College Basketball Talk’s Latest Top 25

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When it’s late-February, you play in the ACC and you’re undefeated, you’re the No. 1 team in the country.

That’s just the way that it works.

But does that mean that Syracuse is the best team in the country? Well, that’s a different story.

I hate using the term “luck” when it comes to sports. There’s nothing lucky about the fact that Tyler Ennis has been absolutely dominant in crunch-time. There’s nothing lucky about the fact that he’s a terrific basketball player with the mental toughness to handle the pressure that comes with the final minutes of close games. The numbers that he was putting up weren’t sustainable — against N.C. State, he missed just his second shot and committed his first turnover in the last five minutes of a one-possession game — but calling that kind of execution “lucky” is wrong.

What is “lucky”, however, is winning a game because you hit a running 35-footer, as Syracuse did at Pitt. It might also be considered lucky when you beat N.C. State at home thanks to the refs deciding against giving T.J. Warren an and-one and the Wolfpack turning the ball over on the ensuing possession.

The last three bigs wins for the Orange have come by a combined five points. That’s not exactly sustainable.

THE TOP 25

1. Syracuse (25-0, LW: No. 1): The Orange stay in the top spot thanks to a pair of one possession wins. Given the number of games that Tyler “Ennions” Ennis has won for the Orange down the stretch, he’s vaulted himself into the conversation for National Player of the Year.

2. Florida (23-2, LW: No. 3): For my money, right now, I think Florida is the best team in the country. They can give you so many different looks defensively and Scottie Wilbekin has spent the last month doing his best Tyler Ennis impression in close game.

3. Wichita State (27-0, LW: No. 6): The Shockers are that much closer to finishing the regular season undefeated. They beat Southern Illinois and Evansville this week.

4. Duke (20-5, LW: No. 10): We’re going to find out just how good the Blue Devils are next week. They pay a visit to North Carolina, a game that was snowed out last week, on Thursday before hosting Syracuse on Saturday.

5. Arizona (23-2, LW: No. 2): The Wildcats lost at Arizona State on Friday night, a game where they scored just 66 points in double-overtime. This team has some serious question marks offensively without Brandon Ashley.

6. Kansas (19-6, LW: No. 5): The Jayhawks bounced back from a loss to Kansas State by blowing out TCU. Joel Embiid’s scheduled to play on Tuesday as well.

7. San Diego State (22-2, LW: No. 4): SDSU lost at Wyoming, which is always a tough road trip to make given that Laramie is in the middle of nowhere and the elevation there is problematic for the sea level-bound Aztecs. But that doesn’t change the fact that this team relies too heavily on Xavier Thames for offense.

8. Cincinnati (23-3, LW: No. 9): The Bearcats handled Houston on Saturday thanks to another ridiculous performance from Sean Kilpatrick.

9. Creighton (21-4, LW: No. 19): The Bluejays now own a pair of wins over Villanova by a combined 49 points. That’s … ridiculous.

10. Michigan State (21-5, LW: No. 7): The Spartans still are not healthy, but that doesn’t exactly excuse them from a home loss to Nebraska on Sunday.

11. Kentucky (19-6, LW: No. 11)
12. Villanova (22-3, LW: No. 8)
13. Saint Louis (23-2, LW: No. 13)
14. Virginia (21-5, LW: No. 14)
15. Louisville (21-4, LW: No. 15)
16. Iowa State (19-5, LW: No. 12)
17. Wisconsin (21-5, LW: UR)
18. Iowa (19-6, LW: No. 16)
19. Texas (20-5, LW: No. 18)
20. UConn (20-5, LW: No. 22)
21. Memphis (19-6, LW: No. 21)
22. Ohio State (20-6, LW: No. 25)
23. Michigan (18-7, LW: No. 17)
24. North Carolina (17-7, LW: UR)
25. UCLA (20-5, LW: UR)

John Calipari lobbies for change in one-and-done rule to help athletes

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Kentucky head coach John Calipari is hoping the one-and-done rule changes so that athletes have more rights.

In a revealing interview with Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Calipari went into great detail about his thoughts behind a rule that many believe he has exploited greatly to his benefit over the last 10 years. Even though the Wildcats and Calipari have figured out the one-and-done rule to their advantage, the Hall of Fame coach still wants the rule to be abolished.

“Kids should be able to go (to the NBA) out of high school. That’s not our deal. That’s between the NBA and the Players Association,” Calipari said Friday. “Don’t put restrictions on kids.”

Calipari told Engel that he met with the NBPA last week in the hopes of the organization creating a combine for worthy high school juniors with pro potential. Calipari also wants agents more involved with high school kids.

“The players and the families need to know – here are the ones who should be thinking about the NBA, and here are the ones who should not,” Calipari said. “That’s why you need a combine.”

“If they want to go out of high school, go. If they want to go to college and then leave, let them leave when they want to leave. Why would we force a kid to stay? ‘Well – it’s good for the game?’ It’s about these kids and their families. Because let me tell you, if we (abolish one-and-done), the kids that do come to college will stay for two to three years.”

Calipari also has plenty of thoughts on the NBA G-League and how the league could potentially help young athletes with an education fund if they choose to turn pro directly out of high school. Regardless of what happens with the NBPA and the one-and-done rule, Calipari also said that his program would be fine — regardless of the rules.

Given that Calipari has operated on a different recruiting plane than everyone else in college basketball (with the exception of a few other bluebloods like Duke and Kansas) the last several years, it’s always notable when he gives his thoughts on the overall landscape of basketball.

But is Calipari actually lobbying for this? Or is this yet another way for Calipari to mold quotes into a recruiting pitch for elite players? Ultimately, it’s up to the NBPA to decide how the rules will be for future pros.

Report: NCAA allows Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale to compete on Dancing with the Stars

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After a memorable March Madness run that included two game-winning jumpers in the Final Four and an eventual national title, Notre Dame junior guard Arike Ogunbowale became a breakout national star.

Ogunbowale already appeared on Ellen while meeting her basketball idol, Kobe Bryant. Now, Ogunbowale will get the rare opportunity to appear on Dancing with the Stars — which the NCAA will allow even though Ogunbowale is still a rising senior who is scheduled to return to school next season.

Dancing with the Stars compensates its contestants and also has a prize for the winner. Under NCAA Bylaw 12.4.1, college athletes cannot be compensated based on their athletic abilities.

But the NCAA is arguing that Ogunbowale’s appearance on the show is “unrelated to her basketball abilities,” according to a statement they released regarding the decision. According to a report from Jacob Bogage of the Washington Post, the NCAA is also limiting Ogunbowale’s visibility for the show’s promotional tools.

From the Washington Post report:

The NCAA has placed restrictions on Ogunbowale that limit her involvement with the show and her potential to build her brand. She is not allowed to appear in promotional materials for the show, including commercials, according to the NCAA’s statement. She didn’t join other contestants during a group appearance on “Good Morning America” last week. Show handicappers have already wondered whether the NCAA’s limits will hurt her chances.

And the NCAA could turn down future requests by arguing that Ogunbowale is not endorsing “Dancing with the Stars” by appearing on the program, but instead is participating in a “personal growth experience” by learning how to ballroom dance, said Barbara Osborne, a professor of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina.

This is a slippery slope for the NCAA to take with this. Ogunbowale is, quite clearly, a famous basketball player. She’s on Dancing with the Stars because of her basketball abilities. The NCAA arguing anything else is just silly and embarrassing. The NCAA is also trying its best to uphold its argument about amateurism in the only way they know how.

But could this also could be a sign that the NCAA is perhaps open to the potential of allowing athletes to profit off of themselves in the future? The NCAA is currently handling a number of different court cases regarding amateurism, so it’s hard to say where all of this might go until the legal process starts to clear up.

Either way, this should be a fun experience for Ogunbowale while providing great national exposure for herself and women’s basketball. Ogunbowale might not be technically allowed to build her own brand during the show, but she’ll be gaining tons of new exposure for her basketball future — regardless of what the NCAA says in a statement.

Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab diagnosed with leukemia

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Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab announced on Saturday that he’s been battling leukemia lymphoma.

The 6-foot-11 big man from Egypt has been receiving medical treatment since the beginning of April as he took to Twitter to announce his current status.

Sameh Azab played in 15 games this season for the Tigers as he saw action for 84 total minutes. The reserve big man was a late addition in former head coach Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class at Memphis as he didn’t quality to play during his first season.

“Karim has my full support and the support of our whole team,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said in a statement earlier this month. “While we appreciate the support of the Tiger family in this matter, we would also like to protect the privacy of Karim and his family.”

South Dakota State’s Mike Daum declares for 2018 NBA Draft without an agent

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South Dakota State big man Mike Daum will enter the 2018 NBA Draft without an agent, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 redshirt junior has been a mid-major draft darling the past few seasons as Daum was one of the most productive players in the country last season. Putting up 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, Daum shot 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range during the season.

With his size and unique floor-spacing ability, Daum is going to be an interesting player to track during the NBA draft process. Teams are always looking for big men who can space the floor, and if Daum shoots well in workouts, he could wind up staying in the draft.

If Daum returns to South Dakota State, then he once again makes them a major NCAA tournament contender after the Jackrabbits won the Summit League last season.

Marquette lands Fordham grad transfer Joseph Chartouny

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Marquette pulled in a quality graduate transfer commitment on Friday as Fordham guard Joseph Chartouny pledged to the Golden Eagles.

The 6-foot-3 Chartouny was a three-year starter for the Rams as he should help offset the loss of guard Andrew Rowsey to graduation. While Chartouny isn’t nearly the perimeter threat that Rowsey was, he should be able to help significantly on the defensive end for Marquette. Chartouny put up 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game last season as he was one of the more productive all-around players in the Atlantic 10.

One of the nation’s leaders in steals the past three seasons, Chartouny has much better size to play alongside Markus Howard in the Marquette backcourt than Rowsey (5-foot-11) had. Since Howard is also 5-foot-11, Chartouny can now guard the bigger and more athletic perimeter matchup as Marquette tries to improve its porous defense from last season.

Marquette still has an open scholarship for next season as they’ve been investigating other transfer options to bolster the roster. Returning most of last season’s roster, the expectation will be for the Golden Eagles to make it back to the NCAA tournament next season.