The Way Too Early Preseason Top 25

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The 2012-2013 college basketball season is over. Done. Kaput. That means it’s time to start looking forward to the 2013-2014 season. So here is our top 25.

IMPORTANT NOTE!!!: There are still going to be players entering the NBA Draft. We do our best to predict who is staying and who is leaving. We also take a guess at where Andrew Wiggins ends up playing his college ball. Any player with a ‘*’ next to his name is a guess that we made.

1. KENTUCKY
Record: 21-12, lost in 1st round of NIT
Who do they lose?: Nerlens Noel*, Archie Goodwin, Julius Mays, Ryan Harrow
Who comes back?: Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer, Willie Cauley-Stein
Newcomers?: Julius Randle, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, James Young, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee
Outlook: We’re assuming here that Andrew Wiggins is going to be heading to Florida State, but that doesn’t really matter. Kentucky’s recruiting class is still the best recruiting class of all time, and they also return two future lottery picks in Poythress and Cauley-Stein. I have some doubts about this group, but it won’t change the fact that they are the favorite to win it all as of today.

2. ARIZONA
Record: 27-8, lost in the Sweet 16
Who do they lose?: Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom,
Who comes back?: Nick Johnson, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski
Newcomers?: TJ McConnell, Aaron Gordon, Rondae Jefferson
Outlook: I have concerns about the makeup of Arizona’s roster. They have an abundance of front court talent but not enough spots to play them. Is Aaron Gordon a three or a four? If he’s a four, how does Sean Miller balance minutes for Jerrett, Ashley and Tarczewski? The addition of McConnell at the point will be huge, and I think Johnson is primed for a big year. Throw in Rondae Jefferson, and there is plenty to like with this team.

3. DUKE
Record: 30-6, lost in the Elite 8
Who do they lose?: Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly
Who comes back?: Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy, Marshall Plumlee
Newcomers?: Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker, Matt Jones, Semi Ojeleye
Outlook: It feels weird ranking a team that loses their top three scorers this high, but it’s very much deserved. Parker is going to be a star, which is a good thing when you consider that either Sulaimon or Mississippi State transfer Hood will end up being the third option for this team. Cook isn’t a great point guard, and someone from the trio of Jefferson, Murphy and Plumlee is going to have to have a breakout season. But there’s enough talent here to be considered a title contender.

4. FLORIDA
Record: 29-8, lost in the Elite 8
Who do they lose?: Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario, Erik Murphy
Who comes back?: Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather, Michael Frazier, Will Yeguete
Newcomers?: Chris Walker, Kasey Hill, Dorian Finney-Smith, Damontre Harris
Outlook: The Gators lose their top three scorers, but they could end up being even better next season thanks to the infusion of talent they have in their front court. Not only is Young coming back to school, but they add a McDonald’s all-american in Walker and two high-major transfers in Finney-Smith and Harris. Hill is one of the best point guards in the Class of 2013. The key is going to end up being how the rest of Florida’s perimeter attack — Prather, Frazier, Wilbekin — ends up developing.

5. SYRACUSE
Record: 30-10, lost in the Final Four
Who do they lose?: Michael Carter-Williams*, James Southerland, Brandon Triche,
Who comes back?: CJ Fair, Jerami Grant, DaJuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney
Newcomers?: Tyler Ennis, Ron Patterson, Tyler Roberson, BJ Johnson, Chinonso Obokoh
Outlook: The Orange lose quite a bit this offseason, but with what they bring back and what they bring in, I think that Jim Boeheim will have a successful first season in the ACC. Fair is one of the most underrated players in the country, and I think that both Grant and Cooney will end up having big seasons for the Orange. But with Ennis and Patterson joining them in the back court, along with two more freshmen wings in Roberson and Johnson that are perfectly built for the Cuse zone, the Orange have a bright future.

6. LOUISVILLE
Record: 35-5, won the title
Who do they lose?: Russ Smith, Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva
Who comes back?: Chane Behanan, Luke Hancock, Wayne Blackshear, Montrezl Harrell, Kevin Ware
Newcomers?: Chris Jones, Terry Rozier, Akoy Agau, Anton Gill
Outlook: Pitino has already made it clear that Dieng is gone to the NBA, and I have a hard time seeing Smith coming back to school when all it would do is give scouts another year to become concerned about his size in the NBA. That said, Jones is a JuCo transfer that could end up being one of the best point guards in the country, while Terry Rozier could have battled for minutes this season if he hadn’t gone to Hargrave Military Academy. The key is going to end up being Harrell’s development in the middle.

7. MARQUETTE
Record: 26-9, lost in the Elite 8
Who do they lose?: Junior Cadougan, Trent Lockett, Chris Otule
Who comes back?: Vander Blue, Davante Gardner, Jamil Wilson, Todd Mayo
Newcomers?: JaJuan Johnson, Deonte Burton, Duane Wilson, John Dawson, Jameel McKay
Outlook: This could end up being Marquette’s best team since Dwayne Wade resided in Milwaukee. Finding someone to replace Cadougan at the point guard spot is going to be vital, but beyond that, the Golden Eagles bring back a number of key pieces from last season’s Big East co-champs and Elite 8 team. They also add a loaded recruiting class. Buzz Williams is as good as any coach in the country when it comes to coaching up his players, and I bet he still finds a way to convince them they are being underrated even with a ranking this high.

8. MICHIGAN STATE
Record: 27-9, lost in the Sweet 16
Who do they lose?: Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne*
Who comes back?: Keith Appling, Gary Harris*, Branden Dawson, Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice
Newcomers?: Gavin Schilling
Outlook: It feels weird saying this, but Michigan State’s season may depend on whether or not Payne declares for the NBA Draft. Personally, I think that he’s gone. At his size with his athleticism and range on his jump shot, Payne has the tools to be intriguing enough to an NBA GM that he could end up sneaking into the end of the first round. Without Payne, the Spartans simply aren’t going to have enough depth in their front court. I like Schilling, and I think that Matt Costello and Alex Gauna are serviceable, but the Spartans have a ceiling if Payne’s gone.

9. OHIO STATE
Record: 29-8, lost in the Elite 8
Who do they lose?: DeShaun Thomas, Evan Ravenel
Who comes back?: Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, LaQuinton Ross, Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott
Newcomers?: Marc Loving, Kameron Williams
Outlook: The knock on Ohio State this season was that they didn’t have a second scoring option to compliment Thomas, and that will be a problem when he’s in the NBA next year and not launching threes in Columbus. How good will Ross end up being? Can Scott or Smith become 15 point-per-game threats? That will be what ends up determining just how good the Buckeyes end up being.

10. KANSAS
Record: 31-6, lost in the Sweet 16
Who do they lose?: Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey, Travis Releford, Kevin Young, Ben McLemore*
Who comes back?: Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe, Andrew White, Jamari Traylor
Newcomers?: Wayne Selden, Joel Embiid, Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp, Frank Mason
Outlook: You want to know why I have Kansas 10th? Because of Bill Self. It never matters the kind of talent or the age of the talent on his roster. Bill Self wins basketball games. And he’ll do that again in 2013-2014.

11. North Carolina
12. Colorado
13. Michigan
14. Indiana
15. UCLA
16. Wichita State
17. VCU
18. Wisconsin
19. Gonzaga
20. Harvard
21. Virginia
22. Memphis
23. Boise State
24. New Mexico
25. Florida State

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Tennessee tops No. 18 Purdue 78-75 (OT) in Battle 4 Atlantis

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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Tennessee kept attacking the glass and playing aggressive defense on No. 18 Purdue’s shooters.

Once Grant Williams got going, the Volunteers had enough scoring punch, too.

Williams scored all 22 of his points after halftime and hit the go-ahead shot with 14.5 seconds left in overtime to lift Tennessee past No. 18 Purdue 78-75 in Wednesday’s opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The Volunteers (3-0) trailed by 11 points in the first half, needed to make a late 3-pointer to force overtime and fell behind by five in the extra period before rallying for the win.

“I thought we really showed the toughness we’ve been looking for from them,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said, adding: “I thought our guys just kept finding ways to fight back.”

After P.J. Thompson missed a jumper for the lead, James Daniel hit two free throws with 2.0 seconds left to push the margin to three. The Boilermakers had one more chance to tie, but Kyle Alexander intercepted Dakota Mathias’ long inbounds heave to end it.

Williams, a 6-foot-7 sophomore, missed both of his first-half shots and had one rebound while playing eight scoreless minutes with two fouls. But he made 8 of 16 shots with seven rebounds from there while the Volunteers kept running their offense through him at the top of the key and in the post.

“Just keep playing, because when you’re in foul trouble you tend to get out of your mind a little bit,” Williams said. “You’ve just got to stick to it and be yourself, because I knew guys were going to hit shots.”

Tennessee shot just 36 percent but dominated the boards (50-41), finished with 21 second-chance points and scored 20 points off turnovers.

The Volunteers also got a huge lift when Lamonte Turner buried a tying 3-pointer from near his bench with 5.1 seconds left in regulation. Purdue called a timeout, but Carsen Edwards’ 3 for the win hit the front rim as the horn sounded.

Edwards scored 21 points to lead the Boilermakers (4-1), who never got their high-scoring offense rolling.

“We have a skilled team, but we’ve got to win the possession wars,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We’ve got to outrebound our opponent. We have to have fewer turnovers. When you do, now that skill is really going to help you. I thought tonight we gave Tennessee a lot of help.”

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers were trying for their first 3-0 start since the 2010-11 season, along with earning their fourth win against a ranked opponent under their third-year coach. They certainly found a thrilling way to do it, from Turner’s 3 to Williams’ huge effort after a scoreless first half.

Purdue: Offense sure didn’t come easily for a team that entered as one of the nation’s best offenses. The Boilermakers were averaging 102 points per game and shooting nearly 57 percent from the field. They also were shooting roughly 49 percent from 3-point range after making a school-record 19 3s against Fairfield on Saturday. But Purdue shot just 37 percent and had 18 turnovers.

“We’ve got to do a better job with decision-making,” Painter said. “We’re a good offensive team, we’ve got to allow ourselves to be a good offensive team. When we go too quick or we force things and we turn it over, now we’re not rewarding ourselves.”

BIG SHOTS

Tennessee came up with two huge 3s late, the first from Turner to force overtime.

“Up until that point, I felt like I was losing the game for us,” Turner said.

Then Alexander hit one after Purdue had raced out to a 70-65 OT lead. The 6-11 junior was 1 for 6 from behind the arc in his career before that shot.

LATE REVIEW

There was a bit of end-game confusion and a review with Alexander’s steal and whether he traveled just before the horn. Ultimately, it stood as the final play.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers will play the Western Kentucky-Villanova winner Thursday.

Purdue: The Boilermakers will play the Western Kentucky-Villanova loser Thursday.

Vanderbilt lands five-star forward Simi Shittu

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Vanderbilt continues to build a monster recruiting class under head coach Bryce Drew as five-star 2018 forward Simi Shittu pledged to the Commodores on Wednesday.

The second five-star commitment for Vanderbilt in the Class of 2018, Shittu joins top point guard prospect Darius Garland to form one of the best freshman combinations in the country for next season. The Commodores also have a top-150 forward in Aaron Nesmith.

The 6-foot-9, 220-pound Shittu is coming off of a monster summer in which he became a major problem and top-ten recruit. The No. 8 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2018 recruiting rankings, Shittu is a huge get and an instant starter for Vanderbilt next season.

By landing prospects like Garland and Shittu, Drew is also becoming a major player in a short amount of time as a high-major coach. Always a noted recruiter at the mid-major level at Valparaiso, now Vanderbilt is seeing Drew’s hiring workout as he’s bringing top talent to the program.

If Drew can continue to recruit like this then Vanderbilt could be in position to be in the top half of the SEC as the league has seen some of its rebuilds go poorly over the last few years.

Kansas still without freshman Billy Preston

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Kansas freshman Billy Preston has yet to make his debut for the Jayhawks and it appears he’ll have to wait a bit longer before that happens.

Head coach Bill Self met with media earlier this week to discuss the Preston situation, saying that nothing has changed about his status quite yet. Preston was previously suspended for violating a team rule when he missed the game against Tennessee State. Before Preston was set to debut against Kentucky in the Champions Classic he was also withheld from the contest after the revelation that Preston had been in a single-vehicle accident the previous weekend.

“I have actually been out, until I just pulled back in, so as of this morning, there was no movement. The last time you guys asked me was Friday and so you don’t work on Saturday or Sunday, so there is nothing new on that situation,” Self said.

“Sure, I’m worried,” Self also added. “I’m concerned and I do think that it can work itself, based on what I’ve been told. I also think that it obviously hadn’t happened yet.”

It’s uncertain when the next step in any of this will play out but Self doesn’t appear to be too concerned over it. Kansas has won without Preston so far but they could definitely use his size, scoring punch and overall depth to a team that isn’t very deep right now.

A matchup nightmare, Preston could help the Jayhawk offense while also giving Udoka Azubuike additional help on the glass and protecting the rim.

(H/t: Jesse Newell, Kansas City Star)

Brian Bowen not allowed to play at Louisville

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Louisville announced on Wednesday that freshman wing Brian Bowen will not be allowed to play at the school. The former McDonald’s All-American will be allowed to remain on scholarship but he can’t participate in any team activities.

Bowen was tied into the FBI’s investigation into college basketball this fall as an adidas company executive is alleged to have been part of a scheme to deliver $100,000 to Bowen’s family, according to court documents.

Bowen hired attorney Jason Setchen to fight the case and seek reinstatement as Setchen had experience dealing with college basketball scandals before. When DeQuan Jones was suspended from Miami after the Nevin Shapiro case in 2011, Setchen helped Jones re-gain his eligibility as Miami.

With this case, Bowen was not allowed back at Louisville as the school has fired head coach Rick Pitino and most of his previous staff. Athletic Director Tom Jurich also lost his job, so the Cardinals are definitely cleaning house and trying to detach themselves from anyone involved.

It will be interesting to see what Bowen opts to do in light of this news. He’s talented enough that other schools could want him, if he’s eligible, but he’s also a former five-star prospect who could have pro aspirations. But since Bowen won’t be playing this season, he also hasn’t had a chance to spotlight his game to potential pro suitors.

 

President Trump fires back at LaVar Ball on Twitter

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The never-ending war of words between President Donald Trump and LaVar Ball escalated to another level on Wednesday morning.

Starting his early-morning tweets with some messages aimed at Ball, President Trump continued to double down on his insistence that he helped play a role in the safe return of three UCLA players arrested in China for shoplifting. LiAngelo Ball, LaVar’s middle son, was one of the three players involved in the international incident as fellow Bruins Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were also arrested. The trio returned to the United States last week after UCLA left China without them following a win over Georgia Tech in the Pac-12 China Game.

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LaVar has drawn the ire of President Trump for downplaying the President’s role in the return of the UCLA trio as Ball maintains that others had more to do with the release. All three UCLA players publicly thanked President Trump and the United States government during their return press conference on Nov. 15. The three players remain suspended indefinitely from all activities with the men’s basketball team.

In an interview with CNN earlier this week, LaVar was critical of Trump’s role in the whole ordeal while also questioning why the President would spend so much time bothering for a thank you from the father of one of those arrested.