Oregon v Oklahoma St

Does Marcus Smart’s return make Oklahoma State the Big 12 favorite?

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Marcus Smart made it official on Wednesday afternoon: he will be returning to Oklahoma State and will not be entering his name in the NBA Draft.

“I think I made the right decision,” Smart, who had a chance to be a top five pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, said at a press conference. “I am aware of how much money I am giving up.”

As long as he was fully informed and educated about all his available options, Smart’s decision to return to school was the right one. And it creates what will end up being one of the most intriguing storylines throughout the 2013-2014 season: Can Oklahoma State end Kansas’ nine-year run of consecutive Big 12 regular season titles?

On paper, it looks like they have a great chance to do so.

The Pokes not only bring back Smart, but he’ll be paired with Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash, giving Travis Ford one of the nation’s most talented perimeter attacks. Throw in role players like Brian Williams, Michael Cobbins and Phil Forte, and Oklahoma State has the makings of a top ten team.

But is that enough to take down Kansas?

There’s a reason that the Jayhawks have won at least a share of nine straight regular season titles, and his name is Bill Self. Remember, this isn’t the first time that Kansas has had their roster devastated by graduation and early entry to the NBA Draft. In 2006, they started all freshmen and sophomores. In 2009, they lost six players to the NBA Draft and returned just Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. 2012 was supposed to be a rebuilding season, and the Jayhawks made the national title game. With Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor gone, 2013 was supposed to be a rebuilding season as well, but the Jayhawks still managed to earn a No. 1 seed.

So what will happen next year?

Kansas will have a roster loaded with highly regarded recruits, and they are still in the mix to land the No. 1 prospect in the country in Andrew Wiggins.

Oklahoma State will be talented, but NC State was talented this season as well. A lot of people predicted the Wolfpack would be a top ten team and would win the ACC. Look how that worked out. Baylor was predicted to be the favorite in the Big 12 in 2012 and they ended up finishing third in the conference.

And while Travis Ford isn’t necessarily regarded as a markedly better coach than Mark Gottfried or Scott Drew, he does have Marcus Smart at his disposal once again.

Smart’s one of those guys that earns all of the cliches — winner, coach on the floor, etc.

He’s gets all of them.

NC State and Baylor didn’t have a player like that on their rosters.

Is that enough to be a difference?

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Duke, Cincinnati lead Hall of Fame Tip-Off

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski gestures during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Florida State in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
(AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) Duke and Cincinnati, 2016 NCAA Tournament teams, highlight the eight-team field for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

The participants for the Nov. 19-20 event were announced Wednesday.

Also in the field are Rhode Island, Penn State, Grand Canyon, Albany, Marist and Brown.

The teams, split into two four-team brackets, will play two doubleheaders at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Duke, Cincinnati, Penn State and Rhode Island will meet in the Naismith Bracket, while the others will play in the Springfield Bracket.

The teams will play two early round games at campus sites from Nov. 11 through Nov. 16.

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.