It will be tough to pick a winner in the Charleston Classic

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The Charleston Classic announced its bracket pairings on Thursday afternoon, and a quick glance reveals a field that will be tough to predict come November.

Baylor lost some key contributors in the front court, but they add Isaiah Austin and Ricardo Gathers while guards Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson return to Waco.

There’s also a Murray State team led by Isaiah Canaan and Ed Daniel to be reckoned with, and Colorado, Dayton and host College of Charleston will likely be heard from as well.

Here’s the schedule and a few thoughts on the Charleston Classic, which will be played on November 15, 16 and 18 (non-bracketed games on November 21 (Auburn/Boston College) and 24 (College of Charleston/Baylor) as well).

Charleston Classic schedule (all times Eastern)

November 15
12:30 PM Colorado vs. Dayton (ESPN3)
3 PM Baylor vs. Boston College (ESPNU)
5 PM St. John’s vs. College of Charleston (ESPNU)
8 PM Murray State vs. Auburn (ESPN3)

November 16
12:30 PM Semifinal #1 (ESPNU)
2:30 PM Consolation #1 (ESPNU)
5:30 PM Semifinal #2 (ESPN3)
7:30 PM Consolation #2 (ESPN3)

November 18
Noon 7th place game (ESPN3)
2 PM 5th place game (ESPN3)
6 PM 3rd place game (ESPNU)
8:30 PM Championship game (ESPN2)

Best quarterfinal: Colorado vs. Dayton
Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes took full advantage of their first season in the Pac-12, grabbing the league’s automatic bid and then beating UNLV in the round of 64. What can they do for an encore, especially with Carlon Brown, Austin Dufault and Nate Tomlinson graduating?

Well, they could be better, with Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie and Andre Roberson all back in Boulder. Add in a good recruiting haul led by wing Xavier Johnson and big man Josh Scott, and Colorado could very well return to the NCAA tournament.

But their quarterfinal opponent has a chance to get to the Big Dance as well, with point guard Kevin Dillard leading the way in Archie Miller’s second season at the helm. Dayton will have to account for the graduation of four seniors, most notably Chris Johnson, but forwards Josh Benson and Matt Kavanaugh return as well.

Best individual match-up (that we know we’ll see): Andrew Lawrence (College of Charleston) vs. D’Angelo Harrison (St. John’s)
Lawrence is the floor general for the Cougars, and his experience this summer with Great Britain’s national team should serve Lawrence well once he returns to the States. Lawrence averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 assists per game for the Cougars last season, and he’ll be a key contributor in Doug Wojcik’s first season as head coach.

As for Harrison, he was right there with first round draft pick Maurice Harkless in what was a tough 2011-12 season for the undermanned Red Storm. Harrison averaged 17.0 points per game, and a large recruiting class should help him shoulder the load down the line. But they’re young, meaning that early on Harrison may still have to do the heavy lifting.

Best individual match-up (that we hope to see): Isaiah Canaan (Murray State) vs. Pierre Jackson (Baylor)
This needs to happen. Canaan remains one of the nation’s best point guards, and his ability to score as well as set up teammates makes him a tough match-up for anyone. And with Ivan Aska, Jewuan Long and Donte Poole graduating, Canaan may have to do a little more scoring to go along with Ed Daniel’s play inside.

But Jackson’s no slouch, as his arrival in Waco was one reason why Scott Drew’s team was able to reach the Elite 8. With Baylor losing four key contributors inside guards such as Jackson and Brady Heslip will likely have to do more in the way of scoring as the young bigs get used to college basketball.

Winner: Baylor
There are a number of teams that can win this tournament, but the pick here is Baylor due to the potential of guys such as Isaiah Austin and Ricardo Gathers. There’s also sophomore shooting guard Deuce Bello, an electrifying leaper who will need to show improvement offensively if the Bears are to have a shot at duplicating (or exceeding) last year’s success.

It would not be a surprise if Colorado or Murray State ended up winning the event, and College of Charleston is another team folks need to keep an eye on.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Diallo withdrawing from draft, returning to Kentucky

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It took plenty of time for the news to make its way public, but it was a wait that proved welcome for Kentucky fans.

Wildcat freshman Hamidou Diallo will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return to Kentucky, the school announced

Diallo’s situation was one of the more interesting in college basketball as he became an incredibly intriguing pro prospect despite being on a college roster and never playing a minute.

The five-star recruit enrolled at Kentucky in January after attending a semester of prep school with the plan to redshirt the season and then play for the Wildcats in 2017-18. There were rumblings and rumors about Diallo potentially playing for John Calipari’s group last year, but ultimately they stuck to the plan to keep him on the bench and preserve his eligibility. Throughout it all, there was always the specter that Diallo could just decide to go the professional route anyway.

That possibility moved fully into the forefront earlier this month when Diallo showed off a 44.5-inch vertical leap at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. The 6-foot-5 guard also recorded a wingspan that nearly measured 7-feet. With those types of physical traits, he makes for an awfully interesting professional prospect, regardless of refinement or experience.

Given Diallo’s lack of high-level experience, though, there was no guarantee he’d be a first-round selection as teams would be wary of drafting solely on potential, rather than the mostly they typically do.

“I hope to play in the NBA one day — just not this season,” Diallo said in a statement. “Based on the information I received by testing the waters, I believe it’s in my best interests to return to school. Although I was a part of the team last season and trained with my teammates, I never fulfilled another one of my dreams, which was to play for a major college program and win a national title.

“I am excited about returning to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season. I can’t wait to play in a Kentucky jersey for the first time.”

Going back to Lexington to play college basketball gives Diallo a chance to showcase his skills against competition the NBA will be able to evaluate him against. It also makes Kentucky – surprise, surprise – extremely formidable this season as they, once again, restock the roster with potential lottery- and first-round picks. With Diallo officially in the fold, Kentucky is a no-doubt top-five team that will be among the favorites to cut down the nets in April 2018.

“I’m really proud of Hami,” Calipari said in a statement. “He took in all the information, asked a lot of questions, including questions to the NBA teams. I love the fact that he wants to put himself in a better position and help lead this new team to a championship.
“I can’t wait to get him on the court and have all of you fans see what I know.  He’s a special player and a special person.”

LaVar Ball selling “Stay In Yo Lane” shirts

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Create controversy. Profit from controversy.

It’s not an especially new or original strategy, but it’s one that LaVar Ball continues to try to exploit.

The infamous basketball dad is at it again, looking to capitalize on the uproar/kerfuffle/news cycle/debate/ickiness he created when he belittled FS1’s Kristine Leahy, telling her to “stay in your lane” on multiple occasions when claiming the Big Baller Brand didn’t need to market to women.

Well, they are now, with a nod to Ball’s proclamation, selling “STAY IN YO LANE” tees, for both men and women.

Marketing misogyny. Isn’t that nice.

It’s clear that LaVar Ball isn’t going to shy away from the public spotlight anytime soon, especially with eldest son Lonzo looking destined for the Lakers and middle son LiAngelo set to join UCLA, and he’s going to do his best to use that light to push the BBB franchise that scared away the world’s biggest apparel companies.

This plan has no mystery, subtlety or taste. Which might as well be the Big Baller Brand slogan.

Mykhailiuk returning to Kansas for senior season

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Kansas’ attempt for a 14th consecutive Big 12 title, and run for Bill Self’s second national title, got a shot in the arm Wednesday.

Svi Mykhailiuk announced that he will return to Lawrence for his final season of eligibility. “Senior year going to be fun,” he wrote on his Instagram page.

Senior year gonna be fun😈👌🏼🤘🏼 #KUCMB

A post shared by Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (@sviat_10) on

The Jayhawks were already going to be loaded this season with Devonte Graham, a potential All-American, returning for his senior season and Udoka Azubuike healthy after missing last year due to injury along with Malik Newman becoming eligible after a transfer from Mississippi State and recruits Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett bolstering the ranks. The return of Mykhailiuk, though, only solidifies Kansas’ place not only atop the Big 12, but in the country.

Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 forward, had something of a breakthrough season as a junior, posting career highs nearly across the board, including shooting 39.8 percent on nearly five 3-point shot attempts per game. With his size and shooting ability, Mykhailiuk was sure to garner professional interest, even though it would have been more likely than not he would been drafted in the second round of next month’s draft.

Mykhailiuk’s situation is certainly a unique one for college basketball as the Ukraine native enrolled at Kansas in 2014 just after his 17th birthday. He won’t turn 20 until next month, making him the same age as many sophomores and more likely to be viewed by NBA teams in the future as having upside, rather than a typical 22- or 23-year-old senior who scouts look at as having come close to reaching their ceiling.

Mykhailiuk wasn’t going to be the linchpin of Kansas’ success next season, but his decision to return shouldn’t be underestimated. His size, experience, skill and versatility provide the Jayhawks with a real weapon that will help alleviate pressure and expectations from other players up and down the roster. He’s very much a difference-maker for a team that will be contending for a spot in the Final Four.

Caleb Swanigan to stay in NBA draft

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Caleb Swanigan is leaving Purdue and staying in the NBA draft.

The Boilermaker big man held as much sway on the college basketball landscape with his decision as nearly any player who declared for the draft without an agent. After a season in which he became a double-double machine and averaged 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game, Swanigan would have been one of – if not the – favorites for National Player of the Year while also making Purdue right at the top of the Big Ten with Michigan State.

Instead, he’ll end his collegiate career after a pair of seasons and one Sweet 16 appearance in West Lafayette. As a professional prospect, Swanigan is an interesting case. He was as productive of player as college basketball has seen in recent years as a sophomore, putting up 20-20 games with ridiculous consistency. He’s got some range, but limited quickness and athleticism. The question will be how his game – and frame – will translate into the new NBA that prioritizes versatility, shooting and athleticism. Right now, not many have him pegged as a sure-fire first-round pick.

The loss for Purdue is hard to overstate given just how good “Biggie” was. There’s just no replacing that type of production in the lineup. Still, Matt Painter and the Boilermakers still have an intriguing group, with Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards both electing to return to school after dipping their toes in the NBA waters. There’s some other intriguing young pieces there that will keep Purdue interesting in the Big Ten race.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.