Ladontae Henton

Council injured in narrow Providence victory

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Providence isn’t exactly expected to set the Big East on fire this season — the Friars were chosen to finish dead last in the league’s preseason poll —  but nobody really thought they were in danger from the Great West.

The Friars barely survived against the New Jersey Institute of Technology, however, winning 64-63 on Saturday afternoon after Highlander P.J. Miller missed a desperation three at the buzzer. Had Miller kept his head and worked for the two-point shot, things may have gone very differently.

PC won the game, but suffered a loss that may turn today’s contest into a pyhrric victory. Vincent Council — the senior guard expected to be a bright spot for the Friars — went down just five minutes into his first game this year. Council had scored two points from made free throws after shooting 0-3 from the floor before his day took a turn for the worse.

The Providence Journal provided details on how the injury occurred:

With 15:18 to play in the first half, Council was over midcourt and passed the ball when he seemed to have his legs split from under him. He crumpled to the floor in obvious pain and was helped to the bench and then the PC locker room.

His injury is initially being diagnosed as a hamstring issue. He is done for the day and will be evaluated.later but his status for Monday’s game against Bryant is certainly in doubt.

Council returned to the bench in sweat pants and confirmed that he had suffered a hamstring injury. He watched helplessly as teammate Bryce Cotton hit one of two free throws with five seconds left and the game tied. With three full seconds left on the clock, NJIT’s Miller took the errant shot that ended the game. Ladontae Henton (pictured) led the Friars with 24 points in the close win.

Honestly? Providence isn’t too scary even with Council, but a lingering hamstring injury suffered in the first game is the worst way for a senior year to get started, and it won’t help Ed Cooley’s Friars find a much-needed cohesive identity, either.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

College Basketball’s Top Frontcourts

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 26:  Dillon Brooks #24 and Jordan Bell #1 of the Oregon Ducks battle for a rebound against Khadeem Lattin #12 of the Oklahoma Sooners in the first half in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional Final at Honda Center on March 26, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The most difficult thing to do when putting together a list of the nation’s best back courts if figuring out who, exactly, belongs listed as a member of the back court. 

Take Brandon Ingram, for example. Last season, he played the four for Duke, typically lining up alongside Marshall Plumlee on the Blue Devil front line. But given his skill-set and his physical tools, he natural position is probably as a three. Then if you actually go back and watch the film, the role he played was essentially as a scoring guard, a two. 

Positionless basketball, by definition, makes identifying positions a nightmare. 

So we worked through a lot of these. Duke’s Jayson Tatum is listed as back court and not front court because we expect him to play the way Ingram did last season. Villanova’s Josh Hart is in our back court rankings because, like Kansas’ Josh Jackson, his ability to rebound doesn’t change the fact that he is true wing. Hart’s teammate, Kris Jenkins, is more of a small-ball four and a mismatch in the front court, which is more or less the same way we view Dillon Brooks.

We unveiled the top backcourts in college basketball earlier today.

Here’s a look at the top frontcourts.

CONTENDER SERIES: Duke | Oregon | Kentucky | Kansas | Villanova

1. Duke: (Amile Jefferson, Harry Giles, Marques Bolden, Chase Jeter, Javin DeLaurier, Sean Obi)

With talent and depth across the frontline, the Blue Devils have a potentially special group on a potentially special team. Senior Amile Jefferson returns after missing most of last season with a broken bone in his right foot. He averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds a game and provides loads of experience. If Harry Giles returns healthy from multiple knee injuries, the five-star recruit is a potential top-5 pick and an elite rebounder. Center Marques Bolden is another McDonald’s All-American and potential lottery pick who can score in the post. Sophomore center Chase Jeter was one of the youngest freshmen in the country last season as he’s younger than some incoming freshmen. He could be in for a solid year. Freshman Javin DeLaurier and junior Sean Obi provide more depth than the team had last season.

2. Oregon: (Dillon Brooks, Chris Boucher, Jordan Bell, Kavell Bigby-Williams, M.J. Cage, Roman Sorkin)

The key for this deep and talented group is versatile forward Dillon Brooks, who is one of the premier matchup nightmares in the country. Brooks is injured to start the season and it’s unclear when he might return but the Ducks still have plenty to like. Senior big man Chris Boucher is an elite athlete and shot blocker who is talented enough to hit some threes. Jordan Bell is another big-time shot blocker who provides great minutes off the bench. Junior college big man Kavell Bigby-Williams was the NJCAA Player of the Year and is also a noted rebounder and rim protector. Freshman M.J. Cage was a four-star prospect and junior Roman Sorkin appeared in 22 games last season.

3. Purdue: (Isaac Haas, Caleb Swanigan, Vince Edwards, Jaquil Taylor, Basil Smotherman)

Losing A.J. Hammons hurts, but the Boilermakers have so much depth and talent here. Sophomore Caleb Swanigan opted to get out of the NBA draft in order to return and he’s a double-double threat with intriguing skills. Isaac Haas takes over at center and the 7-foot-2 center averaged 9.8 points in only 14.3 minutes per game last season. Vince Edwards is another returning starter who can knock down shots and do a bit of everything. Basil Smotherman returns after a redshirt year and will be a key reserve along with sophomore Jacquil Taylor.

CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: Big 12 | ACC | Pac-12 | Big Ten

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 13: Isaac Haas #44 of the Purdue Boilermakers shoots against Colby Wollenman #41 of the Michigan State Spartans in the championship game of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 13, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Isaac Haas (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

4. Kentucky: (Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel, Derek Willis, Isaac Humphries, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Tai Wynyard)

It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch freshman big man Bam Adebayo operate this season. A powerful athlete who can rebound and finish with authority, Adebayo has the chance the be a major factor this season in what’s likely his only year in school. Freshman Wenyen Gabriel is another five-star who can defend multiple positions and has an emerging perimeter skillset. Senior Derek Willis showed production as a rebounder and perimeter shooter and he could be asked to play some on the wing this season. Sophomore Isaac Humphries gave some decent minutes last season but needs to be more consistent. Freshman Sacha Killeya-Jones is another five-star prospect who is talented as a shooter but he needs to add strength. Tai Wynyard also joins the roster after redshirting last season.

5. Indiana (Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby, Juwan Morgan, De’Ron Davis)

Sophomores dominate this frontcourt rotation as center Thomas Bryant has a chance to be one of the country’s best players this season. Bryant is a tenacious rebounder and also scored at a decent clip from time-to-time. OG Anunoby can defend nearly everyone on the floor and his upside is immense. There were times late last season when Anunoby looked like he was capable of being a star. Morgan could be a stretch option for Indiana as he made 5 of his 11 attempts last season and showed a good-looking shot. Freshman De’Ron Davis is physical ready to compete and he can provide backup minutes.

6. Syracuse: (Tyler Roberson, Tyler Lydon, DaJuan Coleman, Paschal Chukwu, Taurean Thompson, Matthew Moyer)

The depth of this group should be very good as the Orange have plenty of rotation pieces. Senior Tyler Roberson and sophomore Tyler Lydon are both productive returning forwards and the addition of 7-foot-2 center Paschal Chukwu could make Syracuse’s 2-3 zone tough to score on. Senior DaJuan Coleman is also back to help give some minutes and freshmen Taurean Thompson and Matthew Moyer were both four-star prospects who play with a lot of activity.

ST LOUIS, MO - MARCH 20: Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers handles the ball in the first half against the Xavier Musketeers during the second round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Scottrade Center on March 20, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Nigel Hayes (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

7. Wisconsin: (Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ, Vitto Brown, Alex Illikainen, Andy Van Vliet)

Returning their entire starting five from a Sweet 16 team, the Badgers have senior leadership from Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown and one of the Big Ten’s emerging stars in sophomore Ethan Happ. Hayes will be one of the Badgers’ most important players and an All-Big Ten prospect while Happ was an outstanding defender who was a regular double-double threat. The rotation could be even better than last season if Alex Illikainen and Andy Van Vliet can stretch the floor consistently. Illikainen played some minutes as a freshman while Van Vliet will debut after having to redshirt last season.

8. Virginia: (Austin Nichols, Isaiah Wilkins, Jack Salt, Jarred Reuter, Mamadi Diakite)

Losing Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey will hurt, but the addition of Memphis transfer Austin Nichols gives the Cavaliers a potential All-American up front and a very good shot blocker. Junior glue guy Isaiah Wilkins started 21 games last season and does a lot to help the Cavaliers on both ends. Sophomores Jack Salt and Jarred Reuter both earned some minutes last season. Redshirt freshman Mamadi Diakite might be the most intriguing big man on the roster as he’s a very good shot blocker who is a great athlete.

9. North Carolina: (Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Luke Maye, Tony Bradley)

Coming off of a national title appearance, the Tar Heels bring back senior center Kennedy Meeks, as he provides some scoring and rebounding and senior forward Isaiah Hicks finally gets a chance to start with the departure of Brice Johnson. Hicks is a former McDonald’s All-American who has been productive in limited minutes and has a chance to be a breakout player. Sophomore Luke Maye gives some depth as he played in 33 games last season while freshman center Tony Bradley is a McDonald’s All-American who has great size.

10. Gonzaga (Przemek Karnowski, Johnathan Williams, Ryan Edwards, Zach Collins, Killian Tillie)

The return of senior center Przemek Karnowski is important because he provides experience on both ends of the floor. Karnowski can draw double teams and block shots with the best of them. Missouri transfer Johnathan Williams led the Tigers in scoring and rebounding before he left and he’s another talented player to put in the starting lineup. Freshman center Zach Collins was a McDonald’s All-American who surprised scouts at the practices with his toughness and ability. Collins was a backup to Stephen Zimmerman and Chase Jeter at Bishop Gorman and is used to being a third big man who contributes. Not many teams can trot a 7-foot-1 center off the bench to replace another as Ryan Edwards returns after 31 appearances last season.

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11. Cal (Ivan Rabb, Kameron Rooks, Kingsley Okoroh, Roger Moute a Bidias, Roman Davis)

When you have the best returning big man in the country in sophomore Ivan Rabb, you’re in the discussion for the best frontcourts in the country. Rabb put up great numbers despite not getting a lot of touches and he was very efficient from the field. Kameron Rooks and Kingsley Okoroh combined to play the minutes at center last season as Rooks was more of the scorer and Okoroh protects the rim. Senior Roger Moute a Bidias has given minutes before at small forward and freshman Roman Davis redshirted last year and could help there as well.

12. Texas Tech: (Zach Smith, Norense Odiase, Aaron Ross, Anthony Livingston)

The most underrated frontcourt in the country might be Texas Tech, as this group returns four productive big men that averaged at least 8.5 points per game last season. Junior Zach Smith is a versatile defender who can score and rebound and Norense Odiase is a bruising big man who is productive in limited minutes. Senior Aaron Ross was a double-figure scorer who shot 37 percent from three while Arkansas State grad transfer Anthony Livingston put up 15.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game at Arkansas State last season. This group compliments each other well with differing skillsets and all of them are productive.

13. Villanova: (Kris Jenkins, Mikal Bridges, Darryl Reynolds, Eric Paschall, Dylan Painter)

National championship game hero Kris Jenkins is back and he’s coming off of a monster end to last season in which he was a floor-spacing matchup nightmare in small-ball lineups. Sophomore Mikal Bridges has great defensive versatility and he could be in line for a breakout season. Senior Darryl Reynolds was a valuable reserve who is solid defensively. Fordham transfer Eric Paschall is eligible after sitting out last season and also is expected to help in the scoring column.

14. Butler (Kelan Martin, Andrew Chrabascz, Tyler Wideman, Joey Brunk)

Junior Kelan Martin is the one to really watch here after he averaged 15.7 points and 6.8 rebounds in a breakout sophomore campaign. Senior Andrew Chrabascz is an experienced double-figure scorer and junior center Tyler Wideman has also played a lot of minutes. Local four-star freshman Joey Brunk provides some depth at center and he could be productive as a second-unit big man with his size and post scoring ability.

15. Georgetown (Isaac Copeland, Bradley Hayes, Marcus Derrickson, Jessie Govan)

The Hoyas get another year to try to gel in stay healthy as a lot of talent is back. Junior Isaac Copeland will be expected to be a main scorer for Georgetown and senior Bradley Hayes was granted another year by the NCAA as he was last year’s leading rebounder. Sophomores Marcus Derrickson and Jessie Govan will be expected to take a leap and Derrickson’s skill level and Govan’s imposing size makes for some different frontcourt looks for the Hoyas.

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 10:  Marcus Derrickson #24 of the Georgetown Hoyas celebrates his three point shot in the first half against the Villanova Wildcats during the quarterfinals of the Big East Basketball Tournament on March 10, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Marcus Derrickson (Elsa/Getty Images)

Louisville shooting for tournament bid after postseason ban

Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, right, talks to Mangok Mathiang during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Western Kentucky, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Louisville, Ky. Louisville won 78-56. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
(AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) Louisville is eager to play in the postseason again after sitting out last spring, and the Cardinals hope to make it a long stay once they get there.

Though the escort scandal that resulted in a self-imposed postseason ban and other penalties last season is still not resolved, coach Rick Pitino long ago shifted focus toward getting the Cardinals back into this year’s NCAA Tournament.

The NCAA last week accused the program of committing four Level 1 violations and the governing body criticized Pitino for failing to monitor former Cardinals staffer Andre McGee, whom the NCAA says provided improper benefits to recruits and players by hiring strippers.

The case now proceeds to a spring resolution.

For his part, Pitino is more than happy to talk hoops. And on the court, he believes if the Cardinals execute his trademark man-to-man defense, a deep tournament run is possible.

“It isn’t a new style,” Pitino said of his philosophy, “it’s just that we’ve confused a lot of people with our defense and playing our matchup zone. We have probably scrapped that and are playing 95 percent man-to-man. …. The tempo is much more up-tempo, even though we have always been an up-tempo team.”

Louisville’s initial challenge is finding offense with the departures of leading scorers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, graduate transfers who combined to average more than 27 points per game last season for a team that finished 23-8. The Cardinals also lost 6-foot-11 post player Chinanu Onuaku, who averaged 9.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest.

On the bright side, Pitino believes many players have scoring potential with several poised to take charge.

Junior guard Quentin Snider is the Cardinals’ top returning scorer and playmaker (9.4 points, 3.5 assists), but the question might be whether sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell or second-year wing Deng Adel – or both – have breakout seasons.

Mitchell, who became known last season for a series of high-flying dunks, is focused on improving his perimeter game. Adel is able to score from all over the floor and eagerly looks forward to creating easy chances by pressing ball handlers.

The Cardinals believe if they succeed on defense, scoring opportunities will come naturally.

Said Adel, “With our playing style of pressing and focusing on turning teams over, we all have the chance to get points.”

Some other things to look for in Louisville’s season:

LEANER, QUICKER: Mitchell has dropped 18 pounds and weighs around 195, while junior forward Jaylen Johnson has shed weight that Pitino believes was slowing him down. Both players appear faster and more agile and are eager to see what opportunities arise from being lighter. “I don’t get tired as easily and feel more energetic,” Mitchell said. “It might seem small, but that makes a big difference playing in this up-and-down system.”

MIDDLE MANAGEMENT: Onuaku’s departure for the NBA draft caught Pitino off guard, and filling the void he left in the pivot could be a concern. Junior 7-footers Anas Mahmoud and Matz Stockman continue to develop but must step up their games to man the inside until 6-10 senior Mangok Mathiang returns from a foot injury.

MORE TRANSFERS: Last season’s success with graduate transfers Lewis and Lee led Louisville to choose that route again. This year’s “one-and-done” is 6-1 guard Tony Hicks, who averaged 12.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game over three years at Pennsylvania. The Cardinals also added 6-5 sophomore Dwayne Sutton, who averaged 12 points per contest last season at UNC Asheville. He will sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules but has three seasons of eligibility remaining.

KEY GAMES: The Cardinals’ non-conference schedule presents plenty of challenges in preparation for the tough ACC docket. Besides their annual Bluegrass showdown against rival Kentucky (Dec. 21), they face Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge (Nov. 30) and Indiana on New Year’s Eve in Indianapolis. Louisville also faces Virginia twice and hosts Duke on Jan. 14.

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Coach K on Harry Giles: We’re ‘going to do this slow’

FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2016, file photo, Duke head men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, second from right,  reacts to a play during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils have lost three straight games entering Saturday’s game at North Carolina State followed by Monday’s game at No. 15 Miami. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown, File)
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Duke freshman Harry Giles underwent surgery last month on his left knee, a knee that he injured after is freshman year in high school.

On Monday, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke with Fox Sports’ Evan Daniels on his new podcast and gave an update on the status of Giles’ knee.

“Harry is still recovering health-wise. He had just a little bit of a setback in September. Not structurally, but we felt he should be playing already, but they had to scope. They kind of had to clean; not the knee he hurt 11 months ago, but the other one. And it was really good,” Coach K said. “And so, he’s recovering even better now, and he would have never have recovered as well if they hadn’t done this procedure. So, we’re hoping that we get him [healthy].”

Coach K stopped short of providing a time frame for Giles’ return.

“I don’t want to put a time pressure on him, because I don’t think he’ll be as honest [about how he is actually feeling],” Coach K said. “He just wants to play, he loves to play. We’ve talked a lot, like ‘you’re going to do this slow, because you don’t just have this season ahead of you at Duke, but your whole future and we want to make sure we’re not just, just short-term making decisions, but long-term making decisions.’”

College Basketball’s Top Backcourts

Grayson Allen, Reggie Cameron
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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The most difficult thing to do when putting together a list of the nation’s best back courts if figuring out who, exactly, belongs listed as a member of the back court. 

Take Brandon Ingram, for example. Last season, he played the four for Duke, typically lining up alongside Marshall Plumlee on the Blue Devil front line. But given his skill-set and his physical tools, he natural position is probably as a three. Then if you actually go back and watch the film, the role he played was essentially as a scoring guard, a two. 

Positionless basketball, by definition, makes identifying positions a nightmare. 

So we worked through a lot of these. Duke’s Jayson Tatum is listed as a guard because we expect him to play the way Ingram did last season. Villanova’s Josh Hart is in our back court rankings because, like Kansas’ Josh Jackson, his ability to rebound doesn’t change the fact that he is true wing. Hart’s teammate, Kris Jenkins, is more of a small-ball four and a mismatch in the front court, which is more or less the same way we view Dillon Brooks.

With that in mind, let’s get to our list of the top 15 back courts in the country.

CONTENDER SERIES: Duke | Oregon | Kentucky | Kansas | Villanova

1. Duke (Grayson Allen, Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard, Frank Jackson, Matt Jones)

I have concerns about the point guard situation with the Blue Devils. I’ve written about that numerous times. There is no true point guard on the roster, just a bunch of guards that are at their best with the ball in their hands as they look to get their’s; a group of players that are extremely talented but that can struggle handling the ball if pressured. But at some point, you have to simply look at the talent and realize when picking nits is silly to do. Grayson Allen averaged 3.5 assists last season, spent the summer working on becoming a better playmaker and, with more talent around him, won’t have to look to score quite as often. Luke Kennard had twice as many assists as turnovers as a freshman. Frank Jackson was recruited as a point guard, even if he is still in the process of learning the position.

The point is this: Duke has their flaws, but at some point you have to look at the amount of talent on display. The Blue Devils have two potential first-team all-americans in their back court, one of whom was the Preseason National Player of the Year and the other of whom could be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. No one else can say that.

2. Kansas (Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Josh Jackson, Svi Mykhailiuk, LeGerald Vick)

The Jayhawks slide into the No. 2 spot in these rankings by a fairly significant margin, largely due to the fact that we are considering Josh Jackson as a member of the back court. Jackson is big enough and tough enough that he could see some time at the four in small-ball lineups for Kansas, but considering that his long-term future is as a two-guard and that he is an excellent passer that can operate in pick-and-rolls, we see him as a perimeter weapon.

Jackson is another potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, and when you combine him with the veteran duo of Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham, what you’re left with is the best perimeter defensive team in the country. Mason may be the toughest point guard in the country, Graham is a point guard by trade that has taken well to playing off the ball and Jackson is, well, a monster. If Svi Mylhailiuk, a junior who is four months younger than Jackson, reaches his potential, look out.

CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: Big 12 | ACC | Pac-12 | Big Ten

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks shoots the ball against Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats in the second half during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Frank Mason III and Josh Hart (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

3. Villanova (Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, Mikal Bridges, Phil Booth, Eric Paschall)

This Villanova perimeter is really exciting because of their versatility. There’s a real possibility that the Wildcats put a lineup on the floor with three 6-foot-7ish wings, Jalen Brunson at the point and Kris Jenkins at the five; the Villanova Death Lineup, if you will. Jay Wright has thrived when he’s had a roster that included a tough, intelligent point guard and a myriad of versatile wings, which includes all-american Josh Hart. Think about it like this: the Wildcats are the most likely team to repeat as champs since Florida did in 2007, and that’s despite the fact their best big man is Darryl Reynolds. That’s how good this back court is.

4. N.C. State (Dennis Smith Jr., Torin Dorn, Terry Henderson, Maverick Rowan, Markell Johnson)

I’ll freely admit that the Wolfpack are here because Dennis Smith Jr. has a chance to be something special this season. He should be better than Cat Barber, who averaged 23.5 points, 4.6 boards and 4.5 assists last year, and he’ll have a better supporting cast. Maverick Rowan, who averaged 12.9 points as a freshman, returns while Terry Henderson is finally healthy and Torin Dorn is eligible after redshirting last season. I have no idea what to make of this Wolfpack team, but if they struggle this season, it will not be because they lacked perimeter weapons.

5. Creighton (Maurice Watson Jr., Marcus Foster, Ronnie Harrell Jr., Davion Mintz, Isaiah Zierdan, Khyri Thomas, Kobe Paras)

I love this Creighton group mainly because I love the duo of Maurice Watson Jr. and Marcus Foster. Watson is a redshirt senior and one of the best point guards in college basketball. Foster? He had a monster freshman season at Kansas State before a disappointing sophomore campaign resulted in him transferring out of the program. He’s had a year to stew while sitting out at Creighton, meaning that he should come back in shape and angry this season.

6. Kentucky (De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe, Dominique Hawkins)

There is no questioning the talent of this group. De’Aaron Fox is probably the best on-ball defender in the country and Malik Monk is one of the most entertaining players you’ll see this year. The issue is going to be perimeter shooting. Monk is inconsistent and something of a gunner. Isaiah Briscoe shot 13 percent from three last season. Dominique Hawkins shot 27 percent. Fox has never been known as a good perimeter shooter.

7. Louisville (Donovan Mitchell, Quentin Snider, Deng Adel, Tony Hicks)

This ranking, and Louisville’s spot in our preseason top 25, is a direct result of what we thing two of these kids will turn into. Donovan Mitchell is going to be on everyone’s list of this season’s breakout stars while Deng Adel may actually be the most talented player on the roster.

8. Xavier (Edmond Sumner, Trevon Bluiett, Myles Davis, Quentin Goodin, J.P. Macura)

Edmond Sumner burst onto the scene last season with a tremendous redshirt freshman year. His knee troubles were behind him and he had grown to an explosive, 6-foot-6 lead guard. If he, and J.P. Macura, can both take a step forward, Chris Mack will have all the pieces he needs to make a run at Villanova assuming Trevon Bluiett keeps playing at an all-Big East level.

9. UCLA (Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford, Aaron Holiday, Isaac Hamilton, Prince Ali)

The Bruins fall somewhere in between talent and performance. On paper, their back court belongs in the top three. Lonzo Ball might end up being the second-coming of Jason Kidd while Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton combined for 35 points and nine assists last season, and that’s before you consider Aaron Holiday. On the floor, they struggled to defend and churned out a losing season last year.

Lonzo Ball (UCLA Athletics)
Lonzo Ball (UCLA Athletics)

10. Gonzaga (Nigel Williams-Goss, Josh Perkins, Jordan Mathews, Silas Melson, Zach Norvell Jr.)

Josh Perkins and Silas Melson were the starting back court for the Zags in last year’s run to the Sweet 16. They’ll likely be coming off the bench this season as Nigel Williams-Goss, a former first-team all-Pac 12 point guard, and Jordan Mathews, who averaged 13 points and shot 41 percent from three for Cal the last two years, join the fray.

11. Rhode Island (E.C. Matthews, Jarvis Garrett, Stanford Robinson, Jared Terrell)

This all depends on how well E.C. Matthews recovers from his torn ACL. If he’s back to 100 percent, he’s a potential Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and URI is probably too low on this list. If he goes through the Jamaal Charles recovery process, the Rams are probably not going to be as good as some may expect them to be. The truth, like this ranking, is probably somewhere in the middle.

12. Arizona (Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Kadeem Allen)

The Wildcats have quite a bit of talent in the back court even with Terrence Ferguson’s departure for Australia. Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons are all big time talents. The question is going to be how they fit together on the floor at the same time. Are there enough shots to go around?

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13. North Carolina (Joel Berry II, Justin Jackson, Nate Britt, Kenny Williams, Theo Pinson, Seventh Woods, Brandon Robinson)

Maybe I’m just down on this group because they’re all mostly know commodities. Maybe I’m just not seeing the upside. I don’t know. Unless Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson take major steps forward as juniors, I just don’t see what there is here to get excited about.

14. Iowa State (Monte’ Morris, Naz Long, Matt Thomas, Donovan Jackson, Nick Weiler-Babb)

For my money, Monte’ Morris is one of the two or three best lead guards in all of college basketball. That’s why the Cyclones made this list despite Morris sharing the floor with a bunch of guys that don’t really move the needle. He makes them good enough to be relevant.

15. Maryland (Melo Trimble, Dion Wiley, Kevin Huerter, Jared Nickens, Anthony Cowan)

Like Morris, I am very high on Melo Trimble. He’s not quite as good as getting other people involved, but he will be on a mission after a disappointing sophomore season. He also has a better supporting cast that some may realize. That includes Anthony Cowan, who will allow Trimble to spend some time playing off the ball.

Maryland guard Melo Trimble (AP Photo/Matt Hazlett)
Maryland guard Melo Trimble (AP Photo/Matt Hazlett)


  • Florida State (Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Dwayne Bacon, Terance Mann, C.J. Walker, Trent Forrest, Patrick Savoy Jr.)
  • Miami (Ja’Quan Newton, Davon Reed, Rashad Muhammad, Bruce Brown, Anthony Lawrence, Dejan Vasiljevic)
  • Oklahoma State (Jawun Evans, Phil Forte III, Davon Dillard, Leyton Hammonds, Tavarius Shine)
  • Oregon (Dylan Ennis, Tyler Dorsey, Payton Pritchard, Casey Benson, Keith Smith)
  • Saint Mary’s (Emmett Naar, Joe Rahon)
  • SDSU (Trey Kell, Montaque Gill-Cesear, Jeremy Helmsley, Max Hoetzel, Matt Shrigley)
  • South Carolina (P.J. Dozier, Sindarius Thornwell, TeMarcus Blanton, Duane Notice, Justin McKie)
  • Syracuse (John Gillon, Andrew White, Franklin Howard, Tyus Battle)
  • UConn (Jalen Adams, Rodney Purvis, Alterique Gilbert, Terry Larrier, Vance Jackson, Christian Vital)
  • USC (Jordan McLaughlin, Shaqquan Aaron, Elijah Stewart, Deanthony Melton, Jonah Mathews)
  • Virginia (London Perrantes, Devon Hall, Darius Thompson, Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy, Marial Shayok)
  • Washington (Markelle Fultz, David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle, Dominic Green, Bitumba Baruti)

Pac-12 Season Preview: Can Oregon or Arizona break the league’s Final Four drought?

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 24:  Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks dunks the ball in the first half while taking on the Duke Blue Devils in the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament West Regional at the Honda Center on March 24, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Beginning in September and running up through November 11th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2016-2017 college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the Pac-12 conference.

The Pac-12 hasn’t had a Final Four team since UCLA made three straight from 2006-2008, and the conference has had a long stretch without an elite program.

Oregon is hoping to change that this season, as the Ducks return most of last season’s team that had a breakthrough year. Arizona and UCLA also have talented teams, and the Pac-12 has a lot of intriguing newcomers to keep an eye on this season, including the potential No. 1 pick in the draft in an unlikely spot.

MORE: 2016-17 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule


1. Oregon remains a major threat: For a No. 1 seed with nearly everyone returning, the Ducks aren’t getting a lot of preseason hype. That shouldn’t be the case. Oregon brings back lethal scorers in Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey and Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell are back to protect the rim. Senior Dylan Ennis and freshman Payton Pritchard add guard depth to a team with Final Four aspirations.

2. Arizona reloads with some talented freshmen: The Wildcats lost plenty of talented seniors but Sean Miller reloaded with a strong recruiting class with some talented returning pieces. The Wildcats have a proven scorer in Allonzo Trier and they’ve added five-star freshmen Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons. Five-star big man Lauri Markkanen could also make an impact and Dusan Ristic returns up front, as does former top 10 recruit Ray Smith, who is coming off of his second ACL tear.

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17: Head coach Sean Miller of the Arizona Wildcats reacts in the first half against the Wichita State Shockers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Arizona’s Sean Miller (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

3. Arizona’s freshmen aren’t even the best freshmen entering the league: Arizona is bringing in three five-star prospects but the most exciting freshmen to watch will be Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. Fultz is getting buzz as the potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft while Ball is an exceptional passer with a high IQ and skill level.

4. UCLA has a lot to prove: Speaking of the Bruins, they’re in for an intriguing season after a disappointing 15-17 record. They return most of the core from last year with Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton, Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday all returning and Lonzo Ball is coming in. This Bruins offense should be tough to stop. But defense is the huge question mark and they have to learn to get stops.

5. Ivan Rabb returned to lead Cal: The former five-star center had a very good freshman season, averaging 12.8 points and 8.6 boards per game in only 28 minutes — and limited touches. But he opted to return for his sophomore season and now the Golden Bears are his team. Rabb has a serious chance to be an All-American and a lottery pick with a good season.

CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: Big 12 | ACC | Pac-12 | Big Ten

PRESEASON PAC-12 PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Markelle Fultz, Washington

Potentially the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Fultz is an immensely talented guard who can play on or off the ball and scores in a number of ways. Also a skilled passer with good vision, it will be interesting to see how Fultz plays this season and if he’s able to carry Washington to the NCAA tournament with a relatively young roster.


  • Jordan McLaughlin, USC: Efficient and talented, the junior point guard should get full point-guard duties with Julian Jacobs leaving.
  • Kyle Kuzma, Utah: Kuzma was impressive in spurts as a sophomore, but with the amount of talent the Utes lose, he should put up monster numbers this season.
  • Dillon Brooks, Oregon: Health will be a factor for Brooks, but he’s a matchup nightmare with confidence in big games.
  • Ivan Rabb, Cal: If Rabb can protest the rim and add to his 1.2 blocks per game, he could be the best two-way big man in college hoops.


  • Lonzo Ball, UCLA
  • Tyler Dorsey, Oregon
  • Allonzo Trier, Arizona
  • Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
  • Tres Tinkle, Oregon State

CONTENDER SERIES: Duke | Oregon | Kentucky | Kansas | Villanova

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 10: Kyle Kuzma #35 of the Utah Utes gestures after a three-point play in the second half of Utah's 90-82 win over the Washington Huskies at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on February 10, 2016 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
Kyle Kuzma of the Utah Utes (Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

BREAKOUT STAR: Utah junior forward Kyle Kuzma has the look of potential star and with the Utes losing Jakob Poeltl and so many key players it could be his chance to shine. The 6-foot-9 forward can attack off the dribble or knock down jumpers, but he has to be more consistent.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar is bringing in NBA-caliber talent the last few recruiting classes, but he has to start winning games and making consistent runs to the NCAA tournament. The Huskies haven’t made the NCAA tournament in

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING … : There are some intriguing teams here with future pros, but the conference needs to prove it can make a run to the Final Four to quiet the doubters.

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT : The Pac-12 might be the most exciting league in the country this season when it comes to freshman guards. Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons are all headliners, but players like Charlie Moore, JaQuori McLaughlin and Payton Pritchard could also have key roles.


  • Nov. 11, Arizona at Michigan State
  • Nov. 15, Oregon at Baylor
  • Dec. 3, UCLA at Kentucky
  • Dec. 7, Washington at Gonzaga
  • Dec. 21, California vs. Virginia


California's Ivan Rabb encourages the crowd to cheer in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Saint Mary's Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
California’s Ivan Rabb (AP Photo/Ben Margot)


1. Oregon: This team has scoring, solid guard play and a nice mixture of post defenders to make another deep tournament run. If Dillon Brooks is healthy and others around him step up, Oregon has a serious chance to make a Final Four run.
2. Arizona: Watching how the new five-star pieces will mesh will be fascinating but this team undoubtedly has a lot of talented players. If former five-star freshman Ray Smith can return from multiple knee injuries then Arizona has a real shot at the league title.
3. UCLA: Defense is going to be the huge question for UCLA since we already know their offense is going to be tough to stop. If Lonzo Ball can help rally together this talented group of returnees, the Bruins could easily make a deep run in March — or have another chaotic season and miss the tournament.
4. Cal: This Cal team will look dramatically different from last season as this is clearly Ivan Rabb’s team. The sophomore big man should get more post touches and he has some decent players coming back like Jabari Bird, Kameron Rooks and Sam Singer.
5. Colorado: The Buffaloes have quietly been to four of the last five NCAA tournaments and have George King and Josh Fortune back this season. This team can really knock down perimeter shots and its gives them a huge boost on offense.
6. USC: The Trojans lost plenty of pieces from the rotation but they also have a lot of talent coming back. Point guard Jordan McLaughlin is efficient and forwards Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu have the talent to make a leap.
7. Washington: This will be Markelle Fultz’s team but a lot of the role players from last season return. Noah Dickerson and Matisse Thybulle both started as freshmen and shot blocker Malik Dime returns as well.
8. Oregon State: The Beavers lost Gary Payton II but return most of their young core and add four-star point guard JaQuori McLaughlin. Sophomores Tres Tinkle, Stephen Thompson Jr. and Drew Eubanks give Oregon State a bright future.
9. Utah: With so many talented players leaving, there will be a lot of question marks for the Utes as Kyle Kuzma and Lorenzo Bonam lead. Transfers like David Collette (Utah State) and Sedrick Barefield (SMU) need to make an impact.
10. Arizona State: This team should have a lot of talented guards but the frontcourt remains a question mark. Tra Holder and Kodi Justice are back and they get Buffalo transfer Shannon Evans and Sam Cunliffe in the rotation.
11. Stanford: New coach Jerod Haase gets 10 of the team’s top 11 scorers back and the return of injured players like Robert Cartwright and Reid Travis will help. Marcus Allen, Dorian Pickens and Michael Humphrey are all returning double-figure scorers.
12. Washington State: The Cougars lost 17 straight to end last season as they’re in rebuilding mode. Seniors Josh Hawkinson and Ike Iroegbu should put up numbers but they need more help.

Bryce and Steve Alford, Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Bryce and Steve Alford, Ethan Miller/Getty Images