July live period: a time when the finishing touches are done for the upcoming season

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Tyus Jones and the Howard Pulley Panthers (Minn.) played BABC (Mass.) in front a nationally-televised game Wednesday night. Jones, the five-star point guard, helped Howard Pulley earn a hard-fought win over the Boston-based AAU club. Throughout the night, ESPNU cameras scanned the crowd, landing on several Division I coaches in attendance. One of the coaches the cameras focused in on was Michigan State’s Tom Izzo. With the July live period coming to a close, this will be one of the last opportunities Izzo has to be present for one of Jones’ games.

Izzo is in a recruiting battle for Jones with six other schools, and while he is hoping to get a commitment from the Minnesota native for 2014, Kevin Pauga is back in the East Lansing offices, preparing for the season ahead. The non-conference schedule, hotels, transportation, even basketball camps … all part of the summer duties of the Michigan State Director of Basketball Operations.

“All the nitty-gritty things we need to do to get a head of the game come fall is how I spend my July,” Pauga told NBC Sports in a phone interview earlier this week. “It’s a never-ending process.”

To read through NBCSports.com’s series on July’s live recruiting period, click here.

While coaches are on the road, Pauga is getting a lot of the administrative work done as the basketball camps have been completed for the summer.

“July is a time when I hit the reset button,” Pauga added. “Camps closed last week. I’m in full 2013-2014 mode.”

For four years now, Pauga has served as the director of ops for Sparty. Before returning to his alma mater, Pauga has worked in the program in other capacities, starting as a student manager in 2000 and working as a video coordinator from 2004-2008. From his experiences, director of basketball operations is about being prepared months in advance to make sure the season runs smoothly.

“Everything related to ops is being a step ahead,” Pauga said. “You can say that about many different things, but you can’t be planning a schedule as you go through a season. You can’t be calling for a bus company three days before, whereas when you’re scouting you are one or two opponents ahead. Here, I’m already dealing with stuff for the Big Ten tournament next year.”

It’s not only travel and practice schedules, Pauga also has to work within his own athletic department. Pauga refers to himself as a liaison, working with the other teams that use the Breslin Center, which also hosts a number of other events.

Pauga is a veteran of basketball operations, but for Jesse Bopp, it’s an adjustment now two months on the job. He’s getting used to his new role at VCU, re-joining Shaka Smart’s staff after a three-year stint as the head coach of Vermont Academy. Last week he was in charge of the nearly 400 campers at the Shaka Smart Basketball Camp, while also conducting his usual basketball ops duties.

“That’s the nature of the beast,” Bopp told NBC Sports last Thursday. “This is what it’s all about, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Communication has been the biggest tool for the first-year director of operations with the VCU coaches on the road. Before the live period began, Smart spent much of late June and early July with USA Basketball’s Under-19 team as an assistant coach to Billy Donovan.

“I don’t think it’s different (in the office), besides the fact that you’re not seeing those guys face-to-face,” Bopp said. “One of the greatest things of our program is our communication level. Our communication with each other is extremely high.”

When the summer comes to an end, the focus will shift to the players on the roster, and getting back on the floor as a team. But before practice officially tips, Pauga and Bopp are still finalizing their respective practice schedules, along with the rest of traveling arrangements. Coaches are on the road for the next few days, attempting to fill out rosters for upcoming seasons. While coaches are wrapping up on the recruiting trail, directors of basketball operations are organizing all the behind-the-scene aspects.

Recruiting is clearly vital to a team’s success, but all the preparation put forth by each director of basketball operations make that six-month grind a bit easier.

“In my world, that’s a priority, making sure we are ahead of the game,” Pauga. “Fall is gonna come here real quick.”

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.

Report: Nike, Adidas and Under Armour all pass on sponsoring Lonzo Ball

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Lonzo Ball will enter his rookie season in the NBA without a sponsorship deal from Nike, Adidas or Under Armour, only his family’s Big Baller Brand apparel.

That, according to a report from ESPN, is due to his father LaVar’s insistence that Lonzo not sign with one of the three major apparel companies unless they opted to sign a licensing deal for Big Baller Brand merchandise instead of outfitting Lonzo with their own gear.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

LaVar had been representing his son in the negotiations, and is now expected to reach out to other shoe brands, including Chinese apparel companies like Li-Nang.

Big Baller Brand is a startup apparel company launched by LaVar Ball. They sell t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, with most of their products costing at least $50.

Lonzo declared for the NBA Draft after an all-american season that saw him and the UCLA Bruins flame out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16. UCLA lost to Kentucky in that game, and Lonzo had a quiet night while his point guard counterpart, De’Aaron Fox, went off for 39 points.

Lonzo is a likely top three pick in the NBA Draft and, potentially, could still end up going No. 1. He has two younger brothers as well. LiAngelo will be a freshman with the Bruins next season while LaMelo just finished his sophomore season in high school. Both will attend UCLA.

2017-18 College Basketball Preseason Top 25

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It’s about that time to release the 2017-18 preseason top 25.

A couple of notes here:

  • Final decisions on NBA Draft decisions won’t be made for more than a month. We’re making educated (some more than others) guesses on who will be doing what.
  • We also make some educated guesses on where some of the remaining uncommitted kids will end up going to school.
  • If there is a * next to a player’s name, it means we’re still waiting for official word on what his status will be next season.

Next season’s top 25 is awful uninspiring. There also isn’t anything close to a clear-cut No. 1 team, not with how much is still left to be determined through NBA Draft decisions, transfers and elite recruits picking a school.

Drop us a line here or @CBTonNBC if you see any names missing.

Here is the top 25:

1. Louisville

  • Who’s gone: Mangok Mathiang, David Levitch, Tony Hicks
  • Who do they add: Malik Williams, Darius Perry, Jordan Nwora, Lance Thomas
  • Projected starting lineup: Quentin Snider, Donovan Mitchell*, VJ King, Deng Adel*, Jaylen Johnson*
  • Louisville has a chance to be very, very good next season. Just how good probably depends on what Donovan Mitchell decides to do — opinions seem split on him, as of this posting — but assuming Deng Adel is back and guys like VJ King, Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud take a step forward, the Cardinals might be the best team in the ACC. That says a lot this year.

2. Duke

  • Who’s gone: Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III, Luke Kennard
  • Who do they add: Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter, Alex O’Connell, Kevin Knox*, Trevon Duval*
  • Projected starting lineup: Trevon Duval*, Frank Jackson*, Gary Trent Jr./Grayson Allen, Kevin Knox*, Wendell Carter
  • We’re going to go through this all over again with Duke next season, aren’t we? Look at that starting five and tell me the talent on that team isn’t scary. Grayson Allen is back for his senior year, but Duke’s season hinges on Frank Jackson returning and landing one of, if not both Trevon Duval and Kevin Knox.

3. Michigan State

  • Who’s gone: Eron Harris, Alvin Ellis III, Ben Carter*
  • Who do they add: Jaren Jackson, Xavier Tillman
  • Projected starting lineup: Cassius Winston, Josh Langford, Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson, Nick Ward
  • I like this Michigan State team a lot. Nick Ward was a beast last year and Jaren Jackson is the perfect sidekick. Cassius Winston and Josh Langford will both take a step forward. The key, however, is that a potential Player of the Year in Miles Bridges opted to return to school.

4. Arizona

  • Who’s gone: Lauri Markkanen, Kadeem Allen, Kobi Simmons, Rawle Alkins*
  • Who do they add: Deandre Ayton, Brian Bowen*, Brandon Randolph, Ira Lee, Alex Barcello, Dylan Smith
  • Projected starting lineup: Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Allonzo Trier, Brian Bowen*, Deandre Ayton, Dusan Ristic
  • The Wildcats add the most talented big man in the class in Deandre Ayton, and may add Brian Bowen to a class that also includes Brandon Randolph. The reason they’re a top five team, however is the return of Allonzo Trier.

5. North Carolina

  • Who’s gone: Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Nate Britt
  • Who do they add: Jaleek Felton, Sterling Manley, Brandon Huffman, Andrew Platek
  • Projected starting lineup: Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams, Theo Pinson*, Luke Maye, Tony Bradley*
  • The Tar Heels are coming off of back-to-back national title game appearances, and while they will lose three key seniors from that team, and probably Justin Jackson as well, there are some important pieces that will likely return. Berry will be a National Player of the Year contender, Tony Bradley will be a breakout star and Luke Maye will move into the starting lineup.

6. Kansas

  • Who’s gone: Frank Mason II, Josh Jackson, Landen Lucas
  • Who do they add: Malik Newman, Billy Preston, Marcus Garrett, Sam Cunliffe
  • Projected starting lineup: Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Billy Preston, Udoka Azuibuike
  • The Jayhawks are going to have a lot to replace, but they do have some players coming in. If Devonte’ Graham does come back, I think he’ll be a star and all-Big 12 player at the point, and he’ll be joined by a former top 10 prospect in Malik Newman and a current top ten prospect in Billy Preston.

7. Miami

  • Who’s gone: Davon Reed, Kamari Murphy
  • Who do they add: Lonnie Walker, Chris Lykes, Deng Gak, Sam Waardenburg
  • Projected starting lineup: Ja’Quan Newton, Bruce Brown, Lonnie Walker, Anthony Lawrence, Dewan Huell
  • Losing Reed and Murphy will hurt, but Bruce Brown was one of the best-kept secrets last year, Lonnie Walker is a big-time scorer and Dewan Huell is a former top 30 prospect in line for a big bump in minutes this year. Jim Larrañaga is exactly the coach to take advantage of this guard-heavy lineup, too.

8. Florida

  • Who’s gone: Kasey Hill, Canyon Barry, Justin Leon, Devin Robinson
  • Who do they add: Isaiah Stokes, Egor Koulechov, Chase Johnson, DeAundre Ballard, Michael Okauru, Jalen Hudson, Dontay Bassett
  • Projected starting lineup: Chris Chiozza, KeVaughn Allen, Egor Koulechov, Kevarrius Hayes, John Egbunu
  • Coming off of a trip to the Elite 8, the Gators bring back most of their key pieces while adding a talented recruiting class and two players that redshirted last season. Two keys to this team’s ceiling: The health of John Egbunu, who missed the second half of last season, and the development of KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza.

9. Villanova

  • Who’s gone: Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Darryl Reynolds
  • Who do they add: Jermaine Samuels, Collin Gillispie, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, Omari Spellman
  • Projected starting lineup: Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo, Mikal Bridges, Omari Spellman
  • The Wildcats are going to take a major hit with Josh Hart finally graduating, but the good news is that Jay Wright is still around, as is Jalen Brunson. Omari Spellman getting eligible will help, and I know I’m not the only one that thinks Donte DiVincenzo has a chance to develop into an all-Big East player.

10. Kentucky

  • Who’s gone: De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo, Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, Mychal Mulder, Dominique Hawkins
  • Who do they add: Hamidou Diallo, Quade Green, Nick Richards, PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jemarl Baker
  • Projected starting lineup: Quade Green, Hamidou Diallo, Jarred Vanderbilt, PJ Washington, Nick Richards
  • Kentucky is a tough team to peg for next season. They should be really good defensively — Hamidou Diallo and Jarred Vanderbilt are elite defenders — and insanely athletic, but it’s going to be another year where we don’t know who shoots it for Kentucky. They’re in the mix for Mo Bamba and Kevin Knox; the addition of either one, particularly Knox, would make Kentucky a top five team.

11. Wichita State

  • Who’s gone: No one
  • Who do they add: Samajae Haynes-jones, Asbjorn Midtgaard
  • Projected starting lineup: Landry Shamet, Connor Frankamp, Zach Brown, Markis McDuffie*, Shaq Morris
  • The Shockers finished the season ranked in the top ten at KenPom, but ended up with a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament because they struggled to get used to each other early on in the season. With everyone returning from last year’s team, don’t be surprised to see Gregg Marshall’s team as a Final Four contender.

12. West Virginia

  • Who’s gone: Tarik Phillip, Nathan Adrian, Teyvon Myers, Brandon Watkins
  • Who do they add: Derek Culver, Brandon Knapper, D’Angelo hunter, Teddy Allen, Wesley Harris
  • Projected starting lineup: Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles Jr., Esa Ahmad, Lamont West, Elijah Macon
  • At this point, I’m just going to assume that Bobby Huggins is going to put a good team on the floor regardless of the situation. The names don’t even matter, although Jevon Carter is back for what feels like his 17th season in college hoops while Esa Ahmad seems primed for a monster year.

13. USC

  • Who’s gone: Charles Buggs
  • Who do they add: Derryck Thornton, Charles O’Bannon, Jordan Usher
  • Projected starting lineup: Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton, Elijah Stewart, Bennie Boatwright, Chimezie Metu
  • There is a lot of talent on the USC roster for now, especially now that Metu is returning, but the key to this team is going to be whether or not they get Boatwright and Stewart back.

14. Minnesota

  • Who’s gone: Akeem Springs
  • Who do they add: Isaiah Washington, Jamir Harris, Davonte Fitzgerald
  • Projected starting lineup: Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer, Amir Coffey, Jordan Murphy, Reggie Lynch
  • The Golden Gophers bring everyone back from last season, a year where they were one of the most surprising teams in the country. Minnesota could win the Big Ten.

15. UCLA

  • Who’s gone: Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton
  • Who do they add: LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, Jalen Hill, Chris Smith
  • Projected starting lineup: Jaylen Hands, Aaron Holiday*, Kris Wilkes, Cody Riley, Thomas Welsh*
  • It’s going to be interesting to see how the Bruins move on from the Lonzo Ball era. It will also be interesting to see how LaVar Ball handles the fact that LiAngelo Ball isn’t Lonzo.

16. Cincinnati

  • Who’s gone: Troy Caupain, Kevin Johnson
  • Who do they add: Keith Williams, Trevor Moore, Eliel Nsoseme, Cane Broome
  • Projected starting lineup: Cane Broome, Jarron Cumberland, Jacob Evans, Gary Clark, Kyle Washington
  • The Bearcats return a lot of important pieces from a team that won 30 games last season. Broome averaged 23 points for Sacred Heart as a sophomore.

17. Baylor

  • Who’s gone: Ishmail Wainright
  • Who do they add: Mark Vital, Tyson Jolly, Tristan Clark
  • Projected starting lineup: Manu Lecomte, Jake Lindsey, King McClure, Jo Lual-Acuil, Johnathan Motley*
  • It all hinges on whether or not Motley opts to return to school for his final year of eligibility. That’s very much in the air. With him, they’re a top ten team. Without him, they’re probably closer to the 20-25 range. We split the difference and went 18th.

18. Seton Hall

  • Who’s gone: Madison Jones
  • Who do they add: Myles Cale, Darnell Brodie
  • Projected starting lineup: Khadeen Carrington, Myles Powell, Desi Rodriguez, Ishmael Sanogo, Angel Delgado*
  • This is the team that I’m going to probably overhype all offseason. I love this group.

19. Gonzaga

  • Who’s gone: Nigel Williams-Goss, Przemek Karnowski, Jordan Mathews, Zach Collins
  • Who do they add: Jacob Larsen, Zach Norvell, Corey Kispert, Jesse Wade
  • Projected starting lineup: Josh Perkins, Silas Melson, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams III*, Killian Tillie
  • With Nigel Williams-Goss gone, the key to Gonzaga’s season will be the development of Josh Perkins. Can he play the point full-time and do it successfully?

20. Northwestern

  • Who’s gone: Sanjay Lumpkin, Nathan Taphorn
  • Who do they add: Anthony Gaines, Aaron Falzon, Rapolas Ivanauskas
  • Projected starting lineup: Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law, Aaron Falzon, Dererk Pardon
  • The Wildcats, a year removed from their first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament, bring back essentially everyone from last season and get Aaron Falzon healthy. Bryant McIntosh will contend for Big Ten Player of the Year.

21. Alabama

  • Who’s gone: Nick King, Jimmie Taylor, Shannon Hale, Corban Collins
  • Who do they add: Collin Sexton, John Petty, Daniel Giddens
  • Projected starting lineup: Collin Sexton, John Petty, Dazon Ingram, Braxton Key*, Daniel Giddens
  • The Crimson Tide bring back a talented young core and add two five-star guards, including Collin Sexton, who could lead the conference in scoring.

22. Notre Dame

  • Who’s gone: Steve Vasturia, VJ Beachem
  • Who do they add: DJ Harvey, Nikola Djogo
  • Projected starting lineup: Matt Farrell, Temple Gibbs, Rex Pflueger, Bonzie Colson, Martinas Geben
  • At this point, I’m fine betting on Brey to have Notre Dame in the mix every year. They’re going to need Rex Pfleuger and Temple Gibbs to take a step forward, but Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell can carry the Irish.

23. Virginia Tech

  • Who’s gone: Seth Allen, Zach LeDay
  • Who do they add: Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Wabissa Bede
  • Projected starting lineup: Justin Robinson, Ahmed Hill, Justin Bibbs, Chris Clarke, Khadim Sy
  • The Hokies return all five starters from last season despite the fact that the team graduates their top two scorers. A healthy Chris Clarke and Kerry Blackshear will help.

24. Saint Mary’s

  • Who’s gone: Joe Rahon, Dane Pineau
  • Who do they add: Angus Glover
  • Projected starting lineup: Jordan Ford, Emmett Naar, Calvin Hermanson, Evan Fitzner, Jock Landale
  • Losing Rahon will hurt, but with Naar and Landale coming back, the Gaels are going to push Gonzaga in the WCC race once again.

25. Nevada

  • Who’s gone: Cameron Oliver*, Marcus Marshall
  • Who do they add: Hallice Cooke, Cody and Caleb Martin, Kendall Stephens
  • Projected starting lineup: Lindsey Drew, Cody Martin, Caleb Martin, Kendall Stephens, Jordan Caroline
  • Even without Oliver, the Wolf Pack look like a team that can make another run in the Mountain West. Jordan Caroline should be MWC Player of the Year.

Wichita State getting more national respect with non-conference scheduling

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Wichita State is starting to gain more national respect with regards to its non-conference schedule.

Since moving to the American Athletic Conference this spring, the Shockers have not only gained the benefit of being in a multi-bid league every year, but they’re also getting better teams to play them outside of conference play.

According to a report from Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle, the Shockers now have non-conference games scheduled with Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State this season. With Wichita State also playing in the Maui Invitational, it gives the Shockers plenty of opportunities to schedule quality opponents and improve its NCAA tournament seeding. And that’s before Wichita State starts conference play.

Although Wichita State was getting invited regularly to prestigious non-conference tournaments such as Maui or the Battle 4 Atlantis, they were having a tough time getting certain schools to book home-and-home series. The Baylor series signifies a small, but significant, change to how Wichita State might be able to do things now.

USC forward Bennie Boatwright returning for junior year

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USC has a chance to be really good next season as forward Bennie Boatwright announced that he’s returning for his junior season.

The 6-foot-10 forward put up 15.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 36 percent from three-point range as his return means that the Trojans should be a major contender in the Pac-12 next season. Elijah Stewart also announced this week that he is returning as USC could start Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton, Stewart, Boatwright and Chimezie Metu next season.

With Duke transfer Derryck Thornton Jr. also becoming eligible and McDonald’s All-American guard Charles O’Bannon Jr. entering the program, the Trojans are a potential top-10 team.