the Bulldogs next season. Newman arrived at Mississippi State as one of the nation's most heralded incoming freshman guards, but he wasn't even the best freshman in the Bulldogs' backcourt. He battled injuries, shot 37.9 percent from the field and tallied nearly as many turnovers as assists. Things could get better at Mississippi State for Newman with Ben Howland adding more talent, but it's hard to shake the notion it's not the best fit for him. Either way, this is now a mess for the Bulldogs.
Who left early: Chinanu Onuaku, F, So.
Who Stayed: Nobody
Outlook: Why is Louisville so low on this list despite losing a borderline first-round pick to the draft on Wednesday? It's not because Chinanu Onuaku isn't an effective player. It's because the Cardinals have an abundance of frontcourt depth behind him to help fill the void. Onuaku wasn't much of a scorer, but he was excellent protecting the rim and gobbling up rebounds in traffic. Without him, Louisville will turn to Mangok Mathiang to anchor their interior defense with Anas Mahmoud and Matz Stockman also receiving playing time at center and Ray Spalding and Jaylen Johnson splitting time at power forward. None of that quintet may match Onuaku's production by himself, but collectively the dropoff shouldn't be too significant.
OTHERS STILL WAITING FOR KEY DECISIONS:
• Maryland (Melo Trimble)
• Valparaiso (Alec Peters)
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The best player on the reigning national champions is coming back.
Josh Hart announced via Twitter on Tuesday night that he is withdrawing from the NBA draft and returning to Villanova for his senior year. The shooting guard had entered the draft last month without hiring an agent, preserving the opportunity to pull out by Wednesday's deadline.
ONE MORE YEAR!! \\\///— Josh Hart (@JoshHart_3) May 25, 2016
Really proud of how Josh handled this process and happy that he can graduate with his class in '17! https://t.co/HrWQ4xY4vL— Jay Wright (@VUCoachJWright) May 25, 2016
Had Hart stayed in the draft, he had a good chance to be selected in the second round after averaging 15.5 points last season and showcasing toughness and versatility during Villanova title run. A lack of length and explosiveness limits his chances of cracking the first round next year, but he'd have a chance to improve his stock with a Malcolm Brogdon-esque All-American-caliber senior season.
Hart's decision solidifies Villanova as a contender to become college basketball's first repeat champion since Joakim Noah and Al Horford led Florida to national titles in 2006 and 2007. The Wildcats will return all but two rotation players from last year's 35-5 powerhouse, though the two that are gone will certainly be very difficult to replace.
Combo guard Ryan Arcidiacono was Villanova's third-leading scorer, its emotional leader and an elite distributor and perimeter defender. Center Daniel Ochefu was the Wildcats' premier low-post scorer and the rim-protecting anchor of smothering defense.
Despite the loss of Arcidiacono and Ochefu, Villanova should start next year in the top five in the polls — perhaps as high as No. 2 behind Duke.
Ex-McDonald's All-American Jalen Brunson will likely share point guard duties with Phil Booth next season after splitting them with Arcidiacono this past season. Hart is a shoo-in to start at wing and promising Mikal Bridges will see plenty of playing time off the bench.
Title game hero Kris Jenkins will once again be a fixture in the starting lineup at power forward, while Jay Wright will have a couple of options for how to replace Ochefu. Darryl Reynolds could move into the starting lineup early in the season, but the senior-to-be undoubtedly will be pushed by Omari Spellman, Villanova's most promising incoming freshman.
The last time a national champion returned its best player, Russ Smith-led Louisville won 31 games and reached the Sweet 16 before falling to rival Kentucky.
Villanova has a chance to match or exceed those accomplishments next season.
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It took three simple words for Nigel Hayes to put a smile on the face of Wisconsin basketball fans across the country.
"I'm coming back," the standout forward told the Wisconsin State Journal via text message on Tuesday evening.
Wisconsin later confirmed that Hayes is withdrawing from the NBA draft and returning to school. The senior-to-be had entered the draft without hiring an agent last month, leaving himself the option of pulling out by Wednesday's deadline.
Although Hayes once had every intention of staying in the draft, his performance the past six months forced him to reconsider. He almost certainly would not have been a first-round pick and he might have gone undrafted altogether.
Hayes endured an erratic junior season in which he averaged 15.7 points per game but struggled with the transition to go-to threat, shooting an inefficient 36.8 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from behind the arc. Then he faded to the background in two games at the NBA draft combine, scoring a total of four points on 1-for-5 shooting.
The good news for Hayes is that returning to school certainly isn't an undesirable option. Not only does Hayes have the chance to become a more efficient scorer and more consistent shooter, he also will play for a Wisconsin team that should be a fixture in the preseason top 20.
Wisconsin could return up to 99.7 of its scoring and rebounding from last season's Sweet 16 team if there are no departures. The Badgers sputtered to a 9-9 start without Frank Kaminsky, Josh Gasser and Sam Dekker last year, however, they blossomed in February and March and came within a basket or two of the Elite Eight.
A returning Hayes will be part of a starting lineup that is expected to include co-star Bronson Koenig, fellow seniors Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter and reigning Big Ten freshman of the year Ethan Happ. Preseason expectations might not match the 2014-15 season, but the Badgers would definitely be expected to contend in the Big Ten and make another deep March run.
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ESPN announced the schedule for next season's Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday. Here's a look at each of the games ranked from most to least compelling.
1. Michigan State at Duke (Nov. 29): One of the first challenges for presumed preseason No. 1 Duke will be a Michigan State team with a loaded freshman class but not much in the way of veteran leadership. The Spartans will have to hope that freshman Miles Bridges makes a quick transition to the college level if they're going to keep it close against a Blue Devils team that returns All-American candidate Grayson Allen, adds a star-studded freshman class and gets Amile Jefferson back from injury.
2. North Carolina at Indiana (Nov. 30): This rematch of a Sweet 16 game won by North Carolina will feature only a few of the players who starred in that game. While the Tar Heels say goodbye to senior standouts Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, they'll build around familiar names like Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks. Indiana could be a more frontcourt-oriented team next season with Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby both back and Yogi Ferrell having moved on to the professional ranks.
3. Purdue at Louisville (Nov. 30): The point guard position was Purdue's Achilles Heel last season, but the arrival of freshman Carsen Edwards and Michigan transfer Spike Albrecht should help stabilize an area of weakness for the Boilermakers. Louisville has top 15 potential even if Chinanu Onuaku stays in the draft as expected. The Cardinals have an array of big men capable of altering shots around the rim and attacking the glass at both ends, a pair of breakout candidates in Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel and an incoming McDonald's All-American in V.J. King.
4. Syracuse at Wisconsin (Nov. 29): If Nigel Hayes returns to Wisconsin as expected, the Badgers will have nearly every key player back from a team that started off poorly last season but rebounded to not only make the NCAA tournament but also reach the Sweet 16. The Badgers' core of Hayes, Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ is talented and experienced enough that they should begin the season in the top 15 in the polls. Syracuse, meanwhile, will hope that Tyler Lydon can evolve from promising freshman to team leader.
5. Ohio State at Virginia (Nov. 30): Though Virginia will lose do-it-all wing Malcolm Brogdon and forward Anthony Gill from a team that collapsed in the Elite Eight, the Cavaliers have the potential to return to Final Four contention. London Perrantes will be one of the nation's steadiest point guards and former Memphis forward Austin Nichols may be the nation's most coveted transfer. Ohio State lost by six to Virginia last season in Columbus, but the Buckeyes may pose a more formidable challenge this year as their young nucleus matures.
6. Pittsburgh at Maryland (Nov. 29): How good Maryland is next season will depend a lot on Melo Trimble's NBA draft decision. If he returns to College Park, Maryland has the potential to finish in the top third of the Big Ten standings. If he leaves, the Terps could be headed for a rebuilding year. Whatever Trimble decides, this game against Pitt won't be an easy one. The Panthers have a new coach but they bring back standout forwards Michael Young and Jamel Artis.
7. Virginia Tech at Michigan (Nov. 30): If you're surprised this game is this high, pay closer attention to Virginia Tech. Buzz Williams' Hokies won 10 ACC games last season and bring back most of their key players including former transfers Seth Allen and Zach LeDay. Michigan will serve as a good barometer for Virginia Tech. The Wolverines will build around point guard Derrick Walton Jr. and wings Zak Irvin and Duncan Robinson.
8. Iowa at Notre Dame (Nov. 29): Three of Iowa's top four scorers from last season's NCAA tournament team have moved on, but the Hawkeyes caught a big break when second leading scorer Peter Jok opted to withdraw from the draft. The 6-foot-6 sharpshooter will give Fran McCaffery a star to build around. The loss of Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste will be tough for Notre Dame to overcome, but the Irish will stay relevant thanks to a core of V.J. Beachem, Bonzi Colson and Rex Pflueger.
9. NC State at Illinois (Nov. 29): With its top two big man back, shooting guard Terry Henderson finally healthy and elite recruits Dennis Smith and Omer Yurtseven set to contribute, NC State has sleeper potential in the ACC. Illinois also has a chance to work its way into the upper half of the Big Ten behind Malcolm Hill if the rest of his teammates can stay healthy and form a consistent supporting cast.
10. Minnesota at Florida State (Nov. 28): Between a 23-loss 2015-16 campaign, turmoil off the floor and the arrival of a new athletic director, Richard Pitino is under pressure to make some progress next season. A trio of incoming recruits and a core of returning talent gives Minnesota hope, but Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy will have to be awfully good for the Gophers to win at a Florida State team that returns NBA prospect Duane Bacon.
11. Wake Forest at Northwestern (Nov. 28): Could this be the breakthrough year for either Danny Manning at Wake Forest or Chris Collins at Northwestern? Both have a chance to move up in the pecking order even if they're still NCAA tournament long shots. Wake Forest will lean heavily on promising sophomores Bryant Crawford and John Collins, while Northwestern will hope a frontcourt emerges to complement Bryant McIntosh.
12. Nebraska at Clemson (Nov. 30): The appeal of this game could depend on the draft decisions made by early-entry candidates Jaron Blossomgame of Clemson and Andrew White of Nebraska. Blossomgame led his team in scoring this past season, while White was second. Both have until Wednesday to decide whether to stay in the draft or not.
13. Rutgers at Miami (Nov. 30): With all due respect to Miami, which should be an NCAA tournament team again next season, there's no justification for putting a game involving Rutgers any higher than this. Guard Corey Sanders is promising sophomore and new coach Steve Pikiell could make progress over the next few years, but the Scarlet Knights would be doing well just to keep it close against the Hurricanes.
14. Georgia Tech at Penn State (Nov. 29): Georgia Tech fired its coach and lost all five starters from a team that failed to make the NCAA tournament last season. If ever there were an ACC-Big Ten Challenge game that Penn State should expect to win, it's this one. The Nittany Lions return standouts Shep Garner and Payton Banks and add a heralded recruiting class featuring a pair of top 100 prospects.
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A rematch between powerhouses Kansas and Kentucky highlights the newly announced slate for next year's Big 12-SEC Challenge. All 10 games will take place Jan. 28. Here's a look at the matchups ranked from most to least intriguing:
1. Kansas at Kentucky: These blue bloods will both appear the preseason top five in most polls, but they'll also field vastly different rosters than they did at Allen Fieldhouse last January when Kansas edged Kentucky 90-84 in overtime. The Wildcats will lean on another loaded freshman class headlined by guards Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox, while the Jayhawks will turn to heralded freshman wing Josh Jackson and veteran guards Frank Mason and Devonte Graham.
2. Texas A&M at West Virginia: While the Big 12 has dominated this series since its inception, West Virginia has been the exception to that rule. The Mountaineers are 0-3 with losses to Missouri in 2013, LSU in 2014 and Florida last January. West Virginia's next chance to finally earn a victory will come at home against a Texas A&M team that loses standouts Jalen Jones, Danuel House and Alex Caruso from last year's Sweet 16 squad yet should be able to reload behind a talented sophomore class.
3. Florida at Oklahoma: Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger will face the program he led to the 1994 Final Four when Florida visits Norman. Kruger has only faced the Gators once since he left in 1996, a 93-76 loss in the second round of the 2000 NCAA tournament when he was at Illinois. Oklahoma won 29 games last season and reached the Final Four, but the Sooners will need big years from Jordan Woodard, Khadeem Lattin and Christian James as they try to adjust to life without Buddy Hield and two other senior starters.
4. Texas at Georgia: With leading scorer Isaiah Taylor opting to turn pro and a handful of senior standouts also leaving, the Longhorns will rely on a promising freshman class and some unproven returners next year. They'll need heralded freshman Andrew Jones to have found his stride by midseason if they're going to go to Athens and knock off a Georgia team that returns a formidable one-two punch in J.J. Frazier and Yante’ Maten.
5. Iowa State at Vanderbilt: Bryce Drew will make Vanderbilt competitive in the SEC before too long, but his debut season in Nashville may be a transition year for the Commodores. They'll be moving on without point guard Wade Baldwin and 7-footer Damian Jones, both of whom left early for the NBA draft. Thus this seems to be a winnable road game for an Iowa State team that will build around point guard Monte Morris next year with Georges Niang graduating this spring.
6. Baylor at Ole Miss: The departures of Taurean Prince, Lester Medford and Rico Gathers will leave Baylor in jeopardy of a rare rebuilding season under Scott Drew. The Bears could struggle to earn an NCAA bid unless 6-foot-9 Johnathan Motley evolves into an interior star and promising sophomore guard King McClure produces a breakout season. Ole Miss should be a mid-tier SEC team once again, but the Rebels will need New Mexico transfer Cullen Neal to fill some of the volume-shooting void left by Stefan Moody.
7. LSU at Texas Tech: Even though Ben Simmons is NBA-bound, a lack of talent won't be a problem for LSU. Former McDonald's All-American Antonio Blakeney, forward Craig Victor and wing Brandon Sampson form a strong enough nucleus for the Tigers to contend for a top-three SEC finish, yet the key will be whether coach Johnny Jones can get that nucleus to play cohesively. The Tigers will get a nice midseason test at Texas Tech, which lost its coach but returns a couple key players from an NCAA tournament team.
8. Arkansas at Oklahoma State: While Arkansas has only made the NCAA tournament one time in Mike Anderson's five seasons, the Razorbacks have reason for optimism next year. Three of their four leading scorers are expected back and they welcome a strong recruiting class that includes junior college All-American guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon. Arkansas' opponent is an Oklahoma State team that will try to build around point guard Juwan Evans in Brad Underwood's debut season.
9. Kansas State at Tennessee: Kansas State's visit to Knoxville is familiar for both teams. Tennessee beat the Wildcats 65-64 in the 2014 Big 12-SEC Challenge in Knoxville. Next season is a big one for Kansas State coach Bruce Weber as he seeks to justify his administration's decision to retain him rather than making a run at Brad Underwood. The Wildcats lose leading scorer Justin Edwards but return four starters including forward Wesley Iwundu.
10. Auburn at TCU: Bruce Weber's talented but young Auburn team may still be a year away from ascending in the SEC pecking order. Jamie Dixon was a great hire for his alma mater TCU, but it will also take him some time to build behind a strong incoming freshman class. This is a game that would be much better in 2018 than it is likely to be next January.
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In his first two seasons at San Diego State, Malik Pope has displayed sporadic flashes of immense skill and talent.
The 6-foot-10 junior-to-be is returning to the Aztecs in hopes of showing NBA scouts he can make a more consistent impact.
Pope announced Monday night that he has withdrawn from the NBA draft after entering last month without hiring an agent. He was not invited to the NBA's draft combine, but he reportedly did work out for the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz.
Credit Pope for making a wise decision because it once no doubt wasn't in his plans to be in college for more than two years. He is the most highly touted prospect San Diego State has landed under Steve Fisher, however, a series of leg injuries late in his high school career prevented him from making a smooth transition to the college level.
Pope made his San Diego State debut in January of his freshman year and showcased a smooth 3-point shot for a man his size, sinking 40.8 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. His anticipated transition from role player to star took longer than expected as a sophomore, but he did average 11.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists during San Diego State's final 13 games of the season.
What intrigues NBA scouts about Pope is his skill for a player with his size, length and physical tools. He can knock down outside shots, create for himself or a teammate off the dribble or finish above the rim on a fast break, but he needs to get stronger and — above all else — more consistent to merit being more than a second-round flier next spring.
Pope's return makes San Diego State a clear favorite to repeat as Mountain West champs and a contender for preseason Top 25 polls. The Aztecs return five of their top six scorers from a 28-win team that floundered in non-league play, righted itself against Mountain West competition and responded to an NCAA tournament snub by making the NIT semifinals.
San Diego State will return starting backcourt Jeremy Helmsley and Trey Kell along with Pope and promising forward Zylan Cheatham. The Aztecs will also benefit from the arrival of shot-blocking Washington State transfer Valentine Izundu as well as former top 50 recruit Montaque "Teki" Gill-Caesar and ex-Indiana sharpshooter Max Hoetzel.
Pope may have more natural ability than anyone in that group. Next season will be his latest chance to fully tap into that and lead San Diego State back to the NCAA tournament.
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The most improved player in college basketball this past season believes he's ready for the NBA.
Providence forward Ben Bentil announced Sunday evening in an Instagram post that he will forego his final two years of college eligibility and remain in the NBA draft.
Bentil's decision is logical considering the feedback he received after a strong performance at the draft combine in Chicago earlier this month. He could be selected in the late first round and he'd still be a strong candidate to negotiate a guaranteed contract even if he falls to the top of the second round.
Turning pro serves as the culmination of Bentil's year-long rise from role player, to Kris Dunn's co-star, to NBA prospect. The 6-foot-8 native of Ghana helped lead Providence to the second round of the the NCAA tournament in March, averaging 21.1 points and 7.7 rebounds as a sophomore after contributing just 6.4 points and 4.9 rebounds the previous year.
What intrigues NBA teams about Bentil is his potential as a floor-spacing power forward in an era when such a skill set is considered highly valuable. Bentil shot 33 percent from behind the arc this past season and also displayed the ability to score in the post or via face-up opportunities.
Recording 36 blocks and 30 steals is proof of Bentil's defensive instincts, however, NBA teams may fear that his modest height and explosiveness for his possession may render him less effective at the professional level. Bentil also isn't much of a playmaker for a forward with such a diverse skill set as he recorded barely one assist per game this past season.
While the departure of Bentil and Dunn were both no surprise for Providence, that doesn't make it any easier for the Friars to say goodbye. Ed Cooley could have a very difficult time extending Providence's three-year streak of reaching the NCAA tournament unless some of last season's role players make comparable jumps to the one Bentil made.
The most promising player left on the roster is 6-foot-8 small forward Rodney Bullock, who averaged 11.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game this past season but faded during the second half of league play. He'll need support from Jalen Lindsey, Kyron Cartwright, and Ryan Fazekas, none of whom averaged more than seven points per game this past season or shot above 40 percent from the field.
Providence also welcomes a deep recruiting class headlined by point guard Maliek White and former Indiana forward Emmitt Holt. That group could be counted on to contribute immediately next season as the Friars adjust to life without Bentil and Dunn.
While losing its two stars could be a crippling blow for Providence in the short-term, the program will benefit in the long term if Dunn is taken in the lottery and Bentil is also selected in the first round.
That becomes a nice carrot for Cooley to dangle as he attempts to recruit the Friars' next crop of stars.
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Once he was not invited to participate in the draft combine or to work out for many NBA teams, Iowa guard Peter Jok made a rational decision.
The 6-foot-6 senior-to-be realized he was unlikely to be selected in next month's NBA draft and opted to return to the Hawkeyes instead.
"I'm excited to be returning for my senior season and leading our team," Jok said in a statement released by the school. "This has been an invaluable learning experience for my career, and I appreciate all the support I have received from Coach McCaffery and the entire staff."
The return of Jok is monumental for an Iowa team that won 22 games this past season and advanced to the NCAA tournament's round of 32. Jok was one of the Big Ten's most improved players as a junior, averaging 16.1 points per game and shooting over 40 percent from behind the arc.
Iowa badly needed Jok back because its four other leading scorers — forward Jarrod Uthoff, guards Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons and center Adam Woodbury — each have exhausted their eligibility. Had Jok also left, the Hawkeyes' leading returning scorer would have been junior-to-be Dom Uhl, who averaged six points in 17.6 minutes per game this past season.
What Jok learned from NBA scouts was likely that he needs to be a more well-rounded prospect in order to have a better chance of being drafted next year. Jok has NBA size and range, however, he could stand to improve his ability to create off the dribble or to defend opposing wings.
"The entire experience has been beneficial to Peter in assessing where he stands heading into his final college season," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said in a statement. "He has learned a great deal in regard to this process and his experience will prove valuable a year from now. We are excited that Peter will be a part of our team in the coming season and we anticipate his senior leadership playing a key role for us."
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Duke won the latest battle in its recruiting war with Kentucky on Thursday when the top unsigned prospect in the Class of 2016 chose the Blue Devils over the Wildcats.
Marques Bolden, a 6-foot-11 center ranked No. 11 in the 2016 Rivals rankings, made his announcement on Thursday afternoon at DeSoto High School, unzipping a black jacket to reveal a Duke T-shirt underneath.
The addition of Bolden bolsters a Duke team that likely would have been next year's preseason No. 1 team even if he had gone elsewhere. The Blue Devils return four of their top seven players from last year's Sweet 16 team, get senior forward Amile Jefferson back from injury and add a recruiting class widely considered to be the best in the nation.
A long, mobile post player who runs the floor well, protects the rim and scores effectively with his back to the basket, Bolden averaged 23.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks this past season and led DeSoto High to a state title. The McDonald's All-American received scholarship offers from the likes of Alabama, Baylor, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma and TCU before narrowing his options this spring and ultimately selecting the Blue Devils.
How loaded is Duke next season? Bolden will likely come off the bench next season.
His presence will allow Duke to bring along fellow elite freshman Harry Giles slowly as he recovers from the torn ACL that sidelined him his entire senior season. Mike Krzyzewski can either start Bolden alongside Jefferson at the start of the season or use him as a third big man if Giles is ready for heavy playing time right away.
Between that frontcourt and a perimeter corps that will include returners Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Matt Jones and elite freshmen Frank Jackson and Jayson Tatum, Duke has the most talent of any team in the nation next season. They'll be loaded with talent and depth at every position except for point guard, where Jackson will be given every chance to start after Derryck Thornton's decision to transfer earlier this spring.
PG: Frank Jackson
SG: Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard
SF: Jayson Tatum, Matt Jones
PF: Harry Giles, Chase Jeter
C: Amile Jefferson, Marques Bolden
Kentucky will still be one of the few programs capable of challenging Duke nationally even if the loss of Bolden will sting. The Wildcats will add five Top 25 freshmen to a roster that will definitely include forward Derek Willis and could also feature guard Isaiah Briscoe and forward Marcus Lee if both opt to return to school instead of staying in the draft.
But potent as that Kentucky roster is, Duke's appears to be better on paper.
The Blue Devils were already college basketball's 2016-17 title favorites before landing Bolden. Now they're just a little bit stronger.
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Undecided prospects have only one week left before they must announce whether they're coming back to school or staying in the NBA draft. Here's a look at the eight schools with the most at stake during the next seven days:
1. Oregon (G Tyler Dorsey, F Dillon Brooks): Oregon could have five of its top seven players back from a 31-win Elite Eight team if Dorsey and Brooks opt to return to school, a decision that might be wise for both of them after neither was invited to the draft combine. Brooks, a versatile 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 16.7 points per game last season, but he could use another year to revamp his body and improve the consistency of his perimeter shot. Dorsey, a 6-foot-4 combo guard, averaged 13.4 points and shot over 40 percent from behind the arc, but he lacks prototypical size or length for an NBA shooting guard. If he returns to school, he could stand to improve his playmaking ability.
2. Villanova (G Josh Hart): After a recent workout with the 76ers, Hart updated the Philadelphia Inquirer on the chances he'll stay in the draft. "Still 50-50," he said. It's easy to see why Hart would be torn even with the deadline looming a week away. He showed enough toughness, craftiness, defense and rebounding during Villanova's title run that he'll probably be selected if he stays in the draft, yet his lack of length and explosiveness limits his chances of being taken in the first round. Adding to the complexity of Hart's decision is that Villanova has realistic hope of repeating if he returns. The reigning national champions could return all but two rotation players.
3. Maryland (G Melo Trimble): Trimble is one of the prospects in this year's draft with the most to gain by coming back to school. He was one of the premier pick-and-roll point guards in college basketball as a freshman, but his jump shot deserted him last season with disastrous results. Opponents went under screens against him and sagged off him, making it more difficult for him to get to the rim or to draw fouls attacking the basket. The combine offered Trimble one final chance to show his erratic shooting was an aberration, but he didn't make the impact he hoped. He'll have a much better chance of being a first-round pick if he comes back to Maryland and takes one more year to develop before pursuing his NBA dreams.
4. Seton Hall (G Isaiah Whitehead): Seton Hall fans eager to know whether Whitehead will be back for his junior season won't have to wait much longer. The high-scoring combo guard plans to announce Thursday whether he intends to stay in the NBA draft or not. Whitehead's decision is tricky simply because his stock is all over the board right now after a sophomore season in which he averaged 18.6 points per game but shot well below 40 percent from the field. His scoring ability and court vision gives him an outside chance of being taken late in the first round. His erratic shot selection and penchant for turnovers could scare some teams away from selecting him at all.
5. Wisconsin (F Nigel Hayes): Although Hayes once had every intention of leaving for the NBA this spring, his performance the past six months may force him to return to Wisconsin. He endured an erratic junior season in which he averaged 15.7 points per game but struggled with the transition to go-to threat, shooting an inefficient 36.8 percent from the field and 29.3 percent from behind the arc. Then he faded to the background in two games at the NBA draft combine, scoring a total of four points on 1-for-5 shooting. The good news for Hayes is that returning to school certainly isn't the worst option. He, Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ would be the centerpieces of a Wisconsin team that made the Sweet 16 last season and could return up to 99.7 percent of its scoring.
6. Providence (F Ben Bentil): If Ben Bentil was already leaning toward staying in the NBA draft before last week's combine, his performance in Chicago probably only solidified that choice in his mind. The rapidly improving stretch forward measured well during testing and flashed many of the same attributes that were apparent this past season when he averaged 21.1 points and 7.7 rebounds. In his first game, he tallied 15 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and sank a pair of 3-point shots. The following day he backed that up by pouring in 17 points in just 19 minutes. Bentil isn't guaranteed to be a first-round pick if he stays in the draft, but it seems unlikely he'd fall beyond the first half of the second round.
7. Purdue (F Caleb Swanigan, F Vince Edwards): While Swanigan averaged nearly a double-double during a productive freshman season, there's concern about how his skill set will translate to the NBA. The 6-foot-8 big man isn't tall or athletic enough to play center in the NBA but lacks the perimeter skills most modern-day power forwards possess. Swanigan clearly is intent on leaving if he receives positive feedback, but another year at Purdue could really benefit him. Playing alongside 7-footer Isaac Haas, he'll have the chance to slim down, log heavy minutes at power forward and work on his passing and outside shooting. As for Edwards, it would be a surprise if he didn't return to school. The 6-foot-7 wing shoots well from the perimeter, but he would likely go unselected if he remains in the draft.
8. Kentucky (G Isaiah Briscoe, F Marcus Lee): While it's unlikely that either Briscoe or Lee would be taken if they stay in the draft, that doesn't mean that either will definitely be back at Kentucky next season. Neither are likely to have a starring role for the Wildcats thanks to the bevy of talented newcomers John Calipari has added. The best-case scenario for Briscoe would be as a third guard alongside freshmen DeAaron Fox and Malik Monk — a similar role to the one he played this past season. Playing time could be more scarce for Lee with Derek Willis returning, Bam Adebayo and Wenyen Gabriel set to arrive and Marques Bolden also potentially on his way. Lee reportedly has canceled some workouts with NBA teams, suggesting perhaps he may be returning to school. At the same time, he also has said he's comfortable heading to the D-League, so what he decides is anyone's guess.
Other schools with a lot on the line the next seven days: Mississippi State (G Malik Newman); Clemson (F Jaron Blossomgame); San Diego State (F Malik Pope); Memphis (F Dedric Lawson); Xavier (F Trevon Bluiett); UConn (F Amida Brimah, G Rodney Purvis); Creighton (G Mo Watson); Louisville (C Chinanu Onuaku)
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Twelve days after forward Kennedy Meeks elected to withdraw from the NBA draft, North Carolina received more good news.
Forward Justin Jackson has pulled his name from draft consideration and opted to return to school.
"After discussing it with my parents and coaches and praying over this decision, the best choice for my basketball future is to return to school and play for the Tar Heels next season," Jackson said Monday in a release from the school.
“My dream certainly is to play in the NBA and going through the draft process this year was another step toward reaching that goal, but I’ve loved my first two years at Carolina and am excited about the upcoming season. It’s going to be a fun year. I will be another year closer to earning my degree and can continue to develop as a person and a player."
Jackson started at small forward the past two seasons for a North Carolina team that reached the Sweet 16 in 2015 and lost at the buzzer in the national title game last month. The 6-foot-8 junior-to-be averaged 12.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists this past season, but concerns about his lack of strength and inability to consistently sink outside shots hurt his chances of being a first-round pick this June.
In two scrimmages at last week's NBA draft combine, Jackson sank just five of his 14 attempts from the field. Realistically that probably sealed his decision to return to school.
Coming back to North Carolina could be a wise choice for Jackson because the Tar Heels appear poised for another strong season and he has a chance to assume a bigger role.
With All-American forward Brice Johnson and standout guard Marcus Paige both graduating, Jackson is the obvious choice to inherit the responsibility of being North Carolina's go-to threat. The Tar Heels will surround him with a talented starting five that could include promising juniors Joel Berry and Theo Pinson in the backcourt and Meeks and Isaiah Hicks in the frontcourt.
Duke will be the favorite in the ACC entering next season, but North Carolina could be the Blue Devils' top challenger now that Jackson and Meeks are returning. With no underclassmen leaving early, the Tar Heels at minimum have the look of a preseason top 10 team.
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With its top two big men both entering the NBA draft last month, NC State is in need of immediate frontcourt help next season.
Boy did the Wolfpack find some.
Omer Yurtseven, a coveted 6-foot-11 center from Turkey, told Scout.com on Monday that he has committed to NC State. Yurtseven chose the Wolfpack over Utah and Syracuse among others.
The addition of Yurtseven puts NC State in far better position to thrive next season even if forwards Abdul Malik-Abu and Beejay Anya were to remain in the NBA draft. Neither has hired an agent, leaving open the possibility either could opt to return by the May 25 deadline.
Most scouts consider Yurtseven to be a five-star recruit and a future NBA prospect because of his strong frame, good size and impressive skill set. He can score with his back to the basket in the post, via offensive boards or off pick-and-pop jump shots out to the 3-point arc.
Yurtseven showcased his immense potential on Sunday when he erupted for 91 points and 28 rebounds in a Turkish U-18 basketball game. The 17-year-old from Istanbul hit 34 of 49 shots during his team's 115–82 victory.
The lone concern about Yurtseven is whether he will be eligible to play college basketball next season. Yurtseven told Scout.com that he has not taken money from his Turkish club in order to preserve his eligibility to play in college in the U.S.
If Yurtseven is able to play for NC State, he will form a formidable 1-2 punch with fellow freshman Dennis Smith. Smith is expected to step in right away at point guard to replace NC State's leading scorer from last season Cat Barber.
The Vertical Breakdown: Turkish League prospect Omer Yurtseven
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Before he's finished coaching Kentucky, John Calipari has a lofty goal he wants to reach.
"Our next challenge is to chase UCLA’s 11 titles," he wrote on his website Monday.
UCLA is the only college basketball program with more national championships than Kentucky. Calipari led the Wildcats to their eighth title in 2012 behind Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but they still need three more championships just to tie the Bruins and four to overtake them.
"This could take more than a decade, but so what? Let’s chase it," Calipari wrote. "Can we do it? Sure, but it’s going to be really tough. The tournament isn’t a best-of-seven series and the best team doesn’t always win the title. The trick is to always be one of those teams at the end of the season that’s right there. That’s the first step."
Kentucky has won only won championship during Calipari's seven-year tenure, but it has consistently been a title contender thanks to his ability to land a bevy of top prospects every year and consistently mold them into a cohesive team. The Wildcats have advanced to the Final Four four times under Calipari and have won an average of 31 games per year during his tenure.
Of course, the only way Kentucky can have realistic hope of surpassing UCLA under Calipari is if he remains in Lexington for many years to come. Calipari says he's in it for the long haul despite annual speculation that he could leave for an NBA gig if offered a lucrative contract and player-personnel control.
“My plan is to coach here for the rest of my career,” the 57-year-old Calipari wrote. “I want this to be my final coaching position.”
One of Calipari's other goals for the future at Kentucky is to improve the environment at venerable Rupp Arena so that it becomes "the preeminent home-court advantage in basketball." Calipari says he does not know if Kentucky will break ground on a new arena during his tenure, but in the meantime he wants to make games at Rupp have a big-event feel.
"Since I’ve gotten here, little has changed in the game-day atmosphere of that historical gym," Calipari wrote. "We have the best fans in the country and they give us an incredible advantage each game, but like anything else, we constantly need to be thinking about what’s next and how can we continue to be the best."
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When Tim Floyd spoke to reporters in El Paso on Tuesday afternoon, it began as a typical business-as-usual news conference.
Only after El Paso sports radio host Steve Kaplowitz asked his first question did it become clear that Floyd's true purpose was an ambush.
Floyd pounced on Kaplowitz immediately, first turning the radio host's question about why players transfer back around on him and then calling him "uninformed" and "irresponsible." Floyd then handed out copies of a 17-page document containing data that meant to show that UTEP's high transfer rate during his tenure mirrored the trend in college basketball nationally.
What apparently upset Floyd is Kaplowitz's on-air criticism of UTEP's struggles to retain players in recent years. This offseason alone, UTEP's leading scorer Lee Moore turned pro with eligibility remaining and three other players chose to transfer.
The public flogging might have stopped there except that Kaplowitz opted to respond. He further angered Floyd by noting that he has attempted to reach out to the UTEP coach for comment numerous times and seldom gotten any response.
"I don't respond to journalists that just throw things out, just throw it against the wall and see what sticks," Floyd said. "I've been around a lot of great journalists in Chicago, in New Orleans, in Los Angeles. In my opinion, you don't know what the hell you're talking about, so I don't respond to that. People who know not and do not know that they know not are fools and you shun them. That's what I've done with you."
The confrontation reached a climax when Floyd said that he regrets previously going on Kaplowitz's show 10 times as a favor to former UTEP coach Don Haskins.
FLOYD: Don't shake your head. You know I'm dead-ass right.
KAPLOWITZ: "That's wrong and you're classless for saying that in front of the media."
FLOYD: I'm dead-ass right.
KAPLOWITZ: No, you're not."
FLOYD: "Your show is fiction."
KAPLOWITZ: "How about the pulse of El Paso? How about all the fans, all the season ticket holders that are upset, that they've been upset with the lack of results over the last six years, and they're tired of not going to the postseason. They're tired of not going to the NCAA Tournament. How about that?"
FLOYD: "We were in the NIT a year ago."
KAPLOWITZ: "Yeah that really means a lot to El Paso right now."
FLOYD: "Is that right?"
FLOYD: "Well, we lost four starters, we didn't quite get there this year."
KAPLOWITZ: "So every year it's gonna be the same thing, coach? Every year? Is that how it's going to be?"
FLOYD: "If you're upset about us not winning games and you want me fired because of not winning games, that's your prerogative."
Pretty awkward, right? Every other reporter and UTEP administrator in the room had to be cringing through that whole exchange.
What's interesting is that Floyd's not entirely in the wrong here. Hundreds of college basketball players transfer each season and UTEP is in a particularly vulnerable spot in the sport's pecking order, susceptible both to players transferring up to high-majors in search of a greater platform or down to low-majors in search of more playing time.
What's more, while UTEP hasn't made the NCAA tournament during Floyd's six-year tenure, his results have hardly been embarrassing. He's reached the NIT twice, finished in the top three in the league three times and won 18 or more games all but one season. The trouble is that Conference USA has been a one-bid league more often than not during that stretch and UTEP has not won the conference tournament under Floyd.
Where Floyd is wrong, however, is in his decision to publicly call out Kaplowitz in a misguided attempt to shame him. This is a matter that should have been handled during a closed-door meeting between the two men. A shouting match in Floyd's office would have saved both parties the embarrassment of having this video spread across social media the past 24 hours.
The other culpable party here is UTEP's athletic administrators. They had to have an inkling this was coming, yet nobody had the gumption to tell Floyd it wasn't a good idea?
This is a coach who has previously had public confrontations with USC coach Andy Enfield, then-New Mexico coach Steve Alford and other reporters who have covered him previously. Surely someone in UTEP's athletic department could have either had the foresight to realize this wasn't a good idea or the nerve to end Floyd's news conference before it got too heated.
Kaplowitz wrote about Floyd's tirade on Tuesday, again raising the question whether the transfers are a result of the impatience of today's players or an inability to relate to Floyd.
"Coach Floyd made things personal today and took aim at me for the way we have handled the roster merry-go-round at UTEP," Kaplowitz said. "Sadly, he believes that I am the root of the problem since Sportstalk has been “misinforming” the public all this time. Despite everything that was said about me earlier today, my stance on Tim Floyd and the UTEP men's basketball program has not changed. I endorsed him more than six years ago when he was hired and believed that he was the right man for the job.
"Many people have been patient with Coach Floyd and still see him as the man to turn around the program. They just need to accept the fact that each year, it gets tougher and tougher to keep players happy on a roster, and some will not stick around with hopes to get more playing time. That, coupled with playing in C-USA each year, has made advancing to the NCAA Tournament a long shot each year for Miner fans."
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At a time when his program is battling Duke for numerous elite prospects, Kentucky coach John Calipari has chosen to take the fight public.
Buried in the middle of Calipari's latest blog post on his website is a thinly veiled shot at the Blue Devils and their typical sales pitch to top recruits.
"I refuse to go in a home and paint a picture saying things like, 'If you come with us you’ll be taken care of for the rest of your life by the program and by our alums' even though you may only be in school for a year or two," Calipari wrote. "How preposterous does that sound? What if I say that same thing and the young man decides to transfer for one reason or another? Does that still hold true that we’re going to take care of them the rest of their lives?
"Our approach is to give them the fishing rod and the lures to help them catch fish, not to just give you the fish. I want players to earn everything they get here and to feel that they’ve built their own self-esteem and confidence through demonstrated performance, that they’ve competed with other really good players, yet did it in a way that they remained great teammates. I want them to be brothers and build their own contacts and Rolodex in life. We will always be here to help, but they do not need to be beholden to any of us to use our contacts to help them."
While the words "Duke" and "Mike Krzyzewski" may be absent from the above paragraphs, there's little doubt the Blue Devils are the program that Calipari is referencing. For proof, check out how top 10 Class of 2017 prospects Hamidou Diallo and Wendell Carter described Duke's recruiting pitch in recent interviews with the Louisville Courier-Journal and 247Sports respectively.
Said Diallo, "Duke's [pitch] was "if I come to Duke, I will be set for life."
Said Carter, "Going to Duke, you’re pretty much set for life as a student and an athlete.”
The reference to a player transferring is no coincidence either. It was only a few weeks ago that former five-star point guard Derryck Thornton left Duke after just one season because his family was unhappy with how he was used in the Blue Devils' offense and felt he was not showcased as much as promised during the recruiting process.
Publicly taking shots at a rival program may not endear Calipari to anyone in Durham, but it's undeniably great theater for the rest of us. Kentucky and Duke are college basketball's two premier recruiting superpowers and the two leading contenders to be atop the preseason polls next November. If the buildup to next season includes some verbal sparring between Calipari and Krzyzewski, that can only help a sport that too often doesn't crack the news cycle until after the Super Bowl.
In this case, Calipari is speaking directly to undecided Class of 2016 big man Marques Bolden and to the handful of top 2017 prospects considering both Duke and Kentucky. Bolden, a highly coveted 6-foot-10 center from DeSoto, Texas, will almost certainly choose either the Blue Devils or the Wildcats whenever he announces his college destination later this spring.
There's one passage in Calipari's blog entry that appears to be a message specifically for Bolden. In it, Calipari tries one last time to make Bolden see the possibilities if he joins next season's Wildcats.
"I say all this with recruiting not quite finished," Calipari said. "Why not be the best rebounding team? Why not be the best shot-blocking team? Why not be the fastest team? Why not be an exciting offensive team that spreads the court, throws a lot of lobs and dunks a lot of balls, yet has players who can make shots?
What will be fascinating will be to see how the Duke-Kentucky war of words escalates in the future as the programs continue to battle.
Just like it's easy to find examples of players who enrolled at Duke and weren't "set for life," it's just as easy to poke holes in Calipari's pitch that coming to Kentucky instantly puts you on the fast track to the NBA. For every Karl-Anthony Towns, John Wall or Anthony Davis, there's a Skal Labissiere, Alex Poythress or Andrew or Aaron Harrison whose draft stock plummeted while they were in college.
The first response from Duke came via two well-timed tweets from Blue Devils assistant coach Jeff Capel on Monday evening. Like Calipari's blog post doesn't specifically refer to Duke, there's no mention of Kentucky, yet the context is clear.
True leadership...Basketball IS NOT life! Life is way more important! Glad we have a leader that teaches that! #🐐https://t.co/E2UTAOoEnu— Jeff Capel (@jeffcapel) May 10, 2016
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The day one of his friends called to ask if he wanted to fly with the Blue Angels, Nebraska coach Tim Miles approached his staff with a pressing question.
Do you think I'll die?
"They all unequivocally said, 'You will not die,'" Miles told Yahoo Sports on Monday. They said, 'You could pass out, you could puke or you could embarrass yourself,' but I can do all three of those things on a regular basis anyhow. So I said I'm doing it."
Last Tuesday morning, Miles indeed soared through the Nebraska sky with the U.S. Navy's most renowned flight demonstration squadron. The Blue Angels filmed Miles' 42-minute flight and used footage to promote the airshow they held in Lincoln this past weekend.
The pilot who took Miles up in an F/A-18 Hornet exceeded 600 miles per hour in the air and did everything from flying upside down, to barrel rolls, to loops. At one point in the flight, Miles reached for a barf bag but only dry-heaved. Later he also did several breathing exercises to make sure he stayed conscious.
"It was one of the most intense experiences I've been through," Miles said. "I lost five pounds and 10 years off my life.
"What happens when you pull all those Gs is the gravitational force is pulling everything to the ground. Your feet feel like cement blocks, you've got all this force on your chest and the blood is running out of your head. You have to do this breathing maneuver to try to keep oxygen and blood in your head so you don't pass out."
Miles' wife and 16-year-old daughter were on the ground filming him in the air. He emerged with newfound respect for the skill of the Blue Angels pilots and the power and maneuverability of the planes themselves.
"The Blue Angels are unbelievable," Miles said. "Our pilot that day did four flights I think. I needed a 2 1/2-hour nap after one of them."
More video of Miles' flight:
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About five decades after Rick Barry starred at the University of Miami, the NBA hall of famer's youngest son has passed on the chance to follow in his father's footsteps.
Coveted College of Charleston transfer Canyon Barry announced Monday that he has chosen Florida over the Hurricanes and a handful of other major-conference suitors.
Barry, a 6-foot-6 rising senior, has one year of eligibility remaining and will be able to play right away for the Gators next season. He is a significant addition for a Florida program looking to rebound after missing the NCAA tournament the past two years.
Before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the final two months of the 2015-16 season, Barry was averaging 19.7 points per game for a College of Charleston team that was 9-4 with him in the lineup and defeated LSU last December. He never shot more than 40.2 percent from the field in his three seasons with the Cougars, however, his efficiency should improve at Florida since he will not have to shoulder such a heavy burden.
At Florida, there's no guarantee Barry will even start, though he will definitely have the chance to play a big role regardless.
Sophomore-to-be Kevaughn Allen is Florida's leading returning scorer and the likely starter at shooting guard next season. Barry should compete with Devin Robinson and Justin Leon for playing time at small forward and should also see playing time spelling Allen at shooting guard.
Florida was a poor shooting team last season and it's losing leading scorer Dorian Finney-Smith to graduation. The addition of Barry should help solve that problem.
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In addition to finishing just one game out of last place in the Big Ten this past season, struggling Minnesota has another problem on its hands.
Its players can't seem to stay out of trouble.
Reggie Lynch became the latest Minnesota basketball player to make headlines for the wrong reasons on Sunday afternoon when he was arrested on suspicion of criminal sexual conduct. The school subsequently released a statement Sunday announcing Lynch has been suspended from all team activities indefinitely, pending the outcome of the investigation.
Lynch was taken into custody at around 1:30 on Sunday afternoon. The 6-foot-9 center has not been formally charged but is being held without bail in Hennepin County jail.
An Illinois State transfer who sat out all of last season, Lynch was expected to be a key contributor next season for a Minnesota team that lost top big man Joey King to graduation this spring. Lynch averaged 9.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game as a sophomore at Illinois State during the 2014-15 season.
Lynch's arrest adds to the string of off-the-court problems Minnesota has endured in the past two years.
In Nov. 2014, guard Daquein McNeil was charged with felony domestic assault. He was suspended from the team indefinitely and left school two months later.
This past February, three Gophers players were suspended after sex videos appeared on the social media sites of freshman Kevin Dorsey. No charges were filed, however, Dorsey announced last month that he will transfer.
In February, Minnesota also dismissed senior guard Carlos Morris for unspecified "conduct detrimental to the team."
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He's from the San Diego area. He visited San Diego State last week. The Oceanside restaurant where he made his announcement was decorated with red and black balloons.
All signs pointed to high-scoring San Francisco transfer Devin Watson selecting San Diego State on Sunday evening, and sure enough that's exactly what happened. The 6-foot-1 point guard unzipped a black warmup jacket to reveal an Aztecs basketball shirt underneath, a decision that inspired shouts and applause from the few dozen friends and family family members in attendance.
Watson elected to return home and play for San Diego State despite interest from the likes of Cal, UNLV and Kansas among other programs. He will sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining thereafter.
The offer from San Diego State required patience from Watson. He initially committed to Oregon State during high school only to change his mind when the Beavers landed Gary Payton II out of junior college. By the time Watson was back on the market, San Diego State had already landed a point guard in the 2014 class and no longer had interest in him.
Watson instead went to San Francisco, where he broke into the starting lineup midway through his freshman season and then blossomed into an all-league standout this past season. He averaged 20.3 points and 4.9 assists as a sophomore for a Dons team that went 15-15 and finished in fifth place in the WCC.
When San Francisco fired head coach Rex Walters, Watson chose to explore his options on the transfer market. This time San Diego State was interested from the start.
The addition of Watson should give San Diego State the option of playing two point guards together during the 2017-18 season. By that time starting point guard Jeremy Hemsley would also be a junior, however, he is big enough to guard opposing shooting guards. Throw in all-conference guard Trey Kell, who would be a senior on that team, and that could be one of the most potent backcourts Steve Fisher has coached at San Diego State since the days of Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley and Xavier Thames.
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Washington boosted its chances of landing one of the Class of 2017's top prospects on Friday when it hired his father as an assistant coach.
Michael Porter Sr. will replace Brad Jackson on Lorenzo Romar's staff, he confirmed to Yahoo Sports via text message. Washington subsequently announced the news.
“We’re extremely excited to have Mike and his family join us,” Romar said in a statement from Washington. “I’ve known him for many years and he will be a very valuable addition to our coaching staff. Mike has a very high level of experience in player development and also provides a network of recruiting in the Midwest that we have not really been able to tap into. There’s no doubt he will help our program continue to grow and be a great mentor to our guys."
Porter is the father of two coveted prospects, skilled, athletic 6-foot-8 small forward Michael Porter Jr. (No. 2 in Class of 2017) and four-star 6-foot-8 power forward Jontay Porter (No. 45 in Class of 2018). Washington received a commitment from Jontay last August and is one of many elite programs pursuing Michael Jr. along with Kansas, Missouri, Duke, Kentucky and others.
While luring Michael Jr. was surely part of the impetus for hiring his dad, this isn't quite as cynical a move as when Larry Brown hired Danny Manning's father at Kansas or John Calipari invented a job for DaJuan Wagner's father at Memphis.
Romar has been a close friend of Michael Sr. since they played together for Athletes in Action in the 1980s and he is godfather to Michael Jr. The elder Porter also has ample coaching experience, first as an AAU coach in Indiana and most recently as an assistant coach for the Missouri women's basketball team.
Washington has not made the NCAA tournament since 2011, but the Huskies are starting to stockpile talent like they did in their heyday under Romar. Early defections from Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss will hurt in the short term, but elite point guard Markelle Fultz is Seattle-bound next fall and perhaps both Porter brothers may follow soon after.
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In the 13 years since the birth of Rivals.com, TCU's struggling basketball program landed only two top 150 prospects.
The Horned Frogs matched that total in this year's class alone.
Guard Josh Parrish, Rivals.com's No. 149 recruit, signed with TCU in November and did not renege on that commitment even after coach Trent Johnson was fired. Then new coach Jamie Dixon added to that haul on Wednesday when he landed Rivals.com's No. 55 recruit, guard Jaylen Fisher.
Fisher is the highest rated recruit TCU has landed since the first edition of the Rivals rankings back in 2003. He had originally committed to UNLV but reopened his recruitment when the Rebels fired head coach Dave Rice and chose not to retain assistant coach Ryan Miller.
While more than 20 schools offered Fisher a scholarship, TCU became an instant contender when Dixon added Miller to his staff last month. Fisher's bond with Miller made him take a closer look at a Horned Frogs program that has not been to the NCAA tournament since 1998 and has not finished above .500 in league play since 2001.
What Fisher discovered was a program that is more appealing than it might seem on the surface. Dixon has a track record of success from his Pittsburgh tenure, TCU is committed to investing money into its program to make it competitive and the rebuilding Horned Frogs should have ample playing time available after a season in which they lost 21 games and went 2-16 in Big 12 play.
What TCU is getting in Fisher is a physical, aggressive point guard capable of attacking the rim at one end and containing opposing perimeter scorers at the other.
The Memphis native should be able to contribute right away and be a key piece of the Horned Frogs' rebuilding process.
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All-Big Ten center Matt Costello is graduating. Fellow starter Deyonta Davis is off to the NBA. Key reserve Marvin Clark is transferring.
Michigan State had little choice but to explore the graduate transfer market in search of further frontcourt depth, and the Spartans appear to have found the late addition they coveted.
Former UNLV forward Ben Carter will transfer to Michigan State, he announced via Twitter on Wednesday. The 6-foot-9 senior has one year of college eligibility remaining and will be eligible to play right away for the Spartans next season.
A former Rivals 150 prospect in the Class of 2012, Carter spent the first two years of his college career at Oregon before transferring to hometown UNLV. He averaged 8.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 24 minutes per game for the Rebels last season before tearing the ACL in his left knee midway through conference play.
Carter likely would have returned to UNLV for his final season had many of his teammates not defected after the Rebels fired coach Dave Rice and bumbled their way through a lengthy coaching search. Instead Carter chose to look elsewhere in hopes of finding a program where he could contribute as a senior and have the chance to play for a winning team.
"When I really thought about it, I realized how I want my college career to end," Carter told RunRebs.com in a first-person essay explaining his decision to transfer. "I want it to end on a ladder. I want to stand on a ladder, cut down a piece of a net and look into the stands and see my father. I want to share that moment with him.
"I wish that moment could have happened at UNLV. Las Vegas is home, for me and my family. But as I looked at my situation objectively, I came to believe that the only way to achieve that moment was to leave and pursue it at another school."
At Michigan State, Carter is likely to be a key reserve.
Gavin Schilling will likely inherit the role of Michigan State's top big man from Costello. Six-foot-6 incoming freshman Miles Bridges will probably spend a lot of time playing undersized power forward. Carter and former walk-on Kenny Goins become Tom Izzo's most viable options to either play alongside Schilling when Michigan State wants to go bigger or spell him at center when he needs a rest.
Carter's transfer is one that appears to be a good fit for both sides.
Michigan State shores up its thin frontcourt with a reliable fifth-year big man who can provide low-post scoring, rebounding and rim protection. Carter gets the chance to go to a winning program and compete for championships the way he would not have been able to at rebuilding UNLV.
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The improbable hero of Michigan's 2013 national title game appearance will finish his college basketball career at another Big Ten school.
Spike Albrecht announced Tuesday that he is transferring to Purdue.
Excited to announce that I'll be playing my 5th year for Purdue University!! #BoilerUp— Spike Albrecht (@SpikeAlbrecht) May 3, 2016
A graduate transfer who has one more year of eligibility remaining, Albrecht should provide leadership for a Boilermakers team otherwise without a single scholarship senior. He also should have an opportunity to vie for playing time at point guard next season if he can stay healthy.
Albrecht's Michigan career ended last December due to a genetic hip condition that has hampered him for the past two seasons. The 5-foot-11 senior underwent two hip surgeries last offseason and only managed 1.9 points and 1.4 assists in 8.6 minutes per game last season.
When healthier, Albrecht has shown the ability to contribute far more than that at the Big Ten level even though he was lightly recruited out of high school.
Appalachian State was the only Division I school interested enough in Albrecht to offer the Northfield Mt. Hermon Prep guard a scholarship until Michigan learned of him in March 2012. The Wolverines were desperate for a point guard because they feared star Trey Burke might turn pro after his freshman year, so they gambled on Albrecht, promising a reserve role if Burke remained and the chance to compete for a starting gig if he left.
Burke stayed one more year but Albrecht still found a way to make a memorable contribution as a freshman. He had seven points in the Elite Eight against Florida, sank two big threes in the Final Four against Syracuse and memorably erupted for 17 points in the first half of the national title game against Louisville after early foul trouble sidelined Burke. Michigan ultimately lost but Albrecht garnered enough newfound fame that he asked Kate Upton out on a date via social media the next day.
What Purdue has to hope is that it's getting the player who averaged 7.5 points and 3.9 assists per game as a junior at Michigan. If so, Albrecht could be an impact player for a Boilermakers team that reached the NCAA tournament last season but often struggled against full-court pressure, especially in a season-ending late collapse against Arkansas Little Rock.
Purdue does return P.J. Thompson, a junior-to-be who started at point guard throughout the postseason and averaged 5.7 points and 2.7 assists. Incoming freshman Carsen Edwards has the potential to someday be the scoring threat at point guard the Boilermakers have lacked in recent years. But Albrecht could be the best of the bunch next season if healthy — or at the very least could come off the bench to provide 15-20 steady minutes per game.
The past three offseasons, Purdue has added a graduate transfer at point guard with mostly beneficial results. Sterling Carter was a capable backup to Ronnie Johnson, Jon Octeus earned honorable mention all-Big Ten honors and helped Purdue return to the NCAA tournament and Johnny Hill was a part-time starter last season before ceding the position to Thompson late in the year.
Albrecht is a riskier addition because of his injury history, but he is capable of following in the footsteps of those players if healthy.
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Legendary former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight endorsed Donald Trump for president in a characteristically fiery, pugnacious speech on Wednesday night.
• On Trump's qualifications: “They talk in a negative way when they want to about Donald, and say he isn’t presidential. I don’t know what the hell that means. To me I think of Harry Truman, they said Harry Truman wasn’t presidential. And damn he went on to be one of the three best presidents in U.S. history. [Trump] will at some point be one of those also.”
• On Trump's managerial touch: "He does a great job of finding good people and teaching good people. And even as important, he's really good at getting rid of people."
• On the value of Trump's supporters: "They're going to take all you people and put you next to our founding fathers and George Washington. That's what the hell they're going to do with you people."
• On military service: "I want all you Navy people to please raise your hands. And I want you to know that I spent eight years teaching soldiers at the United States Military Academy. And we played Navy eight straight years, folks, and we beat your ass every year we played you."
• On Trump's status as candidate: "I again thank you for the opportunity to coach basketball in this state, and now I give you the very best choice that's ever been made to take over as a president, I give you Donald Trump."
Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight says Donald Trump could be one of the best presidents everhttps://t.co/YczehcXaMg— FOX & Friends (@foxandfriends) April 28, 2016
• On the similarities between himself and Trump, on Fox News: "If we're involved in something where we want to win, particularly something necessary, if there's something out there we want to win, we're going to try and beat your ass every time."
• On Trump's preparation: "There has never been a presidential candidate prepared to the length that this man is. I’m not here to represent the Republican Party or any organization that deals with politics. I think the most important thing in the world is that we vote for the best man for the job, and you’ve already met him."
Indiana voters will make thier choice for a Republican nominee next Tuesday. If Trump wins a majority of the state's delegates, he will be well on the path to the party's nomination. However, Indiana is heavily contested territory; polls generally favor Trump, but FiveThirtyEight posits a 53 percent chance the state could go for Republican rival Ted Cruz.
The selection of Knight as an endorser could cut either way for Trump. Knight won three national championships during his years at Indiana, but was fired in 2000 after violating the university's zero-tolerance stance on bad behavior when he lectured at, and grabbed the arm of, a student he perceived as disrespectful. Knight has since refused to associate himself with the university in any way, despite the efforts of later coaches and administrators to bring him back into the fold.
A South Sudanese man who was arrested in Canada last week for allegedly posing as a teenager in order to gain entry to the country and play high school basketball admitted in a immigration and refugee board hearing he is not a teenager but claimed he does not know his true age.
Canadian border officers arrested Jonathan Nicola on April 15 after receiving confirmation from the United States that Nicola’s fingerprints matched those of a man who had applied for a visa to the U.S. from Syria using a birth date in 1986. Nicola is believed to be 29.
He had been in Canada attending Catholic Central high school in Windsor and playing basketball for the school on scholarship since November 2015. His situation came to the attention of authorities when the coach at the school helped Nicola submit paperwork to allow him to travel with the team to the U.S. to play in games here.
During the hearing, Nicola told the officiant of the Canadian Immigration Division that he is ‘not a liar person’ but does not know his true age because his mother never told him his true birthday because she could not remember it. Nicola also said a man who originally processed his paperwork in South Sudan went forward with it despite Nicola never being able to provide an accurate age.
“I really do not know what is my real age, I cannot tell you what is my real age,” he said during the hearing, according to an official transcript provided to Yahoo Sports. “But over there my mom always keep telling us different age, I do not remember what specific age, I always keep her asking like what is the specific age that I was born, and she has told me that she could not remember.”
The officiant, Valerie Currie, eventually ruled that Nicola be detained because he was a flight risk. She also said she did not believe that Nicola was being honest in saying that he didn’t know his true age.
“You have misrepresented yourself and you have been untruthful in order to achieve your goals and that shows considerable disrespect for the laws of Canada, specifically the immigration laws of Canada,” Currie said. “Those circumstances suggests to me that you are a person who cannot be trusted to comply with the laws of Canada.”
An Immigration Refugee Board has since determined that Nicola should remain in detention until a May 24 hearing. During his first hearing, Nicola said he has had suicidal thoughts while under arrest and would like to return to South Sudan to be reunited with his mother.
Nicola is 6-foot-9 and helped the Catholic Central team advance to the second round of the Ontario Federation of Schools Athletic Association playoffs this season.
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When the NCAA dragged its feet for months in sending North Carolina an amended Notice of Allegations, many wondered whether the lengthy delay suggested that investigators had found new evidence that might lead to additional charges.
That doesn't appear to be the case.
The amended Notice of Allegations that North Carolina received on Monday isn't strikingly different from the original one the university received last May. North Carolina still faces five top-level violations, but the gentler wording suggests there's less reason to believe the Tar Heels will be hammered with severe sanctions by the committee on infractions later this year.
The biggest change is to the first of the five major rules violations the NCAA discovered while investigating academic fraud in African Studies classes that benefited Tar Heels athletes in disproportionate numbers. Whereas that allegation in the first NOA was very broad and left the committee on infractions ample options for how it could choose to punish North Carolina, this one seems to be more narrowly focused on women's basketball.
In the original Notice of Allegations, the NCAA stated that North Carolina athletes received impermissible benefits unavailable to the rest of the student body when their academic counselors obtained special assistance and privileges for them. In the amended Notice of Allegations, former women's hoops academic counselor Jan Boxill is the only person specifically accused of knowingly providing extra benefits in the form of impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements.
There's no specific mention of either North Carolina football or men's basketball in the 13-page Notice of Allegations even though athletes from both programs were enrolled African Studies classes throughout the period in which the NCAA investigated. The Raleigh News & Observer has previously reported that North Carolina' men's basketball players were enrolled in fake classes in heavy numbers during the 2004-05 season that ended in Roy Williams' first national championship.
While the wording of the amended Notice of Allegations suggests that women's basketball will be the sport hit hardest by committee on infractions, it doesn't guarantee that football, men's basketball and the rest of the athletic department will get away with just a wrist slap.
The fourth allegation states that from 2005-2011, North Carolina failed to sufficiently monitor its academic support program for student-athletes and the African Studies department. The fifth charges North Carolina with a lack of institutional control and asserts the athletic department cast a blind eye as to why so many athletes were enrolled in African Studies courses.
The remaining two allegations target African American Studies department officials Deborah Crowder and Dr. Julius Nyang’oro for their failure to cooperate in the NCAA's investigation. Those are worded almost exactly as they were in the initial NOA.
North Carolina now has another 90 days to respond to the amended NOA, though the university may not require that full time period. The NCAA will then set a date for North Carolina to appear before the NCAA committee on the infractions.
What that means is that it could take until late 2016 or early 2017 for the Committee on Infractions to reveal the penalties and sanctions North Carolina could face.
The NCAA had to send North Carolina an amended NOA because school officials uncovered new evidence only days before they were due to respond to the original NOA.
Last October, North Carolina notified the NCAA that it has found "additional examples of possible instances of improper academic assistance provided to a few former women’s basketball players." The Tar Heels also discovered "potential recruiting violations in the men’s soccer program that allegedly occurred over the past two years."
Given the similarities between the original NOA and the new one, one lingering question is why it took the NCAA eight months to send North Carolina the revised version.
The uncertainty will make it difficult for Williams to recruit, but with the way the new NOA is worded, he'll have an easier time persuading prospects they can come to North Carolina without fear of heavy sanctions or a postseason ban.
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In a year in which virtually every other potential first-round pick at least declared for the draft to get a better idea of his NBA stock, Cal's Ivan Rabb is the rare exception.
The 6-foot-11 freshman announced he will return to the Bears next season soon after the deadline to enter the draft passed on Sunday night.
Rabb is probably the most decorated NBA prospect who will definitely return to college next season. Had he chosen to enter the draft, he likely would have been selected in the first round and perhaps would have gone in the top 15 or 20.
"Ivan is an tremendous person and student-athlete to have on our team," Cal coach Cuonzo Martin said in a statement. "He and his family have put a lot of thought into making a decision that was right for him. He is a talented basketball player with a very bright future, and we are excited to have Ivan continue as a member of our Cal basketball program."
Rabb played in all 34 games this past season, shot 61.5 percent from the field and averaged 12.5 points and a team-high 8.6 rebounds. He could have a monster sophomore season and perhaps improve his draft stock if he adds muscle and develops into a dominant player at both ends.
Cal will need Rabb to be exceptional to finish in the upper third of a Pac-12 that could be very good next season.
Oregon could return the core of an Elite Eight team if Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks return. Arizona and UCLA will be loaded with young talent. USC could be Top 25 good even without Julian Jacobs and even better than that if he does come back.
With two starters returning besides Rabb, Cal should be in the next tier along with Utah, Colorado, Oregon State and Washington. Point guard Sam Singer and wings Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews form a solid perimeter unit, but the Bears will miss the ability of Tyrone Wallace and Jaylen Brown to create off the dribble for themselves and others.
Still, Rabb's return will go a long way toward hiding that. The Bears should now have one of the top non-freshmen in the nation next season to anchor their frontcourt.
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One morning last spring, Gregory Dole received a call from a friend with whom he'd played high school basketball in Tanzania nearly two decades ago.
Deng D'Awol asked Dole for help finding a school in Canada that would be interested in a 16-year-old basketball phenom he'd discovered in war-weary South Sudan.
"Deng told me, 'There's this amazing kid I want to help get a scholarship,'" Dole told Yahoo Sports on Thursday. "He told me this kid is the best player he's seen in Eastern Africa. He told me this kid reminds him of a young Kevin Durant.' When someone says that, your ears tend to perk up."
Such sky-high praise typically would have inspired skepticism in basketball circles, but Dole trusted his friend's assessment. After all, Deng is a 7-foot-1 center who set shot-blocking records at NAIA Wayland Baptist University, played professionally in the American Basketball Association and overseas and now helps coach and train kids in his native South Sudan.
Dole reached out to a longtime high school coach in Windsor. Catholic Central coach Pete Cusumano agreed to not only take the 6-foot-9 center on his team but also house him for the remainder of his high school career. Everything seemed to be going smoothly until Dole and Cusumano learned that Jonathon Nicola may only be posing as a teenager.
Nicola was arrested last Friday by Canadian border officers for allegedly misrepresenting his age on his application for a study permit for Canada, the Windsor Star first reported Wednesday night. Yahoo Sports confirmed on Thursday that Canadian authorities have evidence Nicola may actually be 12 years older than he purported to be.
When Nicola arrived in Canada last November, his passport indicated his date of birth was Nov. 25, 1998, as did his application for a Canadian study abroad permit. The Canada Border Service Agency flagged Nicola when he tried to enter Michigan last Friday because a fingerprint match revealed he was the same person who had previously applied to visit the U.S. using a date of birth of Nov. 1, 1986.
"Mr. Nicola‘s date of birth was determined to be November 1, 1986 following his application for a U.S. visitor visa," said Anna Pape of Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board. Pape added that Nicola is being detained until his next admissibility hearing on Tuesday "on the grounds that he presents a flight risk."
While the notion of a 29-year-old man posing as a high school junior has to be terrifying to everyone at Catholic Central, school officials thus far are staying tight-lipped. Cusumano told Yahoo Sports on Thursday that he is "not allowed to comment," citing a directive from the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board.
School board spokesman Stephen Fields told Yahoo Sports he would not comment specifically on Nicola's arrest because the case is ongoing. Speaking in general terms, Fields cited the "rigorous system" the school board has in place requiring international students to present valid government documentation — passports and study permits — before they can be enrolled.
Among the few at Catholic Central to address the saga publicly was Richie Akinsanya, a senior point guard on the school's basketball team. Akinsanya tweeted in support of Nicola on Wednesday night, writing "If you were in a war torn country and were given an opportunity to get out, you'd take it in a heartbeat too."
The prospect of a fresh start in a new country had to be very appealing to Nicola. Residents of conflict-stricken South Sudan face ongoing civil war, frequent food shortages and unfathomable poverty.
When D'Awol first saw Nicola play last spring at a tournament in South Sudan's capital city of Juba, he asked to speak with Nicola's mother about the possibility of helping her son find a scholarship opportunity overseas. The scene D'Awol found at Nicola's house was tragic yet typical for South Sudan.
D'Awol estimated that Nicola and as many as 30 relatives lived in one house with just four or five bedrooms. One of the few members of the family with a full-time job was Nicola's father, a petroleum engineer who works primarily in the Middle East and sends home as much money as he can.
"He comes from a poor family," D'Awol told Yahoo Sports. "They all stay in one house including uncles, aunts, their children and their children's children. And the whole household is supported by an individual or two. That's basically the reality for about 85 percent of people in South Sudan."
Before last spring, D'Awol had no prior relationship with Nicola because he comes from a different tribe and he had traveled for several years with his father. Among the first things D'Awol says he asked Nicola was his age and whether he had documentation. Nicola told him he was a few months shy of his 17th birthday and then produced a passport that appeared to verify that.
"I had no questions whatsoever about his age," D'Awol said. "I saw the documentation. There was no reason for me to doubt him."
Convinced that Nicola was a Division I-caliber talent at minimum, D'Awol agreed to help him find a way to further his education abroad through basketball, something he says he has done previously for a handful of other promising African prospects. D'Awol admits he accepted "a couple hundred dollars" from the family for his services yet insists his primary motivation was to give Nicola the chance to use basketball to better himself the same way he once he did.
"Out of my own pocket I spent a lot more than the money that they gave me," D'Awol said. "From what they gave me and what I spent, I didn't gain anything."
When Nicola arrived at Catholic Central in late November after finally obtaining his study permit, his towering height, size 16 shoes and 7-foot-4 wingspan instantly attracted attention. Cusumano cautioned that Nicola had scarcely played any organized basketball in South Sudan yet even he couldn't help gushing about his new center's potential.
“I think this kid will have a chance at the NBA,” Cusumano told the Windsor Star in January. “I have never said that about any kid from Windsor.”
Despite his edge in size and strength, Nicola was far from dominant this past season. He protected the rim on defense and scored on dunks, put-backs and an occasional low-post move on offense for a Catholic Central team that won 26 games but only advanced one round in the Ontario Federation of Schools Athletic Association playoffs.
When Massey coach Keith McShan first caught a glimpse of Nicola before his team's Dec. 3 matchup with Catholic Central, he likened the massive center to former Ohio State star Greg Oden, a 7-footer who always looked older than his actual age. McShan insists that he harbors no grudge against Catholic Central for using a potentially ineligible player even though his Massey team lost twice to the Comets during the regular season.
"There's no bitterness," McShan told Yahoo Sports. "At first I was shocked, but now I just feel sorry for the man. He had to fake being 17 to leave his war-torn country and come to Canada. I felt sorry for him that he had to go to that extent."
Nicola's case is certainly not the first example of an athlete lying about his age.
Just six years ago, 21-year-old Haitian immigrant Guerdwich Montimere claimed to be 17-year-old Jerry Joseph in order to be eligible to compete in basketball for Permian High School in Odessa, Texas. The practice has also been common among Venezuelan and Dominican baseball prospects, who lie to scouts about their age to make it seem like they had more upside than they actually did.
One of the lingering questions in the Nicola case is whether anyone involved besides him knew that he was merely masquerading as a teenager.
It seems difficult to believe Cusumano would knowingly risk tarnishing a successful coaching career one year before retirement by playing a 29-year-old. Dole says he too was shocked by this week's revelation. D'Awol is still having a hard time believing Nicola isn't 17 and is hopeful the Canadian authorities have somehow made a mistake.
"There's a lot of people that have put a lot of time and energy into helping Jonathon," D'Awol said. "I've spent a lot of time with Jonathon and to be honest he is a great person. But if this information about him being 29 years old is true, then I'm very disappointed."
While both Dole and D'Awol have full-time jobs unrelated to basketball, both say they dabble in helping prospects from basketball-bereft regions find opportunities overseas.
Dole is well connected in international basketball circles thanks to his travels in Africa, Brazil and elsewhere. Nearly a decade ago, he helped Brazilian-born NBA guard Leandro Barbosa come to the U.S. and showcase his talents for NBA scouts.
D'Awol's primary region of expertise is Africa, especially his native South Sudan. He says there are so many men 7-foot or taller there that it's the only place in the world his height doesn't make him an anomaly.
Before Nicola's arrest, D'Awol says he'd have helped any kid he believed had the talent and work ethic to succeed in basketball. Now he may limit himself to only those kids who he has known since birth and whose age he can verify.
"I haven't slept well for the last two days trying to understand how this could have happened," D'Awol said. "How could no one know that he's not 17? How can he do all these things with documentation and everything without anyone questioning it or trying to stop it from happening?"
Half the world away in Windsor, Ontario, lots of people are asking the same questions.
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Just eight days ago, Dedric Lawson announced he was returning to Memphis for his sophomore season. Then on Wednesday afternoon, ESPN.com reported the freshman forward is planning to test the waters again.
It's possible Lawson is merely experiencing some indecision. It seems more likely this sudden flip flop is more calculated than that.
Keelon Lawson, the father of Dedric and fellow Memphis freshman K.J. Lawson, was an assistant coach on Josh Pastner's staff for the past two seasons. Keelon was all but certain to retain that job for a third season until Pastner left for Georgia Tech on April 8 and Memphis hired Tubby Smith as his replacement nearly a week later.
Smith has yet to announce who he will hire as his assistant coaches, but he has a history of loyalty to guys who have been on his staff before. CBSSports.com reported Sunday that Alvin "Pooh" Williamson will follow Smith from Texas Tech to Memphis. Joe Esposito's presence at a University of Memphis baseball game on Tuesday suggests he'll likely do the same.
That theoretically leaves one remaining spot on Smith's staff, which could be earmarked for Keelon Lawson or any other potential candidate including one of Smith's sons. Saul Smith was an assistant under his dad at Minnesota before a 2012 DUI and a video coordinator under his dad at Texas Tech the past three years.
Given his father's tenuous job status, Dedric's newfound interest in exploring his draft options might be a leverage ploy. Some reporters who are very well connected in Memphis view it as Keelon's way of putting pressure on Smith to either retain him as an assistant coach or risk losing his best player.
You don't withdraw from the draft only to put your name back in eight days later for no reason. Pretty plain to see what's happening.— John Martin (@JohnMartin929) April 20, 2016
(Of course, this could just be code for, “Tubby, you’d better keep my dad on staff or else I’m leaving for sure.”)— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) April 20, 2016
Dedric just completed one of the best freshman campaigns in Memphis history, averaging 15.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. The skilled 6-foot-9 18-year-old has first-round potential if he returns to school and solidifies some of his weak spots, but he'd be more likely to fall to the second round if he were to come out this spring.
Dedric appeared excited about returning to Memphis in his public comments both before and after Smith's hiring. In an April 12 statement, he explained that taking his name out of consideration for the NBA draft would enable him to play another year with K.J. and give him time to improve his draft stock.
There's more at stake for Smith here too than simply losing Dedric to the NBA draft and K.J. to a potential transfer. Chandler Lawson, a highly touted Class of 2019 prospect, has the potential to be even better than his two older brothers.
To anyone naive enough to think Keelon wouldn't be cynical enough to use his son to help him retain his job, consider how he got the job in the first place.
Keelon was a successful high school coach in Memphis with no coaching experience in college basketball. He landed a spot on Pastner's bench by making it well known that he'd deliver all three of his sons to a head coach who hired him.
"If you hire me, I'm automatically bringing you top-20 players in the country," Keelon told CBSSports.com in 2014. "Automatically. There are coaches sitting on benches right now who can't do that."
The arrangement Keelon and Pastner made two years ago was legal under NCAA rules and nowhere near as egregious as previous package deals.
John Calipari hired DaJuan Wagner's father at Memphis to help him land the heralded guard. Herb Sendek brought along James Harden's high school coach to help him nab the future NBA all-star. Larry Brown once hired Danny Manning's father at Kansas even though he had limited previous coaching experience.
The ideal scenario for Smith would be to create a lucrative non-coaching position for Keelon and then make it financially worthwhile for him to accept that demotion, however, it appears that's no longer permissible. A recent rule change by the NCAA prohibits schools from hiring anybody associated with a basketball recruit to a non-coaching role for a two-year period before or after the athlete enrolls.
Assuming Memphis can't find a loophole, Smith has two options. He can either call Keelon's bluff, opt not to retain him and risk losing his sons. Or he can retain Smith as an assistant coach for at least one year and likely keep Dedric and K.J. in the fold. Under the second scenario, he could potentially have one of his guys from Texas Tech come aboard in a non-coaching role with the promise he'd replace Keelon as an assistant as soon as next spring.
That latter option is probably the best-case scenario for the short-term future of Memphis basketball if Smith can stomach it.
Pastner left him a mess at Memphis. This is Smith's first big decision as he determines how to rebuild.
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Dwayne "Pearl" Washington, one of the most beloved basketball players in Syracuse history, died Wednesday at age 52, the school announced.
The heralded point guard was diagnosed with a brain tumor last summer and underwent surgery and various other treatments since the tumor was detected.
Washington became a legend at Syracuse during a three-year college career in which he earned first-team all-Big East honors three times. He averaged 15.7 points and 2.3 steals and still ranks third all-time in school history in assists despite turning pro after his junior year in 1986.
While Washington's stats alone are impressive, it was the flair and pizazz with which he played that made him a fan favorite. He had a handle so tight he could practically dribble through a crowded subway and a crossover dribble so lethal it often sent hapless defenders sprawling.
Washington also had a knack for coming up big at the biggest moments. His most memorable shot was a half-court buzzer beater during his freshman season that toppled 16th-ranked Boston College and helped a previously unranked Syracuse team gain national relevance.
In Washington's final season at Syracuse, he led the Orange to a share of the Big East title and saved his best moments for the conference tournament. He had 21 points and 11 assists in a semifinal victory over Georgetown and 20 points and 14 assists in a one-point title game loss to St. John's, earning tournament MVP honors even though Syracuse finished as runner-ups.
There was no better guy and there’s nobody who has meant more to our basketball program than Dwayne Washington.#CuseFamily— Jim Boeheim (@therealboeheim) April 20, 2016
You will forever be in our hearts. We love you.— Jim Boeheim (@therealboeheim) April 20, 2016
Washington developed his crowd-pleasing style on the blacktops of New York City. The Brooklyn native was already a playground phenomenon before he arrived at Syracuse, earning the nickname "Pearl" as a tribute to NBA great Earl "The Pearl" Monroe.
Washington became one of the most coveted recruits in the nation at Brooklyn's Boys and Girls High School, where he routinely scored as many as 50 or 60 points in a single game. He chose Syracuse during an interview with Al McGuire at halftime of a nationally televised game between St. John's and DePaul.
The timing of Washington's arrival was fortuitous for both Syracuse and the fledgling Big East conference.
He helped Syracuse evolve from a regional power to a national brand. He teamed with early Big East stars Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing to transform the Big East into college basketball's glamour conference. And he inspired future guards such as Tim Hardaway and Allen Iverson with his shake-and-bake crossovers and deadly leaning jumpers.
While Washington lasted only three seasons in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets and expansion Miami Heat, that never diminished his stature at Syracuse. In March 1996, Washington's jersey was retired in a ceremony at the Carrier Dome.
Washington was a frequent visitor at the Carrier Dome before falling ill. This past season, Syracuse honored Washington by wearing warmup shirts with "Pearl" and "31" inscribed on them.
Highlights from Washington's Syracuse career:
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Though Ben Simmons and Tim Quarterman have both already turned pro this spring, LSU will at least get one of its stars back next season.
Freshman Antonio Blakeney will return to the Tigers, the school announced Tuesday afternoon.
Blakeney originally declared for the NBA draft without hiring an agent earlier this month, leaving open the possibility of a return to school. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard decided to return without even waiting to see if he'd receive an invite to next month's NBA draft combine.
"After consulting with my coaches and with my family, I have decided to return to LSU for my sophomore season," Blakeney said in a statement. "I believe I can further improve my skill set in different areas to become even more effective for my team in the future.
"Although I finished the year strong and posted a solid season, I think it is in my best interest to return and continue to improve as I strive and prepare to be the best I can be. This will also allow me to continue with my schoolwork and continue to move forward on my college degree."
A McDonald's All-American best known for his perimeter scoring prowess, Blakeney improved over the course of his freshman season. The Florida native averaged 18.6 points during LSU's last 11 games of the season, showcasing an ability to score off the dribble, to get to the foul line and to knock down enough outside shots to prevent defenders from sagging off him.
For Blakeney to evolve from a potential second-round draft pick to a surefire first-rounder, he'll need to become a more consistent outside shooter and a better all-around prospect. It also wouldn't hurt if he led LSU to the type of team success that was elusive this past season when the underachieving Tigers failed to reach the NCAA tournament despite the presence of Simmons and a talent-laden supporting cast.
"His return will automatically give us another prolific scorer and the experience factor that is needed as we continue moving forward for next season," LSU coach Johnny Jones said in a statement. "We will work diligently to help him continue to improve this offseason as he strives to be the best."
Blakeney and interior standout Craig Victor will be LSU's one-two punch next season. They'll likely be joined in LSU's starting lineup by rising junior guard Jalyn Patterson and rising sophomore Brandon Sampson.
That's nowhere near the talent LSU boasted this past season, but with better chemistry and a stronger commitment to defense, perhaps the Tigers can still achieve more.
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One day after new UNLV coach Chris Beard bolted for Texas Tech, Rebels athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy moved quickly to identify a replacement.
She hired the coach Beard initially beat out for the job less than three weeks ago.
New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies will be UNLV's next coach pending approval of the Nevada Board of Regents next week. Menzies worked as an assistant under Steve Fisher, former UNLV coach Lon Kruger and Rick Pitino before becoming head coach of the Aggies nine years ago.
In his past five years at New Mexico State, Menzies has presided over the Aggies' most successful era since their heyday in the early 90s. He has won 23 or more games each season, captured a pair of WAC regular season titles and made the NCAA tournament four times.
The one hole in Menzies' resume is a lack of signature victories. New Mexico State did not win an NCAA tournament game during his tenure, nor did the Aggies defeat a power-conference opponent. They did have a pair of near-misses in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, however, against both Michigan State and San Diego State.
It had to be awkward for UNLV to come back to Menzies after passing on him during the initial search, but the Rebels had little choice but to act quickly. Transfers, defections and early departures for the NBA draft gutted their roster and incoming recruiting class and both the spring signing period and spring evaluation period started already this week.
The first priority for Menzies will undoubtedly be trying to entice back Patrick McKaw, Ben Carter and some of the incoming recruits who have sought a release from their letter of intents. He'll also need to hire a staff as soon as possible so they can get out on the recruiting trail.
When Kunzer-Murphy spoke at Beard's introductory news conference last week, she declared that he was the right coach to bring the Rebels back to prominence after three straight seasons without an NCAA tournament bid.
Now she can only hope Menzies is capable of the same.
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At his introductory news conference at UNLV seven days ago, Chris Beard described coaching the Rebels as "the opportunity of a lifetime."
The 43-year-old coach surely sincerely believed that at the time after working his way from the junior college ranks, to Division II, to a low-major Division I job before finally breaking through.
Everything changed for Beard on Wednesday, however, when Memphis began its whirlwind pursuit of Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith. By Thursday morning, Smith accepted the Memphis job. By Thursday afternoon, Texas Tech officials were en route to Las Vegas to meet with Beard. And by nightfall, Beard had less than 24 hours to decide whether to stay at UNLV or take a job he coveted more than almost any other.
Beard accepted an offer to become Texas Tech's next coach on Friday, a decision that certainly has not endeared him to the school he is jilting. Many UNLV fans are furious that Beard is leaving less than three weeks after he accepted the job, especially since they hold him partially responsible for gutting the roster, running off last year's assistants and leaving the next coach with a total rebuild.
UNLV athletic director Tina Kunzer-Murphy fanned the flames on Friday afternoon with a statement calling Beard's move "unprecedented" and "extremely disappointing." Kunzer-Murphy added that UNLV will look to hire someone "who really wants to be here and who will honor his commitments."
There's no doubt Beard is putting UNLV in a tough spot having to endure a second coaching search with the spring signing period already underway, but is it really fair to blame him for leaving? How many of us would make a similar move if presented with an opportunity to earn more money, to snag a job that's a better fit and most importantly to move closer to our family?
Beard's interest in the Texas Tech job stems from his longstanding ties to the program. He grew up in Texas, spent 10 years as an assistant coach with the Red Raiders from 2001-2011 and has three daughters who all live nearby. If any coach in America could call a largely tradition-bereft basketball program in Lubbock his dream job, it's Beard.
The Texas Tech job is especially appealing right now because of the team Smith is leaving behind. The Red Raiders could return all but two key players from a largely starless team that reached the NCAA tournament last month.
Beard's decision surely couldn't have been easy because while Texas Tech plays in a better conference and has the better team next year, UNLV is the superior job in the long run.
With its rich tradition, sparkling new practice facility and location minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, UNLV has natural advantages Texas Tech can't offer. At worst, it's one of the two best jobs in the Mountain West and perhaps a Top 25 job nationally.
The right coach can annually land top recruits and make frequent NCAA tournament runs at UNLV. That's not as easy at Texas Tech with Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and a handful of other programs of higher stature in front of you in the Big 12 pecking order.
For a coach to choose Texas Tech over UNLV would typically be a mild surprise. For a coach to choose the Red Raiders over the Rebels even though he knows he'll be damaging his reputation by doing so? That's proof the Texas Tech program means a lot to him.
Although Texas Tech will pay UNLV a $1 million buyout for taking Beard, that will be little consolation to a Rebels program already in turmoil. Transfers and early draft declarations could leave UNLV with as many as 11 vacant scholarships for next season, a daunting prospect that could force the Rebels to move quickly to replace Beard.
One option for UNLV could be to offer the job to New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies, a finalist for the position who withdrew from consideration just before Beard was hired. Or Kunzer-Murphy could reopen the search entirely.
USA Today is reporting that fired Sacramento Kings coach George Karl has interest in the position. CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb, former UNLV assistants Ryan Miller and Stacey Augmon and Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy were among those believed to be interested during the initial search.
Whoever UNLV hires, it will be the Rebels' fourth coach since January, the culmination of a nightmare stretch in which the program has missed three straight NCAA tournaments, fallen from national relevance and become synonymous with dysfunction and underachievement. Kunzer-Murphy began her coaching search with delusional visions of luring Rick Pitino to Las Vegas and now shes' been jilted by the former Arkansas-Little Rock coach.
Beard makes a convenient scapegoat, but blaming him for leaving isn't entirely fair.
Yes, his timing is horrible. Yes, he's leaving UNLV in an unenviable position. But ultimately he's going to Texas Tech because he believes that's best for him and his family. He's leaving a better job for one that's a better fit.
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Soon after their 4-year-old son Blaise was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer two months ago, Annie and Andrew Davis asked for a favor from a family friend.
The Pennsylvania residents wanted him to remodel their unfinished basement so that Blaise would have a play room.
Contractor Tim Moore readily agreed to tackle the project with one stipulation. The Davis family was forbidden from coming downstairs to check out their new basement until the project was done.
When Annie, Andrew, Blaise and 2-year-old Lucy finally got to see the finished product Wednesday evening, they found more than the new bathroom and fresh paint and carpet they were expecting. Tucked against the back wall was a newly built playhouse with a pair of surprise visitors from Villanova's national championship basketball team inside.
"It was unbelievable," Andrew Davis told Yahoo Sports. "We're big basketball fans in this house and my wife and my father-in-law have been very big Villanova fans since they were kids. Blaise had followed Villanova during the season and he was very much aware of who the players were and how important they were."
Seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu learned about Blaise thanks to Moore. The contractor managed to get in touch with Temple coach Fran Dunphy's wife Ree, who reached out to Villanova assistant Ashley Howard on Moore's behalf.
When Ree Dunphy told Moore to expect two Villanova players on Wednesday night, he never thought it would be Arcidiacono and Ochefu. Arcidiacono is a four-year starter at point guard and a former Big East player of the year, while Ochefu is the Wildcats' starting center and another of the stalwarts of their unexpected national title run.
"Tim told us he was expecting the 10th or 11th guy, which would have been fantastic in its own right," Davis said. "Then out of the car step those two."
Arcidiacono and Ochefu introduced themselves to Blaise, invited him into the playhouse and made him feel comfortable instantly. Later they gave him a handful of gifts, from a Villanova cap and shirt, to a Wildcats-themed cake, to a basketball signed by every Big 5 basketball coach.
For Andrew and Annie, the best gift of all was seeing their son happy and being able to forget about his cancer for a couple hours. Since doctors diagnosed him with Ewing's Sarcoma, Blaise has undergone chemotherapy and frequent testing and he will have to have invasive surgery on his femur later this year.
"It was everything you hope to experience as a parent," Davis said. "As a parent, there are many a night that we've sat up and talked about what this means for our son. The doctors have assured us he doesn't think like that. He just knows when he has a bad day and knows when he has a good day. This was one of those times when he was just Blaise and we weren't thinking about the MRI he had this morning. We were thinking about this wonderful experience he was getting to have."
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Thon Maker just revealed a loophole that NBA and NCAA officials probably would have preferred remained closed.
The skilled 7-footer found a way to bypass the one-and-done rule and go straight from prep school to the NBA.
Under the current NBA collective bargaining agreement, draft-eligible prospects not defined as international players must be at least 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft and at least one year removed from graduating high school. With the exception of Brandon Jennings, Emmanuel Mudiay and a handful of other prospects who have spent a pre-draft season playing professionally overseas or in the D-League, most elite high school players opt to play a year or more of college basketball.
Maker opened another potential avenue on Thursday when the NBA ruled him eligible for this June's draft, a league spokesman confirmed to Yahoo Sports. Maker, 19, completed the requisite coursework to graduate from high school last spring, spent a post-graduate year in prep school and declared for the draft two weeks ago.
Part of the appeal that approach for Maker was potential eligibility issues that would have jeopardized his chances of playing in college had he tried to go that route. The other advantage is that the projected late first-round draft pick didn't have to risk exposing himself against college competition and damaging his stock in the process.
Spending time in college basketball is typically beneficial to prospects because of the quality of competition and coaching as well as the life skills gained, however, there are always guys each year who cost themselves boatloads of cash because their draft stock plummets. Last year, Kansas' Cliff Alexander struggled and went from surefire first-round pick to undrafted. This year, Kentucky's Skal Labissiere and Kansas' Cheick Diallo saw their stature take a hit after underwhelming freshman seasons.
If Maker were to perform well at the combine or in workouts or Labissiere or Diallo fall further than expected in the upcoming draft, you could see future prospects and their advisers take notice. A player who is already a projected first-round pick by the time he graduates high school might prefer to spend a post-graduate year "hiding" at an off-the-radar prep school rather than risk being exposed against college competition.
That's not a trend that would be beneficial for basketball either at the college or NBA level.
Prospects who skip college are more difficult for NBA scouts to assess because there are fewer chances to see them in meaningful games against top competition. It's also harder for those prospects to adjust to the NBA not only socially but also because the schemes more complex than high school basketball and the players are so much stronger and faster.
There was a time many thought that more prospects would follow in the footsteps of Jennings and choose to spend a year making money overseas rather than playing in college. Thus far Mudiay is the only other high-profile player to do that, and potential eligibility issues at SMU played a role in that decision.
Perhaps Maker will be viewed as an outlier in the future. Or maybe he'll turn out to be more of a trendsetter. Either way, it's a meaningful draft story that is worth watching moving forward.
The Vertical breaks down Thon Maker's strengths:
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For years, Memphis fans have complained that Josh Pastner's teams took quick, ill-advised shots, played disorganized defense and typically didn't win at the level their talent level suggested they should.
That should no longer be a problem given who the school tabbed as Pastner's replacement on Thursday morning.
Memphis has hired Texas Tech's Tubby Smith, an accomplished coach who's basically the complete opposite of his youthful predecessor. He's 64 years old, he hasn't always recruited at an elite level but he is well respected among his peers for being excellent tactically and strong in player development.
Smith won't be universally embraced right away by Memphis fans who convinced themselves they had a chance to nab a flashier candidate. School officials decided quickly that they could not afford Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall or Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams, that they could not pry Archie Miller away from Dayton and that they sought someone with more coaching experience than beloved alum Penny Hardaway.
But while Smith isn't as splashy a choice as those coaches would have been, he's still a solid second-tier hire. This is a coach who won a national championship at Kentucky, who led Minnesota to three NCAA bids in six seasons and who rebuilt Texas Tech into an NCAA tournament team in a mere three years. If Smith takes Memphis to the NCAA tournament, he would be the only Division I coach ever to accomplish that at six different schools.
One concern some have about Smith is his age, but that's overblown in a sport in which coaches in their late 60s and early 70s routinely make the Final Four or win national championships. At 64 and seemingly in good health, Smith could potentially coach at Memphis longer than the seven years Pastner lasted.
Another concern some have about Smith is that his career is in a state of decline, but that's hardly fair either. While Smith did get fired at Minnesota in 2013, the context there matters. The athletic director that canned him was the man who hired Shaka Smart at VCU and the founder of a program designed to introduce young assistant coaches to athletic directors who may later be in the market to hire a head coach. Norwood Teague wanted the chance to duplicate the Smart hire at Minnesota, which is why he handed that job to 30-year-old Richard Pitino.
What's more, Smith has proven himself quickly at Texas Tech. Not only did he take the Red Raiders to their first NCAA tournament bid in nine years last month, enough of those players were returning that Texas Tech was also poised to remain on an upward trajectory the next two seasons had Smith not bolted for a better job.
The one concern about Smith that's valid is whether he can recruit to the level at which Memphis has become accustomed.
Smith's inability to land Kentucky-caliber recruits is what ultimately cost him his job with the Wildcats a decade ago. He hasn't waded back into the cesspool that is elite recruiting very often since then, though part of that is certainly the difficulty in luring top 50 prospects to off-the-radar programs like Minnesota and Texas Tech.
At Memphis, it's different. Your city is a recruiting hotbed, and you have to retain a high percentage of top local prospects in order to succeed. For all his faults, that was the one thing Pastner did exceptionally well. Many of the eight Rivals top 50 prospects Pastner signed in his first four recruiting classes hailed from Memphis.
For Smith to achieve anywhere near the same recruiting success, he'll have to hire a staff familiar with the recruiting landscape in Memphis and capable of helping him mine the city for talent. Hardaway would be an ideal choice given his ties to the Team Penny AAU program and his stature locally, however, it's unclear whether he'd be willing to return to his alma mater as an assistant rather than the head coach.
So yes, hiring a strong staff will be crucial to Smith. And no, he's not a surefire home run hire like Marshall would have been. But before Georgia Tech came out of nowhere to hire Pastner last week, Memphis was looking at another year with a lame-duck coach it no longer wanted but couldn't afford to fire.
By comparison, year one of the Tubby Smith era is a massive improvement over that.
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When standout wing Allonzo Trier announced his decision to return to Arizona this month, the lone downside appeared to be the potential for his presence to dissuade other shooting guards the Wildcats were pursuing from coming.
Turns out that didn't happen.
Arizona landed one of the Class of 2016's top wings on Wednesday night when 6-foot-6 Terrance Ferguson announced on Twitter that he had committed. Ferguson, Rivals.com's No. 12 prospect, is an elite shooter who is also an outstanding perimeter defender and one of the best dunkers in his class.
The relationship between Ferguson and Arizona stems from his stint last summer playing for Sean Miller on USA Basketball's U-19 team. When Ferguson backed out of his initial commitment to Alabama on March 1, Arizona instantly became one of the leading contenders to land him along with fellow suitors Baylor, Kansas, Maryland, North Carolina and NC State.
Ferguson's commitment leaves Miller with a problem other coaches would kill to have. Arizona has so many talented perimeter players on next year's roster that it will be tough to find playing time for all of them.
The only certain starter is Trier, a 6-foot-4 wing who averaged 14.8 points per game as a freshman and also improved defensively throughout the season. Also returning are rising junior point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, rising senior combo guard Kadeem Allen and small forward Ray Smith, Arizona's most heralded recruit in the 2015 class before a torn ACL sidelined him all of this past season.
The quality of Arizona's incoming class makes it uncertain whether Smith will start right away or whether Allen and Jackson-Cartwright will again split playing time at point guard. In addition to Ferguson, two other Rivals top 20 prospects are both Tucson-bound: slashing 6-foot-4 wing Rawle Alkins and 6-foot-5 scoring point guard Kobi Simmons.
How can Arizona find playing time for all seven of those players? There's still a slim chance the Wildcats may not have to worry about that. Alkins did not fax his letter of intent on the first day of the spring signing period on Wednesday, though he has until mid-May to do it.
If Alkins signs later this week as expected, one option could be going small and giving the 6-7 Smith extended minutes as an undersized power forward. That would allow Ferguson to start alongside Trier at wing and make sure Arizona has sufficient outside shooting to space the floor at all times.
Playing Smith at power forward would also mask the one potential weak spot on the Arizona roster. While the Wildcats have Dusan Ristic and Chance Comanche back at center, the lone true power forward on the roster is Finnish freshman Lauri Markannen, another highly touted prospect but one that may not be ready to play 30 minutes per game right away.
Regardless, the perimeter logjam Arizona has is definitely not a bad thing. It will just be up to Miller to figure the lineup combinations that give the Wildcats the best chance to win and keep everybody happy.
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The NCAA tournament will remain on CBS and Turner for at least the next 16 years.
The broadcast partners on Tuesday announced an eight-year, $8.8 billion extension that will allow them to provide live coverage of NCAA tournament games on any platform they choose through 2032. That includes those platforms "to be created over the life of the agreement."
The rights fee is a significant increase over the original 14-year contract CBS, Turner and the NCAA agreed to back in 2010. Whereas CBS and Turner will pay an average of approximately $771 million every year to air the NCAA tournament from 2011-2024, that fee will rise to $1.1 billion per year from 2025-2032.
That increase is crucial to the NCAA, which secures more than 90 percent of its total revenue from the men's basketball tournament. NCAA president Mark Emmert said that money flows back to the association's 1,100 members schools to help them support other sports that do not produce revenue.
The stability this TV rights deal provides is welcome news for those who like the current format of the NCAA tournament. Emmert said on a conference call Tuesday that there has been "absolutely no discussion about expanding the field beyond 68."
"We're very pleased with the way the tournament is conducted right now," Emmert said."It works exceedingly well for the participants as well as the audience."
It appears CBS and Turner are equally pleased with their current arrangement of alternating broadcast rights to the Final Four and national championship game each year. Executives from both networks said they have no plans to change that format despite a ratings decline this year with the national semifinals and title game airing on TBS for the first time.
The one change that appears likely is an alteration to the selection show after CBS expanded it to two hours for the first time last month. CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said that while formal discussions on the format will not take place until the summer, his network is well aware of the backlash from viewers unhappy that it took so much longer for each bracket to be revealed.
Said McManus, "I think it's safe to assume we'll be a bit more timely with the announcement of the brackets in the future."
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If Michigan State is going to contend for a national title again next season, the Spartans will have to rely heavily on their highly touted freshman class.
That much is clear after forward Deyonta Davis announced Tuesday that he's declaring for the NBA draft and hiring an agent.
Davis would have been an interior focal point for Michigan State next season had he returned to school, but his stock was too high among NBA scouts for that to be a realistic possibility. The raw but talented 6-foot-10 freshman is a projected mid-first-round pick even though he averaged a modest 7.5 points and 6.5 rebounds and had just begun to scratch the surface of his capabilities while starting 16 of the Spartans' final 17 games.
"Over the last year, Deyonta has improved as a player, as he is just starting to tap his true potential," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said in a statement. "Off the court, there is no question that he has grown by leaps and bounds as he matures as a young man. I’ve been fortunate to live my dreams, but the real thrill as a coach is getting to see my players live their dreams. I look forward to following Deyonta’s development and career in the NBA for years to come."
Michigan State will still have the talent to match or even exceed this past season's accomplishments even without Davis, but next year's Spartans will be younger and more vulnerable on the interior. They'll have to rely on a recruiting class that features four Rivals Top 50 players.
The most talented of the newcomers are 6-6 combo forward Miles Bridges and 6-6 wing Josh Langford, both of whom are McDonald's All-Americans. Look for both to start right away, with Bridges filling a Justise WInslow-like undersized power forward role and Langford entering a wing rotation that will also include senior Eron Harris, sharpshooter Matt McQuaid and reserve Alvin Ellis.
Playing time at point guard will be split between junior Tum Tum Nairn and highly touted incoming freshman Cassius Winston. When Izzo needs outstanding on-ball defense, reliable decision making and leadership, the choice will be Nairn. When Izzo needs an offensive spark, Winston will be his guy.
Where Michigan State will face the most questions is its lack of a proven big man. Matt Costello graduates this spring, Davis is headed to the NBA and Marvin Clark is transferring, leaving behind senior-to-be Gavin Schilling, former walk-on Kenny Goins and incoming freshman Nick Ward.
Schilling is the likely starter if he can avoid the injuries that derailed his junior season. Goins proved to be a more capable than expected backup and Ward has excellent long-term potential, but it would be a surprise if Michigan State didn't at least explore the graduate transfer market. One more big man would certainly be a plus in case of injuries or in games when Bridges is too undersized to play 30-plus minutes at power forward.
When Michigan State lost elite shooting guard prospect Josh Jackson to Kansas on Monday, that stung only because it was an in-state kid with a world of talent.
In reality, however, the loss of Davis is the bigger blow. It leaves Michigan State without an interior focal point offensively and makes the Spartans a bit more reliant on their freshman than Izzo would probably prefer.
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When it was time for him to accept the trophy for Big 5 Coach of the Year on Monday night, St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli couldn't resist poking fun at himself.
The coach whom Martelli had beaten out to win the award went on to win the national title a couple weeks after voters had turned in their ballots.
"Seriously, there’s not one person in here that would say ‘Big 5 Coach of the Year? It must be Phil Martelli! It’s not Jay Wright!'" Martelli told guests at the Big 5 awards banquet.
"Jay, this is yours. I’m going to borrow it for an hour and if I can get into your gated community in Newtown Square, I’ll drop it off."
As recently as three weeks ago, Martelli was not a ridiculous choice. After all, St. Joseph's won 28 games, captured the Atlantic 10 tournament title and led No. 1 seed Oregon deep into the second half before falling in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Of course, everything changed when Villanova validated its Big East title with the type of NCAA tournament success that had proven elusive in recent years. The Wildcats broke through to the second weekend for the first time since 2009, defeated surging Miami and No. 1 overall seed Kansas to reach the Final Four and then throttled Oklahoma and edged North Carolina to capture the school's first national title in 31 years.
At the end of his speech, Martelli smacked a sticky note onto the trophy with the words "Jay Wright" written on it. The award may inevitably find its way into the St. Joseph's trophy case, but if Martelli has his way, you can bet the sticky note is staying on it.
Saint Joseph's Phil Martelli puts a post-it note on the Big 5 coach of the year trophy. pic.twitter.com/a12uwtbfbD— Dan Gelston (@APgelston) April 12, 2016
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At a time when most of the rest of the Big 12's top teams appear poised to take a step backward, Kansas is just reloading.
The Jayhawks bolstered an already strong roster on Monday night when they landed a prospect Rivals.com considers to be the best in the 2016 class.
Shooting guard Josh Jackson committed to Kansas, choosing the Jayhawks over fellow finalists Michigan State and Arizona. The 6-foot-7 senior at Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif., is a consensus top-three prospect nationally along with Duke-bound forwards Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum.
What makes Jackson one of the elite wing prospects to enter college basketball in recent years is his ability to impact a game at both ends of the floor. The tough, ultra-competitive Jackson has a nonstop motor, an explosive first step to the basket, a knack for making plays in transition and the ability to lock down an opposing team's best perimeter player.
Some of Jackson's attributes were on display at the McDonald's All-American game earlier this month when he scored an efficient 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting. He earned co-MVP honors and led the West Team to a 114-105 victory.
For Kansas, the addition of Jackson reduces the sting of starting wing Wayne Selden and reserve Brannen Greene both entering the NBA draft. Jackson should slide into the starting lineup alongside returners Frank Mason and Devonte Graham with promising Svi Mykhailiuk also playing heavy minutes off the bench.
How deep Kansas' frontcourt is will depend on whether Cheick Diallo stays in the NBA draft or not, but the Jayhawks have options even if he leaves. Heralded sophomore-to-be Carlton Bragg has the skill to replace some of the production Perry Ellis provided at power forward, while Landen Lucas emerged late this past season as a strong defender and rebounder.
That nucleus should be enough to make Kansas a preseason top 10 team and a favorite to capture a 13th consecutive Big 12 title.
Oklahoma loses a minimum of three starters from its Final Four team including national player of the year Buddy Hield. Iowa State faces life without Georges Niang as well as fellow seniors Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader. West Virginia and Texas both have the potential to contend next season, but the Mountaineers have to hope forward Devin Williams doesn't stay in the draft and the Longhorns have to do the same regarding guard Isaiah Taylor.
Kansas had emerged as the favorite to land Jackson in recent weeks even though he had strong ties to both Michigan State and Arizona.
Jackson grew up in Detroit and is close with several members of the Spartans' highly touted 2016 recruiting class. Jackson also played for Arizona's Sean Miller with USA Basketball and said recently that he is closer to Miller than any other head coach recruiting him.
Had Jackson gone to Michigan State, he'd have been the centerpiece of a recruiting class that already may be Tom Izzo's best ever. Had Jackson gone to Arizona, he'd have joined a collection of talented wings that already includes returning star Allonzo Trier and talented freshman Ray Smith.
Instead Jackson is Kansas-bound, keeping the Jayhawks in their customary position as preseason favorites in the Big 12.
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The fate of the next Maryland basketball season could hinge on the feedback star point guard Melo Trimble receives from NBA scouts this spring.
Trimble announced Monday night he will declare for the NBA draft without hiring an agent, leaving open the possibility he could return for his junior season.
If Trimble leaves, Maryland will have to replace every member of a supremely talented starting five that led the Terps to a 27-win 2015-16 season and a Sweet 16 appearance. If Trimble comes back, Maryland will still have questions in the frontcourt but the Terps can build around a perimeter corps highlighted by one of the nation's most dynamic point guards.
Trimble returned to Maryland after an outstanding freshman season in hopes of solidifying himself as a future first-round pick, but his sophomore season was too erratic to achieve that goal.
Among the positives: His assist-to-turnover ratio improved and he enjoyed some strong stretches, especially during the first half of the season. Among the negatives: His outside shot deserted him, he endured a painful February slump and he could not get to the foul line as consistently because opponents consistently went under screens and dared him to shoot jumpers.
Trimble is currently projected as a second-round pick by most scouts and mock drafts. For him to improve his stock during workouts or the combine, the 6-foot-3 junior-to-be would likely have to show the consistent outside shooting stroke that he lacked during the latter half of the season.
Were Trimble to return, he'd come back to a roster that hardly resembles the one Maryland fielded this past season. Guard Rasheed Sulaimon and small forward Jake Layman both graduate, power forward Robert Carter decided last week to turn pro and hire an agent and freshman center Diamond Stone followed suit on Monday.
There's still enough talent in the backcourt that Maryland would have a good chance to return to the NCAA tournament if Trimble came back.
A healthy Dion Wiley should be a fixture at one wing spot. Fellow returner Jared Nickens will compete for playing time at the other. And Maryland's three-man recruiting class is anchored by Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter, the former the heir apparent to Trimble at point guard and the latter a high-scoring 6-foot-7 guard who can play anywhere on the perimeter.
The greater concern would be the frontcourt regardless of Trimble's decision. Though both Michal Cekovsky and Damonte Dodd have enough talent to seize the starting center job, neither has proven himself as a starter-quality option yet. Power forward is even more uncertain as the job could go to 6-foot-9 Bosnian native Ivan Bender unless Maryland finds another option on the graduate transfer market.
Of course, the return of an All-American-caliber point guard would hide a lot of warts.
With Trimble, Maryland can still finish in the upper third of the Big Ten and reach the NCAA tournament. Without him, the Terps could be headed for a rebuilding year.
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Having watched another transfer point guard thrive at Creighton this past season, Kaleb Joseph decided to follow in his footsteps.
The Syracuse transfer committed to the Bluejays on Sunday evening, his former AAU coach Vin Pastore told Yahoo Sports on Monday.
One of the biggest factors in Joseph's decision was his strong relationship with Creighton assistant Preston Murphy. The other was the success the Bluejays had with point guard Maurice Watson, a Boston University transfer who averaged 14.2 points and 6.6 assists in his debut season in the Big East this year.
It appealed to Joseph to go to a school with a track record of helping transfers improve during their redshirt seasons. Creighton also had a need for a point guard with Watson set to graduate after the 2016-17 season and no heir apparent waiting in the wings.
What Creighton is getting in Joseph is a former Rivals top 50 prospect in need of a fresh start.
Thrust into the role of top point guard right away at Syracuse as a result of Tyler Ennis' unexpected evolution into a one-and-done prospect, Joseph started 30 of 31 games as a freshman and performed respectably under the circumstances. He averaged 5.9 points and 3.8 assists, but his outside shooting was a liability and turnovers were too frequent.
Joseph lost his starting job to Michael Gbinije before this past season and the back-up role to Frank Howard by midseason. He did not play more than one minute in any of Syracuse's final 18 games in Jim Boeheim's tight rotation, yet he did not complain publicly and remained engaged on the bench throughout the team's surprise run to the Final Four.
Joseph and high-scoring Sacred Heart transfer Cane Broome were the two transfer point guards Creighton pursued most heavily the past few weeks. Hours after Joseph committed to the Bluejays, Broome texted Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin around 1 a.m. to tell him he wanted to join the Bearcats.
For Creighton to add to its burgeoning reputation as a haven for transfers, it will need to help Joseph regain confidence in his shot. The versatility of Gbinije and the emergence of Howard diminished Joseph's role at Syracuse, but he's still clearly capable of becoming an impact player in the Big East now that he has a fresh start.
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In his freshman season at Sacred Heart, he started from the outset and averaged an impressive 14.5 points per game. In his sophomore season with the Pioneers, he scored 23.1 points per game and won conference player of the year honors.
Now Cane Broome is ready for a bigger challenge.
The 6-foot combo guard announced Monday he will transfer to Cincinnati, where he'll sit next season before having two years eligibility remaining thereafter. Broome also visited Creighton and received interest from the likes of Seton Hall and NC State, among others.
Having such prestigious programs pursue him was a new experience for Broome, a Hartford native who was lightly recruited out of high school. Sacred Heart coach Anthony Latina was the first to offer a scholarship to Broome and made him the program's biggest priority the following summer, leading to a commitment early in the 2013-14 school year.
Broome played as though he had something to prove during his two years at Sacred Heart, and now he's headed to another program known for having that mentality. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin has built a perennial NCAA tournament team not with blue-chip prospects but blue-collar ones.
With Troy Caupain entering his senior season next year, Broome has a chance to inherit Cincinnati's starting point guard job the following year. Broome is already a gifted scorer who's capable of getting into the lane or knocking down shots from behind the arc, but he'll have to improve his efficiency and work on getting better defensively and at creating off the dribble for his teammates.
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Before Duke's Sweet 16 loss to Oregon last month, point guard Derryck Thornton reflected on the challenge of graduating high school in three years, enrolling at one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs and trying to fill the void left by Tyus Jones' early departure.
"It's definitely tough, but you can do it if you're mentally focused," Thornton told Yahoo Sports. "This season has been so great for me and for my team and I've learned so much. It was a great opportunity for me to come here and I'm really happy with my decision. I've learned so much from Coach [Mike Krzyzewski]. There's a lot I wouldn't have learned if I were still in high school."
At that time, Thornton certainly didn't sound like someone who intended to leave when the season ended, but that's not the case any longer. Duke announced Sunday that the sophomore-to-be is transferring.
“We wish Derryck the best and appreciate his contributions to our team this season,” Krzyzewski said in the statement. “We support his decision and want only what is best for him in the future.”
Thornton played in all 36 of Duke's games as a freshman and averaged 7.1 points and 2.6 assists in 26 minutes per game. He made 20 starts for the Blue Devils, but he did not start any of Duke’s ACC or NCAA tournament games despite being the only true point guard on the roster.
Playing time might have been more scarce for Thornton next season had he returned with guards Grayson Allen, Matt Jones and Luke Kennard all returning and McDonald's All-American point guard Frank Jackson and wing Jayson Tatum joining the roster. Not only would Thornton likely have competed with Jackson for playing time at point guard, there also surely will be possessions that the Blue Devils put Allen on the ball with Kennard, Jones or Tatum at the wings.
Thornton's departure opens a scholarship for Marques Bolden, the five-star center Duke is currently pursuing. Bolden is expected to decide between the Blue Devils and Kentucky in the coming weeks.
As for Thornton, he said in Duke's release that he intends to transfer closer to his native Chatsworth, Calif. The former five-star recruit will have three years eligibility remaining and will undoubtedly look for a program where he can be more of a focal point of a high ball screen-heavy offense.
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In response to what it described as a "breathtaking and audacious" series of rules violations, the NCAA has hammered former Southern Mississippi coach Donnie Tyndall with a punishment that will make it difficult for him to work in major college athletics again.
Tyndall received a 10-year show cause penalty Friday for allegedly directing his staff to engage in academic fraud, facilitating impermissible financial aid for two players and obstructing the NCAA's investigation into the potential violations.
If an NCAA school were to hire Tyndall during his 10-year show cause order, he would be prohibited from participating in all coaching duties. Even after the 10-year show cause expires on April 7, 2026, any NCAA school that hires him would have to suspend him for the first half of his debut season.
"It's heartbreaking," Tyndall, 45, told Yahoo Sports. "I don't know what to do, man. There's nothing I want to do with my life besides coach basketball, and now that has been taken away from me. Ten years? That is so over the top."
Only one other basketball coach has received a 10-year show-cause punishment before: Ex-Baylor coach Dave Bliss, who was at the helm of the Bears program when guard Carlton Dotson murdered teammate Patrick Dennehy in 2003. The NCAA's ensuing investigation revealed that Bliss paid multiple players to come to Baylor and tried to cover it up by instructing players to fabricate a story about Dennehy dealing drugs as a way to explain how part of Dennehy's tuition was paid.
The allegations against Tyndall aren't as salacious as those against Bliss but they're still unprecedented in scope.
The NCAA says Tyndall sent assistant coaches or graduate assistants across the country to physically assist seven prospects complete the requisite coursework to become eligible to play at Southern Mississippi. This scheme began six weeks after Southern Mississippi hired Tyndall away from Morehead State in 2012 and continued throughout a two-year tenure in which his teams went 56-17 and twice reached the NIT quarterfinals in 2013 and 2014.
All parties involved in the case accept that sweeping academic fraud took place at Southern Mississippi from 2012-14, but it's Tyndall's contention that the scheme went on without his knowledge. Though the NCAA has evidence Tyndall paid for a graduate assistant's trip to California to assist one player with his coursework and paid the registration fees for another player's online classes, the former coach insists he knew nothing of the academic fraud until his initial interview with NCAA investigators on Nov. 18, 2014.
Tyndall's biggest point of contention is that the committee on infractions relied heavily on the testimony of a former assistant coach who only linked Tyndall to the academic fraud after cutting a deal for immunity with NCAA investigators. That is Adam Howard, who followed Tyndall to Tennessee in March 2014 but was forced to resign the following November when Tyndall says the school discovered he had lied to NCAA investigators.
"There are over 4,000 pages of transcripts and documentation," Tyndall told Yahoo Sports. "There were 40 people interviewed. The only person that said anything about Donnie Tyndall having any involvement in this was Adam Howard. ... How's the NCAA going to take the word of one guy who's already lied to them on the record twice and only spoke to them the third time when they gave him immunity?"
In additition to the academic fraud allegations against Tyndall, the NCAA also says he fabricated a document to help justify facilitating cash and prepaid credit card payments to two players from their former high school coaches. Tyndall also allegedly took other actions to thwart the investigation once it began, from deleting relevant emails, to providing false or misleading information during interviews with NCAA investigators, to calling key figures in the investigation from a previously seldom-used phone registered to his mom.
Tyndall denies intentionally obstructing the invstigation and says he only placed those calls in an attempt to glean more investigation about the allegations against his program.
Besides Tyndall's punishment, the NCAA also placed Southern Mississippi on three years probation, handed down some scholarship and recruiting restrictions and accepted the two-year postseason ban that the Golden Eagles have already served. The former assistant coaches involved in the academic fraud each were hit with shorter show-cause penalties as well.
Tyndall spent only the 2014-15 season at Tennessee before being fired in March 2015 when Vols athletic director Dave Hart discovered the extent of the violations his coach was facing. Tyndall last worked as an associate athletic director at NAIA Tennessee Wesleyan College earlier this year on a volunteer basis.
Tyndall has vowed to appeal Friday's punishment in hopes of reducing the length of the show-cause penalty he's facing. He hopes to work again in college athletics.
"I'm stunned," Tyndall said. "To hit me with 10 years, it's unbelievable."
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Memphis gets rid of a coach it no longer wanted but could not afford to fire. Josh Pastner gets a fresh start at a power-conference program starved for stability and sustained success.
There's no doubt both are winners now that Georgia Tech has given Pastner an unlikely life line, but the more intriguing question is can the Yellow Jackets claim victory here too?
In the 12 years since Georgia Tech reached the national title game, the Yellow Jackets endured seven years of decline under Paul Hewitt and five years of mediocrity under Brian Gregory. Athletic director Mike Bobinski fired Gregory last month after he failed to make the NCAA tournament for a fifth consecutive season despite an experienced roster with four senior starters.
Georgia Tech's state-of-the-art new arena, rich tradition and fertile recruiting base make it more attractive than many ACC jobs, but the specter of competing in the same league as Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Syracuse and Virginia scared potential candidates away. Bobinski found that out as he swung and missed pursuing Valparaiso's Bryce Drew, Duke assistant Jeff Capel and Butler's Chris Holtmann, which led him to reach out to a coach whose own administration would love to see him move on.
What Georgia Tech is getting in Pastner is a coach who has gone from star in the making, to heir apparent to John Calipari at Memphis, to serial underachiever all before his 40th birthday.
Hailed as a future head coach even while he was still playing for Lute Olson as a walk-on at Arizona, Pastner was all but groomed for the job. This is a guy who studied game film in elementary school, sent detailed scouting reports of prep talent to top college coaches by age 13 and coached a Houston AAU program that included T.J. Ford and Emeka Okafor while still in high school.
Pastner's reputation as a wunderkind actually worked against him in some ways because it helped him land a job for which he wasn't ready.
When Memphis promoted Pastner to head coach in 2009, he was 31 years old and had no prior experience as a head coach at the college level. He was not yet qualified to run a top 20 program, let alone one Calipari had just taken to four consecutive seasons of 33 or more wins.
Pastner's charisma, intelligence and work ethic initially helped him recruit at nearly as high a level as Calipari had. In his first four classes at Memphis from 2010-2013, Pastner landed 14 Rivals 150 prospects including eight ranked in the top 50.
Where Pastner ran into problems was his inability to coax enough wins out of his most talented rosters.
He won only two league championships in seven seasons at Memphis even though his teams spent four years in the threadbare Conference USA and three years in the solid but unspectacular American Athletic Conference. He made four NCAA tournaments, but he only won two games and never made it beyond the round of 32.
Pastner's inability to approach or match Calipari's success at Memphis led to backlash that made it tough for him to sustain his initial recruiting success. His final two Memphis teams were only modestly talented, played in front of sparse crowds at home games and never sniffed NCAA tournament contention.
It also didn't help Pastner that he never seemed to address his weaknesses in player development and as a tactician. From Robert Kirby, to Damon Stoudamire, to Luke Walton, to Keelon Lawson, to Glynn Cyprien, all the men who coached under Pastner never held head coaching jobs and were best known for their prowess as recruiters.
Only a few weeks ago, Memphis had to decide whether it was easier to stomach one more season with a lame-duck coach or paying Pastner a reported $10.6 million not to coach their team. They were prepared to tolerate meager crowds and a poor win-loss record for one more year until along came Bobinski, seemingly out of nowhere.
One key for Pastner at Georgia Tech will be hiring a staff that complements him better than the one he had at Memphis did. He needs a tactically savvy assistant with head coaching experience to fill the same role for him that Mike Dunlap initially did for Steve Lavin at St. John's a few years back.
Another key will be tapping into a 2017 recruiting class that boasts eight top 100 prospects who hail from Georgia including No. 4 Wendell Carter and No. 20 Ikey Obiagu. The Yellow Jackets desperately need the influx of talent since the only four players on this past season's team to average more than five points per game are all seniors set to graduate this spring.
Best-case scenario for Georgia Tech: Pastner excels with a fresh start and more realistic expectations, woos several members of that promising in-state 2017 class and evolves into a more capable tactician with the help of his new staff. Worst-case scenario for Georgia Tech: The fan base turns on Pastner from the start, he can't build any recruiting momentum and even in his second gig, he is still an X's and O's disaster.
So while it's possible that Pastner succeeds at Georgia Tech in a way he never could at Memphis, the hire the Yellow Jackets made is far from a sure bet.
Memphis and Pastner can both celebrate badly needed fresh starts. Georgia Tech can only hope it doesn't regret giving a wunderkind-turned-serial underachiever a second chance.
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At the start of his press conference announcing 23-year-old Tyler Summitt as Louisiana Tech's next women's basketball coach two years ago, athletic director Tommy McClelland addressed his new hire's age by cracking a joke.
"Did you hear the joke about what the young guy said to the younger guy?" McClelland deadpanned. "Need a job?"
You can bet other athletic directors will be more reticent giving so much responsibility to someone so young now that a hire made to generate headlines has become a high-profile fiasco. Summitt, the 25-year-old son of legendary former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt, resigned from his job at Louisiana Tech on Thursday, citing an unspecified inappropriate relationship.
"I am profoundly disappointed in myself for engaging in a relationship that has negatively affected the people I love, respect and care about the most," Summitt said in a statement. "My hope, plans and prayers are to repair those relationships. I am appreciative of the opportunity I was given to coach at Louisiana Tech. I am heartbroken that my time has ended in Ruston, but because of my respect for the institution, it is best that I resign."
Summitt's indiscretion indelibly tarnishes a name that until now stood for only determination, grace and success. Pat Summitt won eight national titles and 16 SEC championships in 38 seasons at Tennessee before stepping down in 2012 due to early-onset Alzheimer's and dementia.
The younger Summitt has been around basketball since he was in diapers, whether flying to a game in his mom's lap before he was a month old or riding the back of the bus with the players while in grade school. By high school, he attended his mom's early morning workouts before school, practiced with his team in the afternoons and then raced across town to watch as much of the Vols' practice as he could.
To prepare himself further for coaching upon enrolling at Tennessee, Tyler spent the 2009-10 season under his mom as a student assistant and the following two years as a walk-on playing for Bruce Pearl and then Cuonzo Martin. In his spare time, he also worked camps and coached several Knoxville-area AAU teams, including the talent-laden Tennessee Fury 17U Girls.
When Summitt landed an assistant coaching gig at Marquette four years ago at age 21, he was the same age or younger than several players on the team. When McClelland hired Summitt to revitalize Louisiana Tech's tradition-rich women's basketball program two years later, the oldest player on the team was only 13 months younger than her new head coach.
Why would McClelland hire a 23-year-old when there were dozens of other potential candidates with more experience and superior credentials? At the time he cited Summitt's ferocity on the recruiting trail, tactical prowess and maturity beyond his years, but there was surely more to it than just that.
First and foremost, the Summitt name ensured the type of national publicity elusive in women's basketball and even more rare at Louisiana Tech. Everyone from ESPN, to USA Today, to Yahoo Sports, to Sports Illustrated penned stories about Summitt during his tenure even though his first two seasons coaching the Lady Techsters produced a combined record of just 30-31.
It also had to appeal to McClelland that Summitt's story mirrored his own. McClelland became Division I's youngest athletic director at age 26 when McNeese State promoted him in March 2008.
Two years ago, McClelland said he met with Summitt in person for five hours and spoke to 30 people about his coaching ability and character before making the hire. What he learned was Summitt married his high school girlfriend, AnDe Ragsdale, and was deeply religious, both of which may have helped convince McClelland that the coach wouldn't fall victim to off-the-court behavior typical of a 23-year-old.
That gamble blew up in McClelland's face in unfathomable fashion on Thursday, and the ramifications are sure to be widespread.
No longer will Summitt be able to follow in his mom's footsteps because he's far too toxic for another school to give him a chance to coach anytime soon. McClelland also will face questions about whether he properly vetted Summitt and whether he paid more attention to his last name than his age. And athletic directors from coast to coast will surely be more cautious about hiring a coach who's barely older than the players over which he has authority.
When Summitt spoke at his introductory news conference, he too addressed his age with a joke about his baby-faced looks.
"I'm not 15 years old even though I look it," Summitt said with a chuckle. "I'm 23, and if that's my biggest weakness, that's great because inevitably, no matter what I do, that's going to change."
Turns out his immaturity was more of a weakness than he thought it was. As a result, he tarnished his family name, embarrassed the school that hired him and made landing a head coaching job far more challenging for the next wave of 20-something up-and-comers.
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