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Argument starter: A 2012-13 NCAA tournament projection

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As Big Blue Nation continues to celebrate its eighth NCAA championship, it’s certainly possible that UK will be a No. 1 seed again next March – depending on how many current Wildcats return. Even with some expected departures, coach John Calipari is bringing another Top 5 recruiting class to Lexington. So let’s go ahead and write in UK as a No. 1 seed in our very early look at the 2013 bracket.

A lot will change over the next week or so as players decide whether to enter the NBA Draft. In the months ahead we’ll also see how the final recruiting pieces fit together.

As of today, Indiana, Louisville, and Kansas join Kentucky as projected No. 1 seeds. Ohio State, Baylor, Michigan, and Florida are next in line.

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This far in advance the bracket is guess work – based on returning players, some realistic expectations, and a few potential surprises. We also have several teams changing conference affiliation in 2012-13. Notable teams include Missouri and Texas AM moving from the Big 12 to the SEC. Oral Roberts moves to the Southland and Belmont to the Ohio Valley. We’ll take a look at these and other changes in greater depth at a later date.

Expect Butler to return to March Madness next spring. Maryland makes the early bracket, too, as does Pittsburgh. And John Groce has the pieces to give the Illini a chance. Even Bruce Weber should return – with Kansas State. All in all, a lot of fun. November isn’t too far away.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Tulsa vs. Saint Mary’s | West Region
  • Oklahoma State vs. Northern Iowa | East Region
  • Ms Valley State vs. Savannah State | Midwest Region
  • Charleston Southern vs. Mercer | South

BRACKET PROJECTION …

MIDWESTIndianapolis   SOUTHDallas
Dayton   Dayton
1) Kentucky   1) Indiana
16) Savannah St / Ms Valley St   16) Charleston S’thern / Mercer
8) Minnesota   8) UCLA
9) Notre Dame   9) Florida State
     
Salt Lake City   San Jose
5) Creighton   5) Cincinnati
12) Drexel   12) Nevada
4) Texas   4) San Diego State
13) Ohio   13) Loyola-MD
     
Philadelphia   Kansas City
6) Butler   6) Tennessee
11) Massachusetts   11) VCU
3) North Carolina   3) NC State
14) Princeton   14) South Dakota State
     
Auburn Hills   Austin
7) Marquette   7) Wisconsin
10) Stanford   10) Villanova
2) Michigan   2) Baylor
15) Middle Tennessee St   15) UC-Santa Barbara
     
WEST – Los Angeles   EAST – TBA (not decided)
Kansas City   Lexington
1) Kansas   1) Louisville
16) Vermont   16) LIU-Brooklyn
8) Georgetown   8) Kansas State
9) Missouri   9) Alabama
     
San Jose   Salt Lake City
5) UNLV   5) Memphis
12) Purdue   12) Illinois
4) Arizona   4) Duke
13) Tulsa / St. Mary’s   13) Oklahoma St / No. Iowa
     
Austin   Auburn Hills
6) Gonzaga   6) Xavier
11) Colorado   11) New Mexico
3) Syracuse   3) Michigan State
14) Oral Roberts   14) Davidson
     
Lexington   Philadelphia
7) St. Louis   7) Pittsburgh
10) Murray State   10) Maryland
2) Ohio State   2) Florida
15) Montana   15) Lehigh

NOTES on the BRACKET: Kentucky is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Indiana, Louisville, and Kansas. Next in line are Ohio State, Baylor, Michigan, and Florida.

Last Five teams in (at large): Illinois, Saint Mary’s, Oklahoma State, Northern Iowa, Tulsa

First Five teams out (at large): Mississippi, West Virginia, Virginia, LSU, Iowa

Also considered: St. John’s, Vanderbilt, Iowa State, Temple, Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Loyola-Marymount, Texas AM, La Salle, Arkansas, Valparaiso, Detroit, California, Wake Forest, Long Beach, Houston, Northwestern, George Mason, Iona, Fairfield, Miami-FL, Georgia Tech, BYU, Colorado State, Wyoming, New Mexico State, Kent State, Akron, Milwaukee, Duquesne, South Carolina, Marshall, Southern Mississippi.

Here is the team breakdown by Conference …

Big East (8): Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Villanova

Big Ten (8): Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois

SEC (5): Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri

ACC (5): North Carolina, NC State, Duke, Florida State, Maryland

Big 12 (5): Kansas, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State

Pac 12 (4): Arizona, UCLA, Stanford, Colorado

Mountain West (3): San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico

Atlantic 10 (3): Xavier, St. Louis, Massachusetts

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

Conference USA (2): Memphis, Tulsa

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Northern Iowa

Colonial (2): Drexel, VCU

Conference champions … Butler (Horizon), Murray State (OVC), Nevada (WAC), Loyola-MD (MAAC), Ohio (MAC), Davidson (Southern), Oral Roberts (Southland), South Dakota State (Summit), Princeton (Ivy), Middle Tennessee State (Sun Belt), Montana (Big Sky), Lehigh (Patriot), UC-Santa Barbara (Big West), LIU-Brooklyn (NEC), Charleston Southern (Big South), Vermont (America East), Mercer (Atlantic Sun), Mississippi Valley State (SWAC), Savannah State (MEAC)

Judge to review surveillance video in Appling gun case

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 30:  Keith Appling #11 of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Connecticut Huskies during the East Regional Final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 30, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) A Michigan judge will review surveillance footage from the night former Michigan State basketball player Keith Appling was arrested outside a strip club on weapons and drug charges.

Appling’s defense attorney presented the footage at Friday’s preliminary examination. It includes security videos from the Pantheon Club parking lot and video from police dashboard cameras.

The hearing was adjourned until Aug. 5 to allow Judge William Hultgren time to review the footage.

The 24-year-old Appling played for the Spartans from 2010-2014 and had two 10-day contracts with the Orlando Magic this season.

He was arrested in May after two guns and suspected marijuana were found in a vehicle he was in.

Appling also faces a trial in Detroit where he was charged in June with carrying a concealed weapon.

Arkansas hoping for more backcourt depth and stronger press in 2016-17

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Dusty Hannahs #3 of the Arkansas Razorbacks drives to the basket against Michael Humphrey #10 of the Stanford Cardinal  at Barclays Center on November 27, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Arkansas is coming off of a disappointing 16-16 season in which they missed the postseason.

The Razorbacks lost two key guards in Anthlon Bell and Jabril Durham — who both exhausted their eligibility — but they’re hoping a couple of additions will bolster the depth of their backcourt and make their trademark press stronger.

In a story from Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Razorbacks are excited about the possibilities of their new backcourt.

Although Arkansas lost two talented seniors and a transfer in Jimmy Whitt, they return Dusty Hannahs, Manny Watkins and Anton Beard while also getting two of the best junior college guards in the country. Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon come in highly touted for next season and both junior college guards garnered a lot of praise from their play last season.

With Arkansas also bringing in some freshman guards like C.J. Jones and RJ Glasper, head coach Mike Anderson is hoping to have enough bodies to play fast and use his press. The team appears to be optimistic as well.

“I think we’ll have a lot more toughness at the guard position, and depth,” Watkins said to Murphy. “We’ve got a lot of guys. When we’re pressing and stuff, we’ve got bodies we can bring in.”

Arkansas also returns an SEC Player of the Year candidate in big man Moses Kingsley and they could be an intriguing team to track this season if Barford and Macon are as good as advertised. They’ll certainly have more bodies to throw at opposing guards and that should help Arkansas play faster than they did last season.

College career over for Nevada’s Hallice Cooke due to heart issue

DENVER, CO - MARCH 19:  Hallice Cooke #3 of the Iowa State Cyclones celebrates after hitting a three pointer in the second half against the Arkansas Little Rock Trojans during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Pepsi Center on March 19, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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The college basketball career of Nevada guard Hallice Cooke is over, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-3 native of New Jersey will stay with the program as a volunteer assistant as a heart issue will force Cooke to end his career prematurely.

Cooke started his career at Oregon State before transferring to Iowa State and eventually ending up at Nevada. During the 2015-16 season, Cooke was a role player for the Cyclones as he averaged 10 minutes per game off the bench.

Obviously it’s unfortunate to see someone’s career end early, but it’s also good that Cooke is still going to be involved with the game as an assistant. This could be the type of thing where Cooke eventually ends up coaching in college basketball and it’ll be interesting to see if he tries to stay in the game and get serious about coaching.

N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr. fully recovered, ready to go

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Dennis Smith Jr. sure looks ready.

North Carolina State’s prized freshman point guard is pushing through a workout in the practice gym on a hot July afternoon, and there’s no sign of the knee injury that defined his past year.

He’s sprinting along the baseline to bury a catch-and-shoot corner 3-pointer. He’s dribbling between chairs and stutter-stepping his way to a pull-up jumper. He’s launching himself at the rim for a dunk off the dribble.

“I don’t expect to be rusty at all,” Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I was feeling kind of nervous at one point, but I went in and did a workout and then I was thinking, `I’m putting in all this work so all the nervousness should be out of my mind.’ I had no reason to be timid.

“I just have to go out there and perform, no excuses.”

A lot has happened for Smith in 12 months. The Fayetteville native suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in a game during the Adidas Nations event featuring top prospects. He had surgery, picked N.C. State, graduated from high school early and enrolled in college in January to rehab and learn the Wolfpack’s system before his debut later this year.

Tuesday marks one year since the injury for the 6-foot-3 Smith, ranked by ESPN as the nation’s No. 1 point guard when he signed last fall.

“We’ve tried to be real conservative with him as far as not letting him do too much too fast,” coach Mark Gottfried said. “At his age, he can’t wait. He’s dying to play every day.”

Smith started earning his leadership role as soon as he arrived in Raleigh, pointing out instructions to teammates or calling them to the gym for extra work even though he couldn’t play. He figures that time observing from the sideline has prepared him to replace high-scoring floor leader Anthony “Cat” Barber.

“I feel like I’ve gotten smarter, definitely,” Smith said. “I see the game totally different now. I read pick-and-roll easier. I feel like I’ve gotten more sound on defense because I understand angles better.”

The physical work to get back has been tougher.

Roughly a year ago, Smith was lying in a bed after surgery trying to stay positive. He asked trainer Ja-Rell Bailey to bring him some free weights for upper-body exercises even if he couldn’t do much else, an example of why Bailey described Smith as “a man determined.”

Smith’s father said the rehab emphasized building leg strength to protect and stabilize the injured knee, something his son said he will keep doing in both legs for years to come. Smith’s work has helped him go from 180 pounds to a college-ready 192-pound frame.

“He’s got his bounce back, so he can dunk and everything,” Dennis Smith Sr. said. “But what Junior has got, God gave it to him. . A lot of times you run into kids who are built off of hype because they do a fancy move or have a good game. Junior ain’t hype. He’s the real deal.”

Regardless, Gottfried expects Smith to have “a learning curve.”

“For me,” he said, “I think what you see in November is going to be much different than what you see in January.”

The Wolfpack will look much different, too, after missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons. N.C. State welcomes Scout.com’s No. 6-ranked recruiting class that includes five-star Turkish big man Omer Yurtseven. Senior guard Terry Henderson returns from an ankle injury that sidelined him 7 minutes into last season. Charlotte transfer and former Conference USA freshman of the year Torin Dorn Jr. will play after sitting out last year.

Still, Smith is the guy stirring the most buzz for Wolfpack fans – something he has no trouble embracing.

“I really don’t feel that pressure though,” Smith said. “I feel like if you come in and you expect to play well, then you should have those expectations of people talking. It’s just playing basketball to me. I’ve been doing it my whole life.”

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP’s college basketball site at http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Washington lands commitment from Mamoudou Diarra

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For the second time this summer, Washington has landed a commitment from a forward in the Class of 2017.

On Friday, it was Mamoudou Diarra that pledged his future to Lorenzo Romar. Diarra is a 6-foot-8 combo-forward that is currently unranked by Rivals but was targeted by a number high major program.

Washington landed a commitment from Michael Porter Jr. earlier this summer, and given Porter’s standing as the potential No. 1 player in the class, the Huskies will be in the mix for the best crop of freshmen in the country in 2017-18. Romar has also landed commitments from four-star guard Jaylen Nowell and three-star guard Blake Harris.

RELATED: How the Michael Porter Package Deal came to fruition

Diarra played his high school basketball in St. Louis.