Connecticut satisfied with their new home

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When the dust had settled with conference realignment finally coming to an end — it is over, right? — it became clear that Connecticut was on the outside looking in. Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse would all be headed to the ACC with Louisville joining the league for the 2014-15 season. Even Rutgers, the school with little basketball history to speak of, is destined for the Big Ten in 2014. Only Cincinnati and South Florida, along with the Huskies, were seemingly left out in the cold without a home.

Connecticut, the school with three National Basketball Championships since 1999, is relegated to the newly formed American Athletic Conference — a combination of schools formerly hailing from the Atlantic 10, Big East, and Conference USA. It almost certainly wasn’t their ideal destination, but Connecticut athletic director Warde Manuel is satisfied with the conference, he told the Associated Press

I’ve been done (speaking of looking to transition to one of the five power conferences). If my focus is always looking outside this organization and what we’re doing, we’re not going to maintain the success that we’ve had…It’s a business problem. My concern is the stability of UConn, and what we do at UConn. We’re going to compete for national championships.

The business problem Manuel speaks of is not generating the kind of dollars Connecticut would have received from the ACC, as an example, through a lucrative television deal. Despite less money coming in through this avenue, Manuel is confident Connecticut will be able to get creative to bring in money through other methods, such as ticket prices, corporate sponsorships or other revenue generators.

How confident is he? Well, a $40 million basketball training center is already under construction, and plans are in the works for a new on-campus hockey arena — it was announced last year that the Huskies will be joining Hockey East, arguably the best college hockey league in the country — and upgrades to the soccer, baseball and softball facilities.

Regardless of conference affiliation, Connecticut is still very relevant in the national college basketball scene. Whether they are wearing the ACC logo or AAC logo on their jerseys doesn’t change that. However, it is imperative that they continue to play a rigorous non-conference schedule and make routine trips to the NCAA Tournament to maintain their luster.

Added Mike Aresco, the commissioner of the AAC: “I think it’s really, really important for UConn to be able to play at the level they’ve become accustomed to. And while they will have different teams coming in, and a different look, they will be playing a high level of competition, and presenting marquee matchups will be important to us.”

It’s very possible that the AAC becomes a great niche for the Huskies, especially for their football program that proved they could be more than competitive since making the transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2004 — they reached the Fiesta Bowl in 2011 playing Oklahoma.

Granted they will be in a much smaller pond compared to the power five conferences, but perhaps the AAC is a much better spot for football than the ACC or Big Ten would have been. It would have been a tall task to compete against the top teams in the ACC and Big Ten, especially when basketball is the marquee sport at Connecticut.

As Warde Manuel has made clear, the AAC is Connecticut’s home, and excited times are ahead for the Huskies and the other schools in the newly formed conference.

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

Washington’s Thybulle returning for senior season

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Matisse Thybulle will return to Washington for his senior season after contemplating declaring for the NBA draft following a junior campaign in which he was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

“The NBA is really enticing and it was definitely something that I seriously considered when the season was over,” Thybulle told the Seattle Times. “I talked it over with my family and we came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to stay and get my degree (in communications) and grow as a basketball player and take this last year to mature and fine tune everything so I can be fully prepared to take that next step when it’s time.”

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range.

“I talked to coach (Mike Hopkins) and he gave me some good advice that was honestly something that helped in the grand scheme of things,” Thybulle said. “He told me that if I do it (enter the draft), then I should be all in because that’s what I’m going to be up against is a whole bunch of guys fighting for their lives. He thought it would be a better idea for me to stay in school until I’m at that point.”

Washington is awaiting the decision of Noah Dickerson, who declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. The 6-foot-8 averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.

Koby McEwen transferring to Marquette

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Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.

Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.

“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”

McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

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The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?