Andrew White announced Sunday he'll transfer to Syracuse (AP)
Andrew White announced Sunday he’ll transfer to Syracuse (AP)

Almost four months after learning that Malachi Richardson would stay in the NBA draft, Syracuse finally found a suitable replacement.

The Orange on Sunday received a commitment from the last marquee graduate transfer still on the market this offseason.

Andrew White III, who averaged 16.6 points per game at Nebraska last season, announced on Twitter that he will spend his final year of college at Syracuse. The 6-foot-7 wing also visited Miami, Michigan State and Virginia Commonwealth.

The addition of White is massive for a Syracuse team that has only three other perimeter players on its roster. The Orange were very thin at guard after Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney graduated, Kaleb Joseph transferred in search of more playing time and Richardson parlayed a strong postseason into becoming a first-round draft pick.

What White gives Syracuse is a proven perimeter scorer capable of attacking the rim off the dribble or knocking down jumpers from behind the arc. White took more shots than any other Nebraska player last season and sank a lot of them — 41.2 percent of his 3-pointers and 55.7 percent of his twos.

Having White will also provide Jim Boeheim more options in terms of how to play next season.

Now Boeheim can go to a three-guard look with White and freshman Tyus Battle at wing alongside either Franklin Howard or Colorado State transfer John Gillon at point guard. Boeheim can also go bigger, bring Battle off the bench and use stretch forward Tyler Lydon at the three instead of the four.

Regardless of how Syracuse chooses to play, it now has a roster formidable enough to contend in the ACC next season and perhaps even make a run at a second consecutive Final Four. The Orange should start in the preseason top 20 this November and could rise higher than that if their new and returning talent meshes to form a cohesive team.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: August 28, 2016, 9:02 pm
Tyrek Coger (AP)
Tyrek Coger (AP)

Not content to merely challenge himself against some of the nation’s top players his own age, Tyrek Coger sought a step up in competition.

The high school junior goaded budding NBA star John Wall into a game of 1-on-1 at the 2012 Reebok Breakout Challenge in Philadelphia.

In front of a few dozen onlookers, several of whom were filming with cell phone cameras, Coger showed no fear, promising to “show John how to play ball.” The 6-foot-8 forward actually knocked down a couple jumpers and even swatted away one of Wall’s shots before the Washington Wizards guard got serious, punctuating his victory by blowing by Coger off the dribble and drawing gasps with a ferocious left-handed dunk.

Video of the game hit YouTube within hours and spread quickly on social media, generating more than 12 million views. The title of the YouTube clips were “John Wall shuts up high school kid” and “John Wall teaches high school kid a lesson,” but Coger painted a slightly different picture when he described the 1-on-1 showdown to friends.

“He named it the ‘I gave John Wall buckets’ video,” said Tony Edwards, Coger’s former AAU coach with the CP3 All-Stars.

“That was Tyrek. Cameras are here? John is here? Crowd is here? It’s go time. The bigger the crowd, the more entertainment you got. He wouldn’t shy away from opportunities.”

The irrepressible confidence and ever-present smile that Coger displayed in that video are how friends and family will remember him. The 21-year-old Oklahoma State forward died Thursday evening after collapsing following a team workout inside Boone Pickens Stadium.

Oklahoma State officials said Friday that Coger showed no signs of struggle while running stadium steps in 99-degree heat, but he began to experience medical issues when he sat down at the top of the steps at the end of the workout. At 5:04 p.m., 911 was called. At 5:48 p.m., Coger arrived at Stillwater Medical Center. At 6:23 p.m., he was pronounced dead.

On Friday afternoon, the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office announced that Coger died from cardiomegaly, which is more commonly referred to as an enlarged heart. Learning the cause of death was little consolation to Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood, who had already built a strong bond with Coger even though they’d only known each other for less than two months.

“This is the hardest couple days I’ve ever experienced in my coaching life,” Underwood told reporters in Stillwater on Friday as he choked back tears. “You say goodbye to players when they graduate. That’s one thing. Making that phone call to a mother is … there are no words. It’s a tragic day, it’s a sad sad day. A 21-year-old man had his whole world in front of him.”

Ty Coger and Cape Fear coach Ryan Mantlo (via Cape Fear Community College)
Ty Coger and Cape Fear coach Ryan Mantlo (via Cape Fear Community College)

The future indeed appeared bright for Coger when he arrived at Oklahoma State 18 days ago after transferring from Cape Fear Community College. Coger had reinvigorated a basketball career that appeared to stall a few years earlier.

Hailed as one of the top players in the state of North Carolina early in his high school career, Coger received interest from the likes of Georgetown, Missouri NC State and VCU. Coger eventually signed with Middle Tennessee after backing out of a previous commitment to Missouri, however, the NCAA ruled him ineligible to play for the Blue Raiders because of clearinghouse issues stemming from his high school.

Not being able to fulfill his Division I aspirations right away was difficult for Coger. High school teammate and close friend Rodney Purvis was at NC State, peers P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock were at North Carolina, and he was bound for East Florida State Community College.

“It was tough for him,” Edwards said. “But when it came to basketball, you just couldn’t tell him no. He was going to keep going no matter what the obstacle was. He always said that for the rest of his life, he was going to play basketball.”

Frustrated to be falling behind his friends in basketball and reeling from the abrupt death of his beloved grandfather, Coger had a rough first year of junior college. He averaged just four points per game at East Florida State and then returned home to Cape Fear Community College with zero transferable credit hours, essentially square one in his quest to secure a long-awaited Division I opportunity.

Cape Fear coach Ryan Mantlo urged Coger to take a year away from basketball to focus on academics and shed the excess pounds he had put on since high school. The results exceeded Mantlo’s expectations: Coger dropped 30 pounds, became an honor-roll student and brought constant energy and a positive attitude as a member of the scout team.

“He could brighten anyone’s day,” Mantlo said. “It didn’t matter if you were having the worst day in the world. If you ran into him, you were going to leave smiling.”

Mantlo’s smiles only got wider the following year when Coger was able to play in games. He reemerged as a Division I prospect by averaging 12.2 points and 7.0 rebounds and shooting 52.6 percent from the floor.

Coger intended to go to Ole Miss until this past June when an obscure SEC transfer rule prevented him from joining the Rebels. It was a massive blow to a kid who had worked so hard, but Coger soon discovered that the Rebels were not the only program interested in him.

“As soon as we got that word, it was wildfire,” Mantlo said. “He had so many coaches calling him that we ended up having to shut his phone off. When we boiled it down to his final five, Oklahoma State was one of them. They ended up getting his first visit, and he fell in love once he got out there.”

Among the most tragic aspects of Coger’s death is the timing of it. He had rededicated himself academically. He had rekindled his basketball career. And now he was poised to get to play on the stage where he always felt he belonged.

With the size to defend and rebound in the paint and the skill to knock down a mid-range jump shot, Coger projected as an instant contributor for Oklahoma State. His new teammates and coaches didn’t know him long, yet the outpouring of emotion on social media suggests he was already well-liked in Stillwater.

Among those who grieved publicly was Wall, a fellow North Carolina native who had kept in touch with Coger sporadically the past few years. Wall posted a screen shot from their infamous 1-on-1 game on Instagram with a heartfelt caption.

“Rest In Peace to the lil homie who always had the competitive spirit,” Wall wrote. “You will be missed Tyrek.”

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 22, 2016, 8:56 pm
Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood and his program were rocked by tragedy Thursday (AP)
Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood and his program were rocked by tragedy Thursday (AP)

The Oklahoma State basketball program has been rocked by tragedy.

Tyrek Coger, a 21-year-old junior college transfer from Raleigh, N.C., collapsed following a team workout Thursday afternoon. Coger was immediately transported to Stillwater Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 6:23 p.m.

Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood was in Las Vegas recruiting on Thursday when he learned the news. He was expected to fly back to Stillwater as soon as possible to be with his team.

“Tyrek was excited to be at Oklahoma State and had such passion for the game and was looking forward to being an OSU Cowboy,” Underwood said in a statement. “Losing a member of the team is like losing a member of the family. But we know our loss pales in comparison to the pain his family is going through.”

Once hailed as a high-major Division I prospect while starring at Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, Coger originally committed to Missouri during high school but enrolled in junior college instead. The 6-foot-9 forward played the 2013-14 season at East Florida State, sat out the 2014-15 academic year and resumed his career at Cape Fear Community College last year.

Coger emerged as one of the nation’s better junior college prospects last season at Cape Fear, averaging 12.2 points and 7.0 rebounds and shooting 52.6 percent from the field. He had been expected to compete for playing time immediately at Oklahoma State after signing with the Cowboys in June.

“He’s the type of player that can be physically imposing, but he’s also a guy that brings a great deal of experience to the locker room,” Underwood said when he announced Coger’s signing on June 27. “He’s a great rebounder with a crafty touch around the basket, but he can also step back a knock down a 15-foot jumper. Tyrek is also a pretty good passer. Most importantly, he provides some much-needed physicality in the paint, which will make us a better basketball team.”

Many in basketball circles mourned Coger’s death, from current and former Oklahoma State players and coaches to NBA stars.

RIP to my roommate/teammate….the funniest dude you'll ever meet. Don't feel real ????…prayers to the Coger family???????? pic.twitter.com/5bW7dbK5tC

— Davon Dillard (@DDillard24) July 22, 2016

My thoughts and prayers are with the Oklahoma State University Family…my heart and deepest sympathy go out to the Coger Family!

— Travis Ford (@CoachTFord5) July 22, 2016

Still feels so unreal

— T.Shine (@Tavarius_shine) July 22, 2016

Rest In Peace to the lil homie who always had the competitive spirit.. you will be missed Tyrek https://t.co/N0KyW47ouj

— John Wall (@JohnWall) July 22, 2016

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 22, 2016, 4:10 am
(Photo via @rodgerbohn on Twitter)
(Photo via @RODGERBOHN on Twitter)

You probably haven’t heard of Isaiah Stokes. He’s a rising high school senior from Memphis who plays both football and basketball. He’s a three-star recruit.

Now you have heard of Isaiah Stokes. And this backboard (RIP) at the Adidas Summer Championships in Las Vegas has definitely heard of him:

THIS JUST HAPPENED at the @adidas Summer Championships in Las Vegas. @Isaiah_Stokes BREAKS backboard during game. pic.twitter.com/5hzxDtje4g

— MaxPreps (@MaxPreps) July 21, 2016

Stokes had to be treated for the cuts from the shattered glass:

Here's 6'9 2017 @Isaiah_Stokes of @M33Mhoops getting cuts taken care of after crushing backboard at #AdidasUprising pic.twitter.com/SKlvVCaOmI

— Rodger Bohn (@rodgerbohn) July 21, 2016

Despite the initial shock, Stokes seemed rather proud of his accomplishment:

???????????????????????? pic.twitter.com/MVAqNXUSDt

— Isaiah Stokes (@Isaiah_Stokes) July 21, 2016

Author: Henry Bushnell
Posted: July 22, 2016, 12:08 am
George Washington coach Mike Lonergan (AP)
George Washington coach Mike Lonergan (AP)

When Mike Lonergan signed a contract extension two years ago after leading George Washington to the NCAA tournament, the relationship between the school and its basketball coach appeared strong.

Athletic director Patrick Nero said Lonergan “has done everything we have asked of him.” Lonergan called it his “truest hope” that George Washington would be where he retires.

A long-lasting marriage between Lonergan and George Washington seems less certain now, however, in the wake of an ugly Washington Post story published Thursday. Current and former players and staffers anonymously told the Post that Lonergan verbally and emotionally abused them, creating a toxic environment that caused many of them to leave the program.

Thirteen players have transferred from George Washington during Lonergan’s five-year tenure, an unusually high number even in an era in which the transfer rate has soared nationwide. Players who spoke to the Post cited Lonergan’s behavior as the primary reason.

According to multiple players, Lonergan’s critiques crossed the line from constructive to mean-spirited. He told one player his son would always be on food stamps. He told another, in front of the team, he should transfer to a “transgender league,” multiple players said.

One person close to a former GW player said he “went through hell” playing for Lonergan because of constant personal comments and critiques. One former player said he attended therapy and considered quitting basketball because of Lonergan’s language and actions toward him.

Lonergan did not immediately return a text from Yahoo Sports seeking comment. He responded to the Post via statement, calling the anonymous allegations “groundless” and “unfounded” and adding that “those who know me know that I conduct myself and run my program with integrity.”

Some of the players who spoke with the Post also alleged that the dynamic between Lonergan and Nero had become uncomfortable. Nero apparently drew Lonergan’s ire by monitoring his practices last season in response to complaints from players.

Players said Lonergan shared his distaste for Nero in a manner both inappropriate and outlandish. Five current and former players said Lonergan made explicit remarks about Nero, among them telling them to avoid Nero because he was obsessed with them.

Five current and former players said Lonergan told players Nero requested the practice tapes so he could masturbate while viewing them in his office. The players said Lonergan also told them Nero had engaged in a sexual relationship with a member of the team. Players said they found those comments to be shocking and offensive, with no grounding in reality.

Evaluating the severity of the allegations against Lonergan is difficult because there’s such a fine line between instilling discipline and actual emotional abuse. Colorful locker room language is the norm, but clearly Lonergan may need to back off a bit if players are complaining about him publicly and to the athletic director.

In response to Thursday’s news, a handful of prominent former George Washington players have defended Lonergan on social media. They each admitted that Lonergan is a demanding coach, but they also insisted that his methods brought out the best in them.

pic.twitter.com/vrz9yoJZU8

— patricio garino (@patitogarino) July 21, 2016

Man listen Coach Lonergan is a great coach…Haven't even read the story and I won't read it..This article is ridiculous #StopTheNonsense

— Mo Creek (@Mo_Creek) July 21, 2016

This is 100% bullshit.Verbal and emotional abuse. Are you serious ? Players are soft …

https://t.co/oOlYMgqGSD

— Isaiah Armwood (@Zeek_Armwood) July 21, 2016

Idk about the other parts of the article referring to the AD Patrick Nero, he was always good AD in my eyes but as far as players saying

— Isaiah Armwood (@Zeek_Armwood) July 21, 2016

Lonergan verbally and emotionally abused them. Go find another sport. It's called MENS basketball.

— Isaiah Armwood (@Zeek_Armwood) July 21, 2016

I was under Lonergan for 3 years. We bumped heads often, but this story is ridiculous.

— Isaiah Armwood (@Zeek_Armwood) July 21, 2016

Since leaving Vermont to come to George Washington five years ago, Lonergan has engineered an impressive turnaround. The Colonials have won 22 or more games each of the past three seasons, reaching the 2014 NCAA tournament and winning the NIT title this past spring.

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 21, 2016, 10:14 pm
ACC commissioner John Swofford (Getty Images).
ACC commissioner John Swofford (Getty Images).

When the ACC network launches in three years, the league will have some extra basketball inventory to offer.

Commissioner John Swofford announced Thursday that the ACC will increase from 18 to 20 conference games beginning during the 2019-20 season.

The timing of the switch makes it obvious it’s television-driven. Men’s basketball and football games are the ACC’s most-watched content, and the league can now draw extra eyeballs with two extra conference games per year.

How a 20-game league schedule will affect non-conference scheduling is unclear at this point, but it’s a safe bet that many ACC teams will compensate by reducing the strength of their non-league slates.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see some ACC teams annually schedule two fewer non-league games against major-conference opponents. Most will surely replace at least one marquee non-conference game with a buy game against an inferior foe in order to make up for the loss of a home game from the schedule.

ESPN and the ACC announced the launch of the new television network Thursday. Forty ACC football games and 150 basketball games will air on the network after its 2019 launch, similar to the offerings on the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC Networks.

“We look forward to working with our longtime partners at the ACC to create a network that reflects the depth and quality of its athletes and teams, and serves the fans who passionately support them,” ESPN president John Skipper said in a statement. “We are proud and excited to add the ACC Network to our industry-leading college content offerings.”

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 21, 2016, 3:07 pm
A South Florida assistant resigned Wednesday amid a report of an NCAA investigation (AP)
A South Florida assistant resigned Wednesday amid a report of an NCAA investigation (AP)

The younger brother of University of South Florida coach Orlando Antigua resigned on Wednesday in the wake of an ESPN.com report that the Bulls are under NCAA investigation for academic fraud.

Oliver Antigua has been an assistant coach under his older brother for the past two seasons. He has been forbidden from venturing off campus to recruit during the July evaluation period, the ESPN.com report said.

“The University of South Florida and the NCAA enforcement staff are working together to investigate and resolve an inquiry into potential violations of NCAA bylaws and university standards by one of our intercollegiate athletic programs,” the school said in a statement Wednesday. “Because the University of South Florida is committed to protecting the integrity of the investigation and ensuring those involved receive fair treatment, we cannot provide any details about the investigation at this time.”

The timing of the NCAA investigation could not be worse for a South Florida athletic department in pursuit of Big 12 membership. The Big 12 announced Tuesday that its board had voted unanimously to explore expansion to either 12 or 14 schools.

Helping South Florida’s case is its location in the heart of fertile recruiting ground. Hurting the Bulls’ case is the fact that they’re no better than fourth in the pecking order in the competitive Florida TV market and they’ve seldom been nationally relevant in either football or men’s basketball over the past decade.

An NCAA investigation will also surely increase the pressure on Orlando Antigua to show some semblance of progress next season. The former Kentucky assistant is 17-48 in two seasons at South Florida, including a 7-24 debacle last year.

Oliver Antigua came to South Florida after spending one year as an assistant under Kevin Willard at Seton Hall. Before that, Oliver was the longtime coach of New York high school basketball power St. Raymond’s.

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 20, 2016, 9:07 pm

North Carolina was the big winner on Tuesday after the unveiling of next season’s Maui Invitational bracket.

The Tar Heels received by far the most favorable draw of any of the the contenders in the eight-team field.

North Carolina will open play Nov. 21 against Division II Chaminade, which is 7-84 all-time at the Maui Invitational, and will face either Connecticut or Oklahoma State the following day. The Tar Heels also landed on the opposite side of the bracket from Wisconsin and Oregon, both of which may join North Carolina in the preseason top 10 next fall.

Maui Invitational bracket
Maui Invitational bracket

Of course there are no truly easy draws in a Maui Invitational field rife with name-brand programs. Seven of the eight teams in next season’s tournament hail from major conferences and Connecticut could easily give the Maui Invitational four preseason top 25 teams.

North Carolina could be close to as strong as it was last season despite the loss of senior leaders Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige. Three starters return from last year’s national runner-up squad including guard Joel Berry, forward Justin Jackson and center Kennedy Meeks.

Reigning Pac-12 champion Oregon also has Final Four potential after falling just one win short of making it to Houston last spring. The deep, talented Ducks welcome a promising recruiting class and return a handful of key players from last season including guard Tyler Dorsey and forwards Dylan Brooks and Chris Boucher.

Wisconsin has every key player back from a team that surged late in the season and reached the Sweet 16. Leading the Badgers will be guard Bronson Koenig, forward Nigel Hayes and center Ethan Happ, a strong enough nucleus that Wisconsin has a real chance to return to the Final Four for the third time in four years.

Connecticut is the most likely to pull an upset and crash the title game if its bevy of promising newcomers are able to contribute right away. Georgetown returns eight players from last year’s disappointing 18-loss season, Oklahoma State will build around star point guard Jawun Evans and Tennessee will hope to make progress in its rebuilding process during year two under Rick Barnes.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 19, 2016, 4:13 pm
The NCAA announced changes to its selection, bracketing and seeding process on Monday (AP)
The NCAA Tournament selection committee announced changes to Its process on Monday (AP)

College basketball’s elite teams have a new incentive to vie for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.

Starting next March, the No. 1 overall seed will have the chance to select the regional site where it plays first- and second-round games.

Geography has previously been the determining factor for which site the No. 1 overall seed is assigned. Contenders now will be able to share their preferences with the NCAA tournament selection committee in advance.

The eight cities hosting first- and second-round NCAA tournament games next March are Buffalo, Greensboro, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Orlando, Sacramento, Salt Lake City and Tulsa. Michigan State could now request to play in a familiar arena in Indianapolis even if it’s 50 miles farther from campus than Milwaukee and Arizona could now ask to play in Wildcats-friendly California even if Sacramento is 100 miles farther from Tucson than Salt Lake City.

That policy change came from the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ ad hoc group, which was formed last month to make recommendations to the committee on selection, seeding and bracketing matters. The committee openly considered each recommendation, adopting some and agreeing to further study others.

Among the other decisions the committee made was to study possibilities for a more effective composite ranking system to replace — or at least de-emphasize — the RPI. The committee intends to study other potential analytic methods, but will not make a change until the 2017-18 college basketball season at the earliest.

The NABC ad hoc group also recommended that quality wins, overall and non-league strength of schedule and road/neutral wins remain primary criteria in selecting and seeding the NCAA tournament field. At the behest of the NABC ad hoc group, the committee also reaffirmed its principle to give equal weight to regular season league outcomes and conference tournament results.

Lastly, the committee named longtime Creighton athletic director Bruce Rasmussen the 2018 NCAA Tournament selection chair. He’ll succeed Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis, who will serve his final year on the committee next season.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 18, 2016, 10:20 pm
Michael Porter Jr. (AP)
Michael Porter Jr. (AP)

One of the top prospects in the 2017 class is spurning higher-profile offers and following his father to Washington.

Michael Porter Jr., an athletic 6-foot-8 small forward, announced via Twitter on Friday evening that he has committed to the Huskies. Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri were among the other programs pursuing Rivals.com’s No. 2 prospect.

Washington emerged as the clear favorite to land Porter after Lorenzo Romar hired his father, Michael Porter Sr., as an assistant coach in May. Romar had already been heavily recruiting Michael Jr. for years and also previously secured a commitment from younger brother Jontay Porter last August.

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.

“I’ve known him for many years and he will be a very valuable addition to our coaching staff,” Romar said in May. “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.”

Landing Porter Jr. is another huge recruiting coup for a Washington program that has attracted top talent in recent years. First-round picks Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss were the centerpieces of a decorated 2015 class. Markelle Fultz, maybe the top point guard prospect in the nation, arrives this fall. And Porter will headline a 2017 class that also includes point guard Blake Harris and top 100 shooting guard Jaylen Nowell.

The big issue for Washington of late has been molding its young talent into a winning team. The Huskies have not made the NCAA tournament since 2011, putting pressure on Romar despite his track record of success and his recent recruiting coups.

But with Fultz on his way next season and Porter coming the following year, the future is bright at Washington.

Two of the top players in their respective classes are Seattle-bound. Now it’s up to Romar to build around them.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 15, 2016, 11:56 pm

John Calipari found a thoughtful way to provide comfort to a Kentucky family rocked by tragedy this month.

The Kentucky coach sent a letter and autographed picture to the three young sons of a Wildcats fan who has been missing for nearly two weeks. A photo of the letter, via Nation of Blue, is below:

coach-cal-2-1

Calipari’s letter arrived just under two weeks after Robert Jones and girlfriend Crystal Warner went missing on July 3.

Jones and Warner were last seen checking on the tenant of a rental property he owned in Springfield, Ky. Craig Pennington, who rented the cabin from Jones, has been charged with murder in the wake of the couple’s disappearance. The couple’s bodies have yet to be found.

Jaclyn Roberts, the mother of Parker, Ryder and Gunner, wrote on Facebook thanking Calipari for the letter.

The boys just got a letter from John Calipari & The Kentucky Wildcats saying they knew how their Dad loved KENTUCKY!!!! This is why we love UK!!!!!! They were all smiles and just wanted to frame it immediately!!!! My heart breaks so bad for my babies!!!!! ‪#‎bringbobbyandcrystalhome‬ ‪#‎findbobbyandcrystal‬ ‪#‎godhasabiggerplan‬ ‪#‎searchandrescue‬ ‪#‎prayersformybabies‬ ‪#‎uk‬ ‪#‎kentuckywildcats‬ ‪#‎bbn‬ ‪#‎kentuckybasketball‬ ‪#‎ukcoachcalipari‬

Roberts also posted Thursday that eldest son Parker played in a basketball game the previous night. Scrawled on his sneakers in black ink was the message “Playing for dad.”

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 15, 2016, 5:51 pm
Albany cancelled its visit to Duke next November (AP)
Albany cancelled its visit to Duke next November (AP)

When New York governor Andrew Cuomo banned all state-funded non-essential travel to North Carolina earlier this year, his decision had an unforeseen impact on the University of Albany basketball program.

The Great Danes have been forced to cancel their previously scheduled Nov. 12 road game at Duke.

Cuomo’s travel ban came in response to the North Carolina General Assembly passing House Bill 2 in March. HB2 is best known for requiring transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding with their birth gender and for limiting the ability of employees to sue for discrimination or wrongful termination.

Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton and Stony Brook are the four Division I basketball programs affected by Cuomo’s travel ban. Other New York schools like St. John’s and Syracuse do not have to comply with Cuomo’s stance because they’re private schools. Syracuse is scheduled to visit North Carolina and North Carolina State during ACC play next season.

In response to Albany cancelling its game at Duke, Blue Devils athletic director Kevin White expressed understanding. White told ESPN.com on Thursday, “It’s most unfortunate. As an institution, if not personally, we have gone on the record indicating that our state position on this (HB2) is very troubling, if not embarrassing.”

Duke should have little trouble replacing Albany on its schedule, but the real losers here are the Great Danes. They miss out on a chance to play at famed Cameron Indoor Stadium against a Duke team likely to begin next season ranked No. 1 in the nation.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 14, 2016, 4:52 pm
Wisconsin celebrates the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis crown (AP)
Wisconsin celebrates the 2014 Battle 4 Atlantis crown (AP)

In 2012, the Battle 4 Atlantis featured five preseason Top 25 teams. In 2014, every team in the field besides Florida made the NCAA tournament. Last year, the four semifinalists each went on to win at least one NCAA tournament game.

The Battle 4 Atlantis has produced some astonishingly strong fields since its inception, so the 2016 first-round matchups announced Wednesday feel a little underwhelming by comparison.

One half of the draw will feature Louisville-Old Dominion and Wichita State-LSU. The other will include Michigan State-St. John’s and Baylor-VCU.

Granted Michigan State is expected to land in the preseason top 10 this fall and Louisville has preseason top 20 potential, but there may not be another top 25 team in the bunch.

Wichita State is entering a transition year without Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet. Baylor must replace first-round pick Taurean Prince and rebounding machine Rico Gathers. LSU loses Ben Simmons and two other starters off a dysfunctional NIT team. Even VCU loses two of its three leading scorers off a team that should still contend in the Atlantic 10.

Any of those four teams could still make the NCAA tournament next season, yet the Battle 4 Atlantis features fewer sure things than previous years. In fact, it may have to cede the title of next year’s most anticipated holiday tournament to the Maui Invitational, which includes a trio of potential preseason top 10 teams — Oregon, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

The Battle 4 Atlantis will still be a really compelling tournament next season, one of the sport’s best in fact.

It just will need some teams to exceed expectations in order to eclipse the high bar previous events have set.

– – – – – – –

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 13, 2016, 5:52 pm
Lamonte Bearden (AP)
Lamonte Bearden (AP)

The point guard who led Buffalo to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances the past two seasons will seek a bigger stage to showcase his talents.

The Bulls announced Wednesday that leading scorer Lamonte Bearden intends to transfer. Bearden will sit out the 2016-17 season and then have two years of eligibility remaining at his new destination.

“I spoke with Lamonte Bearden last week about his basketball future and he thought it would be in his best interest to transfer,” Buffalo coach Nate Oats said in a statement. “Even though I am disappointed in his decision, I want him to be at peace with where he is at. He has been given his release to pursue other options.”

Credit Buffalo for granting him a full release even though his decision came far later in the offseason calendar than most transfers. Bearden will seek a high-major program with a vacant scholarship and playing time available at point guard following next season.

Buffalo transfer Lamonte Bearden gave following list to Bulls, per source: Nevada, Arizona, TCU, Texas A&M, Wisc., Marquette, Iowa St, Miami

— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) July 13, 2016

Whichever program lands Bearden will get a former four-star recruit whose signing was hailed as a coup for former Buffalo coach Bobby Hurley. Bearden largely lived up to the hype too, averaging 8.3 points and 4.4 assists as a freshman and then increasing his scoring to 13.7 points per game last season after the Bulls lost their two leading scorers.

Bearden’s greatest strengths are his ability to attack the lane off the dribble, create for himself or his teammates and make good decisions with the ball in his hands. He needs to spend his redshirt year improving his outside shot, however, as opposing defenders have been able to play him to drive without much fear of consequence.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 13, 2016, 3:59 pm

AP_918512016677If the potential for a huge 2017 recruiting class was among the biggest reasons Illinois opted to show patience with John Groce last spring, then the fifth-year coach is making that decision look wise.

Groce is assembling a class deep and talented enough to one day help the Illini return to Big Ten title contention.

The latest addition to the class is Jeremiah Tilmon, a five-star center rated Rivals.com’s No. 24 prospect in the 2017 class. Tilmon, the highest rated recruit Groce has landed during his tenure, committed to the Illini on Monday despite offers from the likes of Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Texas and Missouri.

After a long recruiting process and much thought and I'm blessed to announce that I am staying home???????????????? #illini ???? pic.twitter.com/z8QhSNWEZ7

— Jeremiah Tilmon (@jeremiahtilmon_) July 11, 2016

Tilmon joins a class that already includes two other Illinois natives.

llinois already has landed a commitment from guard Da’Monte Williams, the son of ex-Illini point guard Frank Williams and Rivals.com’s No. 77 prospect in the Class of 2017. The Illini also have a commitment from shooting guard Javon Pickett and are also strong contenders to promising guard Jordan Goodwin (No. 53).

The strong 2017 recruiting class is a stark contrast to previous years under Groce when Illinois has struggled to land elite recruits.  Cliff Alexander spurned Illinois for Kansas, Quentin Snider chose Louisville over the Illini and other high-profile prospects haven’t even given the program more than a courtesy look.

Part of the reason for that is Illinois has consistently been a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team under Groce.

Groce has come under fire the past few months because Illinois isn’t succeeding on the court or behaving off of it. A rash of injuries and off-court issues are a big reason for that.

Illinois finished 15-19 last season and missed the NCAA tournament for a third straight season. Projected starters Leron Black, Mike Thorne and Tracy Abrams combined to play in a total of 15 games, leaving Illinois hopelessly shorthanded at point guard and in the frontcourt. Four other key players also missed shorter chunks of time with injuries too.

The dismissal of Kendrick Nunn hurts Groce’s chances of a breakthrough 2016-17 season, however, Illinois can still make strides if Malcolm Hill seizes a leadership role, promising sophomore Jalen Coleman-Lands develops and Abrams regains his explosiveness. And there’s hope for the future now too with Groce well on his way toward reeling in a program-changing 2017 recruiting class.

Will the 2017 class be enough to save Groce’s job if Illinois misses the NCAA tournament for a fourth straight year next spring? It’s probably too soon to make that call.

But now he can at least argue for the first time in a long time that the program is generating some momentum.

– – – – – – –

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 11, 2016, 7:34 pm
Larry Brown (AP)
Larry Brown (AP)

When SMU began searching for a new basketball coach in March 2012, school officials were eager to make a splashy hire.

A Mustangs program that hadn’t made the NCAA tournament since 1993 sought a jolt of energy from a proven winner in time for its move to the higher-profile American Athletic Conference the following year.

An overly ambitious coaching search targeted the likes of Marquette’s Buzz Williams, St Louis’ Rick Majerus and Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, but each turned down lucrative offers. Only then did SMU turn its attention to basketball’s ultimate vagabond, a coach with a reputation for delivering spectacular success before running afoul of NCAA rules and abruptly moving on to his next gig.

Larry Brown’s four-year SMU tenure followed that exact pattern. The hall of fame coach quickly made the long-struggling Mustangs relevant in college basketball before major NCAA violations tarnished that success and a contract dispute paved the way for his latest hasty exit.

Brown, 75, resigned Friday morning as a result of his displeasure with the three-year contract extension SMU says it offered him. He reportedly wanted a five-year deal even though he’d be 80 years old by the end of that contract.

Evaluating SMU’s swing-for-the-fences gamble hiring Brown isn’t easy even now that his tenure is over.

On one hand, he won 25 or more games in each of his final three seasons, ended SMU’s 22-year NCAA tournament drought and made the Mustangs a factor for recruits they once couldn’t get to return phone calls. On the other hand, he didn’t win a single NCAA tournament game in four years and he leaves behind his usual trail of messes for coach-in-waiting Tim Jankovich to clean up.

SMU is still coping with scholarship reductions stemming from the NCAA’s investigation into whether basketball staffers helped ex-McDonald’s All-American Keith Frazier with the coursework he needed to become academically eligible. The Mustangs are also in jeopardy of facing APR penalties in the coming years as a result of their recent spotty academic performance.

The true barometer for whether Brown’s SMU tenure was a success may be how the Mustangs fare following his departure.

If the program fades back to irrelevance, it will be tough to argue Brown’s three winning seasons were worth the headaches he brought. If the program remains a frequent NCAA tournament contender, then Brown will rightfully get credit for raising its stature.

SMU will be eligible for the postseason next spring after a one-year hiatus, but the Mustangs may not be able to ascend to the heights of the last two seasons without star point guard Nic Moore. Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye and a solid recruiting class will try to help holdovers Ben Moore, Shake Milton and Keith Frazier keep SMU near the top of the American Athletic Conference.

As for Brown, he leaves a complicated legacy just like he did more than a quarter century ago at his previous two college coaching stops.

Brown led UCLA to the 1980 national title game, but the Bruins were put on probation for two years after the NCAA found players had received impermissible benefits. Brown led Kansas to a national title in 1988, but the Jayhawks were banned from postseason play the following year due to recruiting violations.

What do Brown’s three college head coaching stints have in common? They all follow a very similar pattern.

Instant success, followed quickly by the arrival of NCAA investigators and a hasty exit.

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 8, 2016, 1:56 pm
Jim Boeheim (AP)
Jim Boeheim (AP)

From the moment Syracuse announced last year that Jim Boeheim intends to retire after the 2017-18 season, there has been speculation that the legendary basketball coach has no intention of sticking to that timetable.

That will only increase now that the Orange have hired a new athletic director who has a strong relationship with Boeheim.

John Wildhack, ESPN’s executive vice president for programming and production, has been hired to replace Mark Coyle as Syracuse’s athletic director, the school said Wednesday. The ESPN executive is a Buffalo native, a 1980 graduate of Syracuse and a longtime friend of Boeheim.

Boeheim told Syracuse.com he views Wildhack’s hire as “a great positive.” He was non-committal about how Wildhack’s arrival would affect his retirement date, telling Syracuse.com “We’re trying to get a lot better for this coming year. I’m really focused on that right now.”

Syracuse’s announcement of Boeheim’s retirement timetable in March 2015 arrived soon after the conclusion of a lengthy NCAA investigation that uncovered academic misconduct, extra benefits violations and impermissible booster activity. The timing suggested that the decision the decision may have been forced upon Boeheim, 71, though he has never confirmed that.

That Syracuse remains one of the nation’s premier programs can only embolden Boeheim to remain at the helm beyond the 2018 deadline.

The Orange struggled to a 4-5 record during Boeheim’s nine-game midseason suspension but thrived after he returned, making the NCAA tournament and then going on a surprising run to the Final Four. They’re set up for another solid season next year despite the early departure of NCAA tournament hero Malachi Richardson.

Boeheim came to Syracuse as a freshman in 1962 and later served as an assistant before becoming the head coach in 1976. He built Syracuse into a national power, reaching five Final Fours and winning the 2003 national championship. Longtime assistant Mike Hopkins has been tabbed to be Boeheim’s eventual successor.

– – – – – – –

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 6, 2016, 6:23 pm
Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman is Kansas-bound (AP)
Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman is Kansas-bound (AP)

If Kansas endures massive roster turnover as anticipated next spring, the Jayhawks at least now have some insurance.

They secured a commitment on Friday from one of the most intriguing transfers available this offseason.

Ex-Mississippi State guard Malik Newman, a former top 10 prospect in the 2015 class, will continue his career at Kansas. The 6-foot-3 sophomore will sit out the 2016-17 season per transfer rules but has three years of eligibility remaining thereafter.

Hailed as one of the elite prospects in his class after earning MVP honors at the FIBA U-17 World Championships two years ago, Newman did not live up to expectations in his lone season at Mississippi State. Newman averaged 11.3 points per game, but he shot barely 40 percent from inside the arc, turned the ball over nearly two times per game and earned just 67 trips to the foul line.

At Mississippi State, Newman played mostly off ball and struggled to adjust to Ben Howland’s oft-rigid system. He should have the opportunity to create more via ball screens for a Kansas team whose backcourt could look drastically different by the time Newman is eligible to play.

What’s certain is that Kansas will lose senior point guard Frank Mason to graduation after next season. Heralded incoming freshman wing Josh Jackson will almost certainly enter the NBA draft next spring and combo guard Devonte Graham and wing Svi Mykhailiuk could also emerge as early-entry candidates.

Should Kansas lose three or four of those players, coach Bill Self might have to rely on Newman as a potential perimeter centerpiece for his 2017-18 team. That means Newman has one year to determine whether he is more effective playing on or off ball and improve his efficiency creating for himself or his teammates off the dribble.

When Newman withdrew from the NBA draft this past spring because his stock wasn’t as high as he hoped, he had the option of staying at Mississippi State or transferring to another school whose system fit him better.

The downside to Newman’s decision is sitting out all of next season. The upside is a fresh start at a nationally renowned program that may really need him.

– – – – – – –

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: July 1, 2016, 6:00 pm
Arizona signee Terrance Ferguson will instead play professionally next year (AP)
Arizona signee Terrance Ferguson will instead play professionally next year (AP)

No longer does Arizona have such a glut of talent at wing next season.

The school confirmed on Thursday that McDonald’s All-American shooting guard Terrance Ferguson will pursue professional opportunities instead of playing for the Wildcats. Ferguson, Rivals.com’s No. 14 prospect in the 2016 class, is expected to sign with the Adelaide 36ers of Australia’s National Basketball League.

“I hope this next chapter of his basketball career goes well, and his goal of one day becoming an NBA player is realized,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said in a release from the school.

While Ferguson’s decision to turn pro may reignite the conversation about whether more elite prospects will consider skipping college, the reality is it shouldn’t. The high-profile prospects who have passed on college to play professionally overseas have typically done so because of eligibility concerns.

Brandon Jennings was unsure if he could meet the academic requirements to play for Arizona when he opted instead to sign with Italy’s Lottomatica Virtus Roma in 2008. Emmanuel Mudiay faced the possibility of a lengthy NCAA investigation into his eligibility when he chose to head to China instead of playing for SMU in 2014.

Ferguson’s situation is similar to Mudiay’s.

Both Mudiay and Ferguson previously attended Prime Prep Academy, the heavily scrutinized Texas school that created NCAA issues for numerous players before it finally closed last year. Ferguson also graduated this spring from Advance Preparatory International, an offshoot of Prime Prep.

With no guarantee that the NCAA would clear him to play at Arizona next season, Ferguson had two options. Either he could take his chances with the Wildcats, or he could begin his pro career a year ahead of time.

Playing against grown men in a foreign country is not easy for anyone just months removed from high school, but Ferguson’s transition could be a bit more straightforward than some of his predecessors. The season is shorter in Australia and the culture shock should be diminished in an English-speaking country.

While losing a five-star prospect would be a blow to any program, Arizona is better positioned than most teams would be to absorb Ferguson’s absence. The Wildcats will miss Ferguson’s ability to space the floor with his outside shooting prowess, but they still have a handful of key perimeter returners and two Rivals top 20 incoming freshmen.

The only certain starter is Allonzo Trier, a 6-foot-4 wing who averaged 14.8 points per game as a freshman and also improved defensively throughout the season. Also back are junior point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, 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.

Joining that quartet are slashing 6-foot-4 wing Rawle Alkins and 6-foot-5 scoring point guard Kobi Simmons. Look for Miller to play Smith as an undersized power forward in stretches in order to accommodate all of his perimeter talent.

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 30, 2016, 4:14 pm

Seldom has there been a more perfect marriage between a company and the athlete endorsing it.

Perry Ellis, the former Kansas basketball star, shared on social media on Wednesday that he has landed a sponsorship deal with Perry Ellis, the clothing brand.

The sportswear brand released a statement to Yahoo Sports on Thursday morning confirming the clever partnership between namesakes. Lisa Kauffman, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Marketing Officer for Perry Ellis, said the company is “very excited about the association” because the “playful partnership stays true to the fun, lighthearted nature of the brand.”

Asked to provide further details about how the sponsorship deal was conceived and what the campaign will include in the future, Perry Ellis clothing brand publicist David Shulman said he had no further information at this time.

Perry Ellis, the basketball player, averaged 16.9 points and 5.8 rebounds as a senior for Kansas last season, but the 6-foot-9 forward was not selected in last week’s NBA draft. Ellis will play for the Dallas Mavericks Summer League team in July.

The publicity the deal between Perry Ellis and Perry Ellis has generated could lead to some other perfect pairings between athletes and brands.

Diamond Stone and Shane Company? Marcedes Lewis and Mercedes Benz? Howard Johnson and Howard Johnson? Get ready. They’re coming.

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 30, 2016, 2:44 pm
Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury (AP)
Western Kentucky coach Rick Stansbury (AP)

Whether as the head coach at Mississippi State or an assistant at Texas A&M, Rick Stansbury has shown he can attract elite prospects to high-major programs.

Now the new Western Kentucky coach is proving he can also do it at a less prestigious destination.

Stansbury on Wednesday received a commitment from center Mitchell Robinson, Rivals.com’s No. 11 prospect in the 2017 class and one of high school basketball’s top shot blockers and rebounders. Robinson’s Dallas-based AAU team confirmed the commitment on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon.

Congrats to @kodakmitch23 on his decision to play at Western Kentucky. ???????????????????? player that is hands down the best rim protector in America.

— NikeProSkills (@NikeProSkills) June 29, 2016

How does a five-star big man commit to an out-of-state program that fired its coach this past spring after losing 16 games and finishing below .500 in Conference USA? His loyalty to Stansbury apparently outweighed offers from the likes of Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and others.

It was Stansbury who was the lead recruiter when Robinson initially committed to Texas A&M last October. It was Stansbury’s departure that led Robinson to reopen his recruitment this past April. It was Stansbury who urged Robinson to consider Western Kentucky and further greased the wheels by hiring his godfather, former North Carolina guard Shammond Williams, as an assistant coach.

What Western Kentucky is getting in Robinson is potentially its most significant recruiting coup in years, if not decades. The Louisiana native has blossomed into a consensus top 20 prospect this spring by showcasing improvement on offense and going from good to great as a rebounder and rim protector.

The key for Stansbury will be figuring out a way to surround Robinson with enough perimeter talent for Western Kentucky to take advantage of his presence. The Hilltoppers reportedly are also pursuing coveted Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman and top 100 Class of 2017 wing Galen Alexander.

The commitment from Robinson can only make Western Kentucky more attractive to other prospects.

Soon, perhaps Kentucky and Louisville won’t be the only Bluegrass State programs viewed as potential destinations for top talent.

Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 30, 2016, 6:38 am
Candace Parker was among the former Lady Vols to reflect on the life of Pat Summitt (AP).
Candace Parker was among the former Lady Vols to reflect on the life of Pat Summitt (AP).

 

LOS ANGELES — Candace Parker remembers the moment pretty vividly. She remembers the sobs. She remembers the sadness. She remembers the phone call.

It was August 2011. The call was to her college coach, Pat Summitt. Summitt, the winningest coach in college basketball history, had been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type. Parker had just heard the news.

“Coach, I’m so sorry,” Parker said through the phone, and through the tears. “I love you. I care about you. I’m here for you.”

Summitt responded as only she could.

“Well don’t throw a pity party,” she told her former player. “Because you’re gonna be the only one there.”

That was nearly five years ago. Summitt, the legendary Tennessee Lady Vols basketball coach, succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease on Tuesday. She was 64.

Hours later, Parker trotted out onto the Staples Center floor, her Los Angeles Sparks moments from tipping off against the Dallas Wings. At the request of the public address announcer, the stadium descended into silence to honor Summitt. Parker’s head bowed toward the floor. Toward her orange shoes. Toward the word “Rebound,” which she’d written on the toe of the right one. That’s what Summitt always used to holler at her.

Perhaps it was fitting, then, that Parker pulled down a season-high 13 boards. She also glided to 31 points and seven assists, and, with her Sparks down 22 in the third quarter, ignited a furious comeback for an 89-84 win.

At the final horn, though, she approached Wings forward Glory Johnson, a fellow Lady Vol. They wrapped their arms around each other, holding the embrace for a few seconds to exchange comforting, reassuring words.

There’s a vast Tennessee network in women’s basketball. A few nodes of that network converged Tuesday night. And it’s almost as if Summitt still oversees the entire web.

“She had 161 young ladies graduate, and basically taught them how to fly,” Sparks assistant coach Tonya Edwards, who won two national championships under Summitt in the late 1980s, said after the game. “Those young ladies will definitely leave their mark. But it will really be her mark. Because she’ll end up living through us.”

Johnson, who wrote her Master’s thesis on her (and Summitt’s) final season at Tennessee, is one of those 161. “There’s no one that will be able to take her place,” Johnson said of her former coach after the game. “It’s just not gonna happen. But she did teach us enough to where we can spread the word, and we can share our knowledge of the game with everyone else.”

Summitt taught beyond basketball too. She was about molding women as much as molding stifling defenses.

“You see the toughness, you see the glare, all that stuff,” Parker said. “But my memory at Tennessee is just sitting in her office, propping my feet up, and just having a conversation in between classes. Her door was always open. Her house was always open. You could stop by there anytime.”

Edwards recalled her first summer after graduating from Tennessee. Okay, I can relax now, she thought. But after showing up late to work at a basketball camp, she returned home to a call from Summitt. “She let me have it,” Edwards said with a smile.

But Summitt had a certain way of crafting her criticism, of delivering tough love, that allowed it to remain just that — love. Sparks assistant coach Amber Stocks, who spent two years with the Lady Vols program as the director of basketball operations, remembers how important this was to Summitt.

“One of the rules that she was very passionate about was never, ever, break a player’s spirit,” Stocks said. “She would get on players, and she would ride them, but she didn’t believe in demeaning them, and degrading, and cussing them out.

“That just wasn’t her character. It was so anti- who she was as a person, that she never even got close to that. The genuine concern, and the investments that she had made into the student athletes over time … when she did motivate somebody, or did have to get on somebody really intense, there was no question that it came from a place of love. Because daily, she was making love deposits into everybody’s life.”

It’s that, more than anything else, that explains why Parker’s heart was so heavy Tuesday night. That explains the shoes. That explains the orange shoelaces worn by all Sparks players. It explains the orange shirts in the crowd, by the scorer’s table, even on media row. It explains the end-of-third-quarter video tribute, with Summitt waving a freshly chopped down net — one of eight.

Summitt also explains the ESPN2 cameras and broadcast team at Staples Center Tuesday night. She explains the sizable crowd. She explains the line of fans — female and male, young and old — patiently awaiting Wings guard Skylar Diggins’ autograph after the game.

“She was the trailblazer for women’s basketball,” Edwards said. “We probably wouldn’t be standing here today had it not been for the foundation that she laid.”

It’s rather poetic then that on the day the legend died, three of her pupils — one player, two coaches — led this 22-point comeback, on national TV, on this stage.

“Pat had her hand on it a little bit,” Edwards said with a muffled laugh. “She probably put a couple of them balls in the basket for us.”

 

Author: Henry Bushnell
Posted: June 29, 2016, 9:02 am

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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.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: June 28, 2016, 11:01 am
Former Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2011. (AP)
Former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011. (AP)

Some of the best players ever to play for coach Pat Summitt at Tennessee traveled to Knoxville in recent days to hold the hand of the legendary coach who is struggling in her brave battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Summitt announced in August 2011 that she had been diagnosed with the disease. She went on to coach the 2011-12 season before retiring with eight national titles, 32 SEC championships and 1,098 wins. She coached the Vols for 38 seasons and became the winningest coach, regardless of gender, in NCAA Division I history.

WNBA stars Candace Parker and Tamika Catchings are among nearly 20  of those who traveled back to the city where they attended college in order to connect with their coach again over the weekend, The Tennessean reported. Many other former Vols and thousands outside the program have posted well wishes to the 64-year-old former coach on social media sites using the hashtag #PrayForPat

Summitt’s family is by her side and released a statement on Sunday that said in part, “The past few days have been difficult for Pat as her early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s Type progresses.”

President Barack Obama awarded Summitt the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. The University of Tennessee named both its basketball court and a plaza on campus in her honor and erected a statue of her in that plaza in 2013. Shortly after her diagnosis in 2011, she founded the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund aimed at raising money for Alzheimer’s research.

A lot of emotion this morning. Got the news Late last night abt Coach Summit. #PrayForPat Praying for all my Tenn sis as well???????? with y'all!

— Swin Cash (@SwinCash) June 26, 2016">

A lot of emotion this morning. Got the news Late last night abt Coach Summit. #PrayForPat Praying for all my Tenn sis as well???????? with y’all!

— Swin Cash (@SwinCash) June 26, 2016

THANK YOU COACH PAT for being such an influential woman in my life and for inspiring me to continue to play the... https://t.co/7el3uhP0jZ

— Diamond DeShields (@DDDeshields) June 26, 2016">

THANK YOU COACH PAT for being such an influential woman in my life and for inspiring me to continue to play the… https://t.co/7el3uhP0jZ

— Diamond DeShields (@DDDeshields) June 26, 2016

All I can is #PrayForPat...at a lost for words. But thank you everyone who has reached out to… https://t.co/YYUnQ6NxwG

— Alexis Hornbuckle (@Hornbuckle14) June 27, 2016">

All I can is #PrayForPat…at a lost for words. But thank you everyone who has reached out to… https://t.co/YYUnQ6NxwG

— Alexis Hornbuckle (@Hornbuckle14) June 27, 2016

Truly irreplaceable! Our prayers are with you, your family, players, and friends. #PrayForPat pic.twitter.com/B90Se2sRKR

— RU Vivian Stringer (@cvivianstringer) June 27, 2016">

Truly irreplaceable! Our prayers are with you, your family, players, and friends. #PrayForPat pic.twitter.com/B90Se2sRKR

— RU Vivian Stringer (@cvivianstringer) June 27, 2016

Touched by all your thoughtful tweets as we continue to #PrayForPat. Wearing orange this Monday morn @GMA in honor of my dear friend.

— Robin Roberts (@RobinRoberts) June 27, 2016">

Touched by all your thoughtful tweets as we continue to #PrayForPat. Wearing orange this Monday morn @GMA in honor of my dear friend.

— Robin Roberts (@RobinRoberts) June 27, 2016

Can't find the words right now, only thing I can say is #PrayForPat! ???????? pic.twitter.com/ujUqzcrLz0

— Butch Jones (@UTCoachJones) June 26, 2016">

Can’t find the words right now, only thing I can say is #PrayForPat! ???????? pic.twitter.com/ujUqzcrLz0

— Butch Jones (@UTCoachJones) June 26, 2016

Class and courage. #PrayForPat ???? pic.twitter.com/fqaxM9ibeM

— Stanford WBB (@StanfordWBB) June 26, 2016">

Class and courage. #PrayForPat ???? pic.twitter.com/fqaxM9ibeM

— Stanford WBB (@StanfordWBB) June 26, 2016

To Pat, the best role model a woman in coaching could have - she is what we all aspire to be. #prayforPat

— Muffet McGraw (@MuffetMcGraw) June 26, 2016">

To Pat, the best role model a woman in coaching could have – she is what we all aspire to be. #prayforPat

— Muffet McGraw (@MuffetMcGraw) June 26, 2016

Pat, you are in my thoughts & prayers. My dear trusted friend,May God be with you & your family. Your legacy will live forever. #PrayForPat

— Bruce Pearl (@coachbrucepearl) June 26, 2016">

Pat, you are in my thoughts & prayers. My dear trusted friend,May God be with you & your family. Your legacy will live forever. #PrayForPat

— Bruce Pearl (@coachbrucepearl) June 26, 2016

Praying for @patsummitt. Sharing 19 yrs w her at UT was inspiring. I learned so much about coaching/leading/friendship from her #PrayForPat

— David Cutcliffe (@DavidCutcliffe) June 26, 2016">

Praying for @patsummitt. Sharing 19 yrs w her at UT was inspiring. I learned so much about coaching/leading/friendship from her #PrayForPat

— David Cutcliffe (@DavidCutcliffe) June 26, 2016

Praying for Coach @patsummitt and her family tonight! #PrayforPat

— Josh Dobbs (@josh_dobbs1) June 26, 2016">

Praying for Coach @patsummitt and her family tonight! #PrayforPat

— Josh Dobbs (@josh_dobbs1) June 26, 2016

Love & support to Pat Summit, her family & loved ones. #PrayForPat

— Kenny Smith (@TheJetOnTNT) June 26, 2016">

Love & support to Pat Summit, her family & loved ones. #PrayForPat

— Kenny Smith (@TheJetOnTNT) June 26, 2016

– – – – – – –

[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: June 27, 2016, 6:16 pm

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 24, 2016, 1:35 pm

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.

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 8, 2016, 6:24 pm

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.

(Thanks, CBSSports.com)

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 7, 2016, 5:32 pm

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 3, 2016, 4:41 pm

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 2, 2016, 1:59 pm

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 2, 2016, 12:21 am

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: June 1, 2016, 12:13 am

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 31, 2016, 2:46 pm

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 31, 2016, 1:14 am

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 26, 2016, 9:55 pm

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:

1. Duke
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.

2. Kentucky
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.

3. Villanova
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. 

4. Kansas
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.

5. Oregon
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.

Justin Jackson (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)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.

8. Indiana
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.

9. Virginia
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.

10. Arizona
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.

11. Xavier
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.

12. Louisville
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.

Nigel Hayes  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)13. Wisconsin
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.

14. Gonzaga
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.

15. UCLA
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.

16. Purdue
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.

18. Connecticut
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.

20. Maryland
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

- - - - - - -

Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 26, 2016, 4:13 pm

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:

1. Oregon
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.

2. Villanova
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.

3. Duke
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.

4. Cal
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.

5. Indiana
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.

6. Purdue
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.

7. Xavier
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.

9. Wisconsin
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.

10. Arizona
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.  

11. Kentucky
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:

1. USC
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.

2. UNLV
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.  

3. Washington
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.

5. Texas
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.

7. Louisville
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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 25, 2016, 6:10 pm

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 25, 2016, 2:07 am

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 25, 2016, 12:57 am

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 24, 2016, 9:05 pm

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 24, 2016, 3:47 pm

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 24, 2016, 1:30 pm

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 23, 2016, 1:28 pm

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 20, 2016, 11:43 pm

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 19, 2016, 7:22 pm

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 18, 2016, 4:31 pm

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 17, 2016, 3:19 am

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 16, 2016, 4:38 pm

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 16, 2016, 3:21 pm

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?"

KAPLOWITZ: "Yeah."

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 11, 2016, 7:50 pm

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. 

The value of a Duke education can never be overstated! Congrats to Duke grad, Lisa Borders, on her new job! #Dukefam https://t.co/MzQGHOsRSO

— Jeff Capel (@jeffcapel) May 9, 2016

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 10, 2016, 3:16 pm
Nebraska coach Tim Miles flies with the Blue Angels (via Tim Miles)

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 9, 2016, 7:33 pm

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 9, 2016, 5:59 pm

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 9, 2016, 2:54 pm

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 9, 2016, 1:52 pm

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 7, 2016, 3:59 am

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.

🙏🏻 #TCU pic.twitter.com/VHnMqXpNYx

— Jaylen Fisher (@areal_hooper) May 4, 2016

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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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 4, 2016, 11:00 pm

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.

Ben Carter (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 4, 2016, 6:03 pm

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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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Jeff Eisenberg
Posted: May 3, 2016, 1:54 pm

Bobby Knight, Donald Trump.Legendary former Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight endorsed Donald Trump for president in a characteristically fiery, pugnacious speech on Wednesday night.

Knight, at least as well known for his take-no-prisoners attitude as his winning record, spoke to Trump supporters at a rally in Indiana. A sampling of his remarks, via Business Insider and The Hill:

• 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.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: April 28, 2016, 2:44 pm

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.

[Amended notice of allegations seems more favorable to North Carolina]

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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[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Author: Kyle Ringo
Posted: April 27, 2016, 7:27 pm

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