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College Basketball Talk’s latest Top 25

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Virginia is the perfect example of why unbalanced schedules as a result of conference expansion is lame.

The three teams that the ‘Hoos played twice during ACC play were Florida State, Maryland and Notre Dame. They didn’t have to play at North Carolina or at Syracuse. So while I certainly respect that the only loss that Tony Bennett’s club has taken since that 35-point beatdown at Tennessee on Dec. 30th was at Duke, it’s hard to truly sit here and say Virginia is a Final Four contender and the best team in the ACC.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Cavs. With the length and athleticism that they have this season, that packline defense is just stifling. London Perrantes has been one of the nation’s most underrated freshman, and the development of Malcolm Brogdon into a first-team all-ACC performer is something no one expected.

But this is a group that had one quality win in the non-conference (SMU) and is just 3-1 against tournament teams in league play. That’s not exactly a murderer’s row.

THE TOP 25

1. Florida (27-2, LW: No. 1): The Gators just keep on winning, and that won’t likely change if Dorian Finney-Smith can keep hitting from the perimeter. When he’s shooting well, it adds another dimension for Billy Donovan’s group offensively.

2. Wichita State (31-0, LW: No. 2): All you need to know about Wichita State and their undefeated regular season can be read here and here.

3. Arizona (26-2, LW: No. 5): Right now, I’m not sure any team is playing better basketball anywhere than Arizona. They’ve beaten the breaks off of three straight tournament teams. Now there are now 120 minutes of this new, uptempo Arizona on film. Who finds a way to slow them down?

4. Kansas (22-7, LW: No. 3): 22 turnovers in a loss to Oklahoma State is concerning, but not exactly unexpected. Joel Embiid’s back problems are a much bigger issue.

5. Duke (23-6, LW: No. 4): The Blue Devils blew out Virginia Tech in their only game this week. It’s wild when you think about the fact that Duke is actually tied for third in the ACC.

6. Virginia (25-5, LW: No. 15): The Cavs blew out Syracuse over the weekend to earn the outright ACC title. They currently lead a conference that includes the Orange, Duke and North Carolina by two full games. Say what you will about unbalanced schedules, that’s still impressive.

7. Creighton (23-5, LW: No. 7): Creighton lost to a better-than-you-think Xavier team in the Cintas Center on Saturday. Not exactly ideal, but I’m not exactly concerned, either. The bigger concern is that Isaiah Zierdan, who has given them good minutes off the bench in recent games, is done for the year with a knee injury.

8. Syracuse (26-3, LW: No. 6): The Orange lost on the road to a very good Virginia team in a game where they were essentially playing without Jerami Grant. In a vacuum … whatever. The problem is that it came at the end of an extended cold streak. Can the Orange turn around these struggles on the offensive end of the floor?

9. Villanova (26-3, LW: No. 12): The Wildcats smacked around Marquette on Saturday and look like they are going to be headed for the Big East regular season title.

10. Louisville (24-5, LW: No. 9): If Louisville doesn’t blow an eight-point lead in the final minutes at Memphis, we’re having a very different conversation about them right now. Louisville’s seed might not reflect it, but this team seems to be peaking at the right time.

11. San Diego State (25-3, LW: No. 11)
12. Wisconsin (24-5, LW: No. 13)
13. Michigan (21-7, LW: No. 16)
14. Cincinnati (24-5, LW: No. 10)
15. Iowa State (22-6, LW: No. 17)
16. North Carolina (22-7, LW: No. 19)
17. UConn (23-6, No. 24)
18. Memphis (22-7, No. 23)
19. Saint Louis (25-4, No. 14)
20. New Mexico (23-5, No. 25)
21. Michigan State (22-7, No. 18)
22. SMU (23-6, LW: UR)
23. Texas (21-8, LW: No. 23)
24. Oklahoma (21-8, LW: UR)
25. VCU (22-7, LW: UR)

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)
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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)
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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.