Memphis got a huge win Sunday, but calling it ‘narrative-changing’ is premature

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On Sunday evening down in Orlando, Memphis head coach Josh Pastner finally picked up that elusive, first top 25 win.

Entering Sunday, his Memphis teams had gone 0-13 against teams ranked in the AP top 25. If you want to quibble with that stat, you can. Technically the Tiger’s do have one top 25 win under Pastner. In the opening round of the 2013 NCAA tournament, the Tigers knocked off St. Mary’s, a team that a) needed to win the play-in game just to reach No. 6 seed Memphis and b) sat at No. 25 in the Coaches Poll.

So yes, Pastner had won a top 25 game before.

But quibbling with semantics belabors the larger point here: the Tigers had made an unhealthy habit of failing to show up in big games. They’d been getting drubbed in marquee non-conferences games and fizzling out of the NCAA tournament too early, their reputation being staked on their dominating performances against mediocre Conference USA competition.

The narrative was, quite frankly, valid.

For all his recruiting success and personability, Josh Pastner’s teams had never proven they could win big games. They couldn’t handle adversity. When the going got tough, Memphis folded. And nothing was more exemplary of that fact than the matchup with Oklahoma State two weeks ago, when Marcus Smart’s 39 points spurred the Cowboys to a 101-80 pasting of the Tigers in which Memphis seemingly rolled over and died.

That’s what makes Sunday’s win so important.

It’s not simply that Memphis beat then-No. 5 Oklahoma State. It’s that they came back from a double-digit deficit, winning a game against a very good team when they didn’t play their best and shot a measly 12-for-24 from the charity stripe.

Memphis showed fight on Sunday, and that’s more important than any stat about the top 25 or any ranking they’ll receive as a result. There’s a mental hurdle to clear when it comes to winning and winning big games. The ability to handle the pressure of the big moment, of a big game, is a learned skill, and Memphis took a huge step in the right direction on Sunday.

But that’s all it is at this point.

It’s a win that Memphis needed to get. It’s a win they got in a way that we haven’t seen out of them in Pastner’s tenure. It’s a win that will absolutely help with their NCAA tournament seeding, one that will provide a measure of confidence heading forward.

But this isn’t a narrative-changing win, as Gary Parrish wrote on Sunday evening, at least not yet. The Tigers play Florida on Dec. 17th at Madison Square Garden. They visit Louisville on January 9th and host UConn a week later. The play Gonzaga on February 8th.

You want to call this a narrative-changing victory? Win two or three of those games and you can.

Until then, the Tigers are just a team that finally broke through against a quality opponent.

Because if this ends up being the high-point of the 2013-2014 season for the Tigers, I’m not sure that anything will have actually changed.

NBC Sports 2017-18 College Basketball Preseason All-American Team

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The deadline for underclassmen that have not signed with an agent to withdraw from the NBA Draft came and went at midnight on Wednesday, meaning that we now know what the rosters for the best teams in the country are going to look like.

With that in mind, let’s take an early look at what the preseason all-american teams will be.

RELATEDNBC Sports Preseason Top 25

FIRST TEAM ALL-AMERICA

Miles Bridges, So., Michigan State (Player of the Year)

There wasn’t a more surprising name to pull out of the NBA Draft and return to school than Bridges, who was a lock to be just the second lottery pick to come out of Tom Izzo’s Michigan State program. A thrillingly athletic, 6-foot-7 combo-forward, Bridges will end up being the star for a Spartan team that is currently sitting at No. 1 overall in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25. He averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks last season playing mostly as a small-ball four. How will be handle playing the three full-time? Hint: He shot 38.9 percent from three last seaono. I think he’ll be OK.

Allonzo Trier, Jr., Arizona

Coming off of a season where he missed the first 19 games due to a suspension for testing positive for PEDs, Trier opted to return to school for his junior year. Trier averaged 17.2 points as a sophomore and should put up similar, if not better, numbers next season for an Arizona team that is going to be a consensus preseason top three team.

Devonte’ Graham, Sr., Kansas

Graham was excellent playing as a two-guard for the Jayhawks last season, averaging 13.4 points and 4.1 assists while shooting 38.8 percent from three. But Graham is a natural point guard, moved off the ball because Frank Mason III went all #BIFM. Graham will slide into the lead guard role this season for a team that should be a preseason top five program.

Michael Porter Jr, Fr. Missouri

Porter is a monster. He’s an athletic freak at 6-foot-9, but he plays the small forward spot and has three-point range. His recruitment has been well-documented — he is from Columbia, Missouri, but committed to Washington and moved to Seattle when his dad was hired by Lorenzo Romar only to move back to Missouri when his father was fired and then hired at Missouri by Cuonzo Martin — but it’s been deserving. Porter is going to put up monster numbers. Whether or not he ends up as a first-teamer come March will depend on just how good the Missouri team ends up being.

Angel Delgado, Sr., Seton Hall

Delgado was the best big man in the country for the last six weeks of last season. On the year, he averaged 15.1 points and 13.2 boards for a team that reached the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive season and returns essentially everyone from that team. The Pirates are old, they are tough, they are physical and they play hard, and no one epitomizes that quite like Deldago.

SECOND TEAM ALL-AMERICA

Joel Berry II, North Carolina: Justin Jackson was North Carolina’s best player last season, but Berry was the engine that made their offense run as well as the Final Four MOP. He’ll have his work cut out for him next season with everything that the Tar Heels are losing.

Grayson Allen, Duke: I know, I know. You hate Grayson Allen. This is ridiculous. I get it. He also was an NBC Sports second-team All-American in 2016 and the Preseason National Player of the Year last season that is finally healthy and will spend this season playing his natural position off the ball.

Trevon Bluiett, Xavier: Bluiett was one of the best players in last year’s NCAA tournament, and if it wasn’t for a sprained ankle that bothered him during the second half of last season, he might have been an all-american last season.

Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame: He only stands 6-foot-5 but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better power forward in college basketball. He averaged a double-double last season and will have to carry a heavier load offensively next year.

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin: Happ is one of the nation’s must underrated players, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. He’s not the kind of Wisconsin big man you’re used to seeing — he’s not Frank Kaminsky — but he’s a sensational rebounder and shot blocker that can score on the block.

THIRD TEAM ALL-AMERICA

Jalen Brunson, Villanova: With Josh Hart gone, Brunson will take over as the star of this Villanova program. There’s an argument to make he was the best player on the Wildcats last season.

Jevon Carter, West Virginia: Carter is a three-time all-Big 12 defensive team member and was the leading scorer last year for a team that will enter this season ranked in the top 15.

Bruce Brown, Miami: Brown is one of the most underrated players in college basketball. If he develops the way we expect him to, Miami will contend for an ACC title.

Robert Williams, Texas A&M: A freak athlete, Williams was a potential lottery pick that opted to return to school for his sophomore season. With a point guard on the Aggie roster this season, his production should go up.

Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s: Landale has an outside shot of averaging 20 points and 10 boards for a Saint Mary’s team that will enter the season ranked in the top 25.

HONORABLE MENTION

Deng Adel (Louisville), KeVaughn Allen (Florida), Deandre Ayton (Arizona), Mo Bamba (Texas), Mike Daum (South Dakota), Aaron Holiday (UCLA), Nate Mason (Minnesota), Jordan McLaughlin (USC), Collin Sexton (Alabama), Landry Shamet (Wichita State)

2017-18 College Basketball Preseason Top 25: Post Early Entry Deadline

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The NCAA’s deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft for early entry candidates that have not signed with an agent came and went last night, and while a few of the decisions took us right up to the deadline, it mostly played out the way it was expected to.

Some big names returned. Some surprising names left.

Next season’s top 25 is awful uninspiring. There also isn’t anything close to a clear-cut No. 1 team, although the consensus at this point seems to be that Michigan State, Arizona and Kansas, despite their flaws, are the three best teams in the country in some order. 

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

Here is the top 25:

1. Michigan State

  • Who’s gone: Eron Harris, Alvin Ellis III
  • 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.

2. Arizona

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

3. 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. With Devonte’ Graham 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.

4. 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, Kevin Knox, Nick Richards, P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jemarl Baker
  • Projected starting lineup: Quade Green, Hamidou Diallo*, Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt, 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. Adding Knox is big.

5. Duke

  • Who’s gone: Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III, Luke Kennard, Frank Jackson
  • Who do they add: Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter, Alex O’Connell, Trevon Duval, Jordan Tucker
  • Projected starting lineup: Trevon Duval, Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter, Marques Bolden
  • Getting Grayson Allen back for his senior year is huge because Duke lost a lot of talent early to the draft, and that doesn’t include missing out on five-star forward Kevin Knox, but landing Trevon Duval is the difference-maker for them. They finally have a point guard to replace Tyus Jones.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. Louisville

  • Who’s gone: Mangok Mathiang, David Levitch, Tony Hicks, Jaylen Johnson, Donovan Mitchell
  • Who do they add: Malik Williams, Darius Perry, Jordan Nwora, Lance Thomas
  • Projected starting lineup: Quentin Snider, VJ King, Deng Adel, Ray Spalding, Anas Mahmoud
  • Louisville has a chance to be very, very good next season, particularly now that Deng Adel is back in the mix. If guys like VJ King, Ray Spalding and Anas Mahmoud take a step forward, the Cardinals might compete for an ACC title. That says a lot this year.

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. 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.

11. 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, Sagaba Konate
  • 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.

12. 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, Stewart and Boatwright are all returning. The Trojans will push Arizona for the Pac-12 title if they decide to defend.

13. 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.

14. UCLA

  • Who’s gone: Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton
  • Who do they add: Jaylen Hands, 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. Jaylen Hands and Aaron Holiday will be an elite back court.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. Xavier

  • Who’s gone: Edmond Sumner, Malcolm Bernard, RaShid Gaston
  • Who do they add: Kerem Kanter, Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall, Elias Harden, Jared Ridder, Kentrevious Jones
  • Projected starting lineup: Quentin Goodin, J.P. Macura, Trevon Bluiett, Kaiser Gates, Sean O’Mara
  • The Musketeers were thrust back into the top 25 and the Big East title conversation when Trevon Bluiett opted to return to school.

18. 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, Garrison Brooks
  • Projected starting lineup: Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams, Theo Pinson, Luke Maye, Garrison Brooks
  • The Tar Heels are coming off of back-to-back national title game appearances, but they lose three key seniors from that team as well as Justin Jackson and Tony Bradley. Berry will be a National Player of the Year contender and Luke Maye will move into the starting lineup.

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: Kristers Zoriks, Malik Fitts, Cullen Neal
  • 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. Baylor

  • Who’s gone: Ishmail Wainright, Johnathan Motley
  • Who do they add: Mark Vital, Tyson Jolly, Tristan Clark
  • Projected starting lineup: Manu Lecomte, Jake Lindsey, King McClure, Terry Maston, Jo Lual-Acuil
  • Losing Johnathan Motley is a massive blow for the Bears, but there should be enough experience on the roster to keep them in the top 25.

NBA Draft Early Entry Winners and Losers

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The NCAA’s deadline to withdraw from the NBA Draft for early entry candidates that have not signed with an agent came and went last night, and while a few of the decisions took us right up to the deadline, it mostly played out the way it was expected to.

Some big names returned. Some surprising names left.

Next season’s top 25 is awful uninspiring. There also isn’t anything close to a clear-cut No. 1 team, although the consensus at this point seems to be that Michigan State, Arizona and Kansas, despite their flaws, are the three best teams in the country in some order. 

RELATED: Preseason Top 25 | Preseason All-Americans

Here are biggest winners and losers from deadline day:

BIGGEST WINNERS

1. Michigan State: The Spartans got Miles Bridges back. Bridges would’ve been a lottery pick and may have gone in the top ten had he declared for the draft, but he didn’t even do that. On paper, Bridges looks like a surefire all-american — he is our way-too-early Preseason National Player of the Year — and with him back in the fold, the Spartans are currently the Preseason No. 1 team in the country.

If Bridges doesn’t return to school, Tom Izzo would have been forced to coach a very young team without a proven perimeter scorer and a point guard who turned the ball over on nearly a quarter of his possessions. Bridges turned them from a borderline top 25 team to a consensus top three team. That’s a pretty big win.

2. USC: No one had a better spring than Andy Enfield. A year after learning that he would lost two starters that weren’t going to get draft, Julian Jacobs and Nikola Jovanovic, to the professional ranks, he had four players weighing the decision of whether or not to turn pro: Bennie Boatwright, Chimezie Metu and Shaqquan Aaron all declared for the draft and returned to school. Elijah Stewart forgot to send his papers in declaring, and Jordan McLaughlin and Deanthony Melton didn’t even put their names in.

The Trojans will now enter next season as a consensus top 15 team with as much talent on their roster as anyone. If they decide to start defending, they could push Arizona and UCLA for the Pac-12 title.

3. Arizona: Three things happened for Arizona this spring: Allonzo Trier, a potential first-team all-american this season, decided that he would be returning to school. So did Rawle Alkins, a former five-star prospect that could be an all-Pac-12 player next season. Arizona also found out that Kobi Simmons would be entering the NBA Draft after one year, which frees up minutes on the perimeter for someone that is, shall we say, slightly more consistent? The Wildcats are a consensus top three team next year.

4. Texas A&M: The Aggies were the only other team to get a projected lottery pick back, as Robert Williams made the decision to return to school for his sophomore season. This is huge news for Billy Kennedy, because this Texas A&M team will finally have a point guard available to them next season.

5. Texas: The biggest news for Texas in the last month was that Mo Bamba, a top five prospect in the Class of 2017 and one of the best shotblockers to come through the high school ranks in recent years, committed to the Longhorns. That happened just a couple of days before Andrew Jones announced that he would be withdrawing from the draft and returning for his sophomore season. With a pure point guard in freshman Matt Coleman to help him share back court duties, Jones should be freed up to showcase why he was a five-star recruit as a combo-guard.

6. Kentucky: I know, it’s weird to list Kentucky as a winner when they literally had five players enter the NBA Draft with at least two years of eligibility remaining. But here’s the thing: three of those decisions (Fox, Monk, Bam) were locks, a fourth (Isaiah Briscoe) was expected and the fifth (Isaac Humphries) turned pro because he was probably never not going to be recruited over by John Calipari. But with just 15 minutes left before the deadline, the Wildcats found out that they are going to be getting Hamidou Diallo back for his second year and first season playing for the program.

Kentucky is going to have serious issues scoring the ball next year, but they are loaded with length, athleticism and defensive potential. Diallo has every physical tool a coach could ever dream of, but he can’t really score. He may not be a go-to scorer for the Wildcats, but he sure is a great piece for a team that’s going to try to win games in the 50s next year.

Mark Few of the Gonzaga Bulldogs (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

BIGGEST LOSERS

1. Oregon: Oregon reached the Final Four last year on the stretch of three things: Tyler Dorsey going full Stephen Curry in the NCAA tournament, Jordan Bell turning into the second-coming of Ben Wallace and Dillon Brooks being a matchup nightmare playing as a small-ball four. All three had eligibility remaining, and only Bell has any chance of being a first round pick. Without those three, Oregon, who would have likely been the preseason No. 1 team in the country, is not going to be found in any preseason top 25s.

2. Gonzaga: Perhaps the worst thing that could have happened to Gonzaga for next season was the run to the NCAA tournament title game last season. For starters, it all-but ensured that Zach Collins was going to be headed to the NBA Draft. Collins could certainly have ended up there anyway, but dominant Final Four performances — including 14 points, 13 boards and six blocks against South Carolina — made his choice easy.

That wasn’t really the painful one for Mark Few. Losing Nigel Williams-Goss with a year of eligibility remaining probably hurts more. Williams-Goss was a first-team all-american in 2017 and would have been a favorite to win National Player of the Year as a fifth-year senior had he returned. But despite the fact that he may not even get drafted, Williams-Goss decided to head to the professional ranks with his degree in hand. A brutal blow for Gonzaga, but a decision that’s hard to argue with.

3. North Carolina: The Tar Heels lost ACC Player of the Year Justin Jackson to the NBA Draft after a sterling junior season, a move that hurts but that surprised absolutely no one. UNC still looked like a top ten team, but that was assuming that Tony Bradley would return to school. A freshman center that averaged less than 15 minutes last year, Bradley would have been the focal point of Roy Williams’ front court attack this season, but he opted to bolt for the NBA and a 50-50 shot at getting picked in the first round. Without him, UNC looks like a top 20-25 team that will go as far as Joel Berry II can carry them.

4. Purdue: One of the biggest points of contention for the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25 has been the lack of Purdue in our rankings. They return four starters from a team that ended the year as outright Big Ten champions and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. But they also lost Caleb Swanigan, the runner-up for National Player of the Year in 2016-17 and one of the most dominant big men that we’ve seen in the college game in quite some time. While he’s a borderline first round pick at best, I do believe that Biggie made the right decision to jump to the professional ranks, but the hole that he’ll leave for the Boilermakers this season is going to make you appreciate all over again just how good he was.

5. BYU: The Cougars looked primed to sneak up on Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s in the WCC this season, but they suffered a brutal blow when Eric Mika, who averaged nearly 20 points and 10 boards last season, decided to remain in the draft. They were a tournament team with him. They’re going to have to scrap to finish third in the WCC without him.

6. Indiana: The Hoosiers actually did get some good news on the early entry front late in the process as Robert Johnson opted to return to school for his senior season, but that doesn’t change the fact that Archie Miller is going to be starting his tenure in Bloomington without O.G. Anunoby, Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon Jr. Anunoby is the only one of the three that is likely to hear his name called in the first round, and Blackmon — who did graduate in three years — may not even get drafted.

Diallo withdrawing from draft, returning to Kentucky

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It took plenty of time for the news to make its way public, but it was a wait that proved welcome for Kentucky fans.

Wildcat freshman Hamidou Diallo will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return to Kentucky, the school announced

Diallo’s situation was one of the more interesting in college basketball as he became an incredibly intriguing pro prospect despite being on a college roster and never playing a minute.

The five-star recruit enrolled at Kentucky in January after attending a semester of prep school with the plan to redshirt the season and then play for the Wildcats in 2017-18. There were rumblings and rumors about Diallo potentially playing for John Calipari’s group last year, but ultimately they stuck to the plan to keep him on the bench and preserve his eligibility. Throughout it all, there was always the specter that Diallo could just decide to go the professional route anyway.

That possibility moved fully into the forefront earlier this month when Diallo showed off a 44.5-inch vertical leap at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. The 6-foot-5 guard also recorded a wingspan that nearly measured 7-feet. With those types of physical traits, he makes for an awfully interesting professional prospect, regardless of refinement or experience.

Given Diallo’s lack of high-level experience, though, there was no guarantee he’d be a first-round selection as teams would be wary of drafting solely on potential, rather than the mostly they typically do.

“I hope to play in the NBA one day — just not this season,” Diallo said in a statement. “Based on the information I received by testing the waters, I believe it’s in my best interests to return to school. Although I was a part of the team last season and trained with my teammates, I never fulfilled another one of my dreams, which was to play for a major college program and win a national title.

“I am excited about returning to Kentucky for the 2017-18 season. I can’t wait to play in a Kentucky jersey for the first time.”

Going back to Lexington to play college basketball gives Diallo a chance to showcase his skills against competition the NBA will be able to evaluate him against. It also makes Kentucky – surprise, surprise – extremely formidable this season as they, once again, restock the roster with potential lottery- and first-round picks. With Diallo officially in the fold, Kentucky is a no-doubt top-five team that will be among the favorites to cut down the nets in April 2018.

“I’m really proud of Hami,” Calipari said in a statement. “He took in all the information, asked a lot of questions, including questions to the NBA teams. I love the fact that he wants to put himself in a better position and help lead this new team to a championship.
“I can’t wait to get him on the court and have all of you fans see what I know.  He’s a special player and a special person.”

LaVar Ball selling “Stay In Yo Lane” shirts

Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images
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Create controversy. Profit from controversy.

It’s not an especially new or original strategy, but it’s one that LaVar Ball continues to try to exploit.

The infamous basketball dad is at it again, looking to capitalize on the uproar/kerfuffle/news cycle/debate/ickiness he created when he belittled FS1’s Kristine Leahy, telling her to “stay in your lane” on multiple occasions when claiming the Big Baller Brand didn’t need to market to women.

Well, they are now, with a nod to Ball’s proclamation, selling “STAY IN YO LANE” tees, for both men and women.

Marketing misogyny. Isn’t that nice.

It’s clear that LaVar Ball isn’t going to shy away from the public spotlight anytime soon, especially with eldest son Lonzo looking destined for the Lakers and middle son LiAngelo set to join UCLA, and he’s going to do his best to use that light to push the BBB franchise that scared away the world’s biggest apparel companies.

This plan has no mystery, subtlety or taste. Which might as well be the Big Baller Brand slogan.