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Pac-12 contenders look very different now than six weeks ago

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Cinco de Mayo was not kind to basketball programs in the state of Oregon.

It started with Craig Robinson, Oregon State’s now-former head coach and President Barack Obama’s brother-in-law. He was let go in mid-May — which almost never happens — after an offseason that saw the Beavers lose their entire starting lineup to graduation, transfer or the professional ranks. Oregon State will be in full-blown rebuilding mode next season, and that’s not a good sign for a program that just finished a 16-16 campaign and that went 39-69 in the Pac-12 during Robinson’s tenure.

How bad is it in Corvallis?

The situation may be too dire for Ben Howland to want to deal with, and he has made a push for just about every high-major job that has come open this offseason.

And that wasn’t as shocking as what Oregon announced a couple of hours later. Sophomore Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson and freshman Brandon Austin have all been suspended from the Oregon program. They’ll follow Ben Carter and A.J. Lapray out the door, meaning that of the 10 players on Oregon’s roster that were a part of their rotation a season ago, eight are now gone. Only Joseph Young and Elgin Cook are scheduled to return.

The Ducks do bring in a solid class of recruits — headlined by five-star prospect JaQuan Lyle and former top 50 recruit and JuCo center Michael Chandler — but Dana Altman cleaning house will turn what could have been a top 15 team into one that will likely be on the bubble until late in the 2014-2015 season.

Things only get worse when you look at the Pac-12 as a whole:

  • UCLA had a shot to be Arizona’s biggest challenger in the league, but they went 0-for-3 when it came to stars leaving for the NBA Draft. Kyle Anderson was a given — he made no secret about the fact that he was leaving school this year — but losing a Zach LaVine and Jordan Adams is going to hurt. Adams would have been an all-american while LaVine had the potential to be a star at this level.
  • Early entry wasn’t kind to Colorado, either, as Spencer Dinwiddie announced that his career in Boulder is over. The Buffaloes still have a chance to make the tournament in 2015, but they went from being a potential top 15 team to one that is probably closer to the top 40 when they lost their best player.
  • Arizona State was ready for Jahii Carson to go pro, but his departure combined with the graduation of Jordan Bachynski and Jermaine Marshall puts the Sun Devils in a hole.
  • Cal saw Mike Montgomery retire, and while new head coach Cuonzo Martin might end up being a perfect fit in Berkeley — especially with his hire of ace recruiter Yanni Hufnagel — a coaching change is never easy when it coincides with the loss of a team’s two best players (Richard Solomon and Justin Cobbs).
  • USC and Washington State both lost their leading scorers, and Wazzu will be replacing head coach Ken Bone.

Arizona is our No. 2 team in the country and the clear favorite in the Pac-12, but after that, things get really murky. Utah looks like they will be good next season as they essentially return their entire team, but this is also a group that couldn’t close out a big win in last season and is just two years removed from winning all of six games in a season.

Stanford returns Chasson Randle, Stefan Nastic and Anthony Brown and has the size to handle the loss of Dwight Powell and Josh Huestis, but we’ve been waiting for the Cardinal to live up to the amount of talent that the program has for a couple of years now.

I say all that to say this: the Pac-12, at the end of the 2014 NCAA tournament, looked like it would end up being one of the stronger conferences in the country.

And while it still could every well produce the 2015 national champion, the last six weeks have yielded quite a talent drain at the top of the conference.

Cal and San Diego State set three-game series

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10:  Jarmal Reid #32 of the Oregon State Beavers tries to steal the ball from Ivan Rabb #1 of the California Golden Bears during a quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 10, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. California won 76-68.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Cal and San Diego State played last season in the Las Vegas Invitational and decided to play more often.

According to multiple reports, the two teams will play each other the next three seasons, starting with a neutral-court matchup in Sacramento on Nov. 21. The game in Sacramento will be unique in a couple of ways, as it will be the first college basketball game in the Sacramento Kings’ brand-new home arena. It will also be Cal’s first game in Sacramento since 1947.

After the Sacramento game during the 2016-17 season, San Diego State will host the Golden Bears the next season and Cal will host the Aztecs the following year to close out the three-game deal.

With both Cal and San Diego State returning plenty of talent from last season, this season’s contest should be one of the more intriguing non-conference games between schools out west and it should be fun for the players as they get to take the floor in a new NBA arena.

Report: Creighton’s Zach Hanson to miss a few months following knee surgery

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 3: Zach Hanson #40 of the Creighton Bluejays fights for position with Daniel Ochefu #23 of the Villanova Wildcats  during their game at CenturyLink Center March 3, 2015 in Omaha, Nebraska.   (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Creighton will be without a key big man for the start of practice as senior Zach Hanson will be out after having knee surgery.

According to a report from Marjie Ducey of the Omaha World-Herald, the 6-foot-9 Hanson will likely be out for eight to 12 weeks. Creighton head coach Greg McDermott told Ducey that Hanson will hopefully be available when Creighton opens its regular season in November.

As a junior, Hanson was a key rotation big man for the Bluejays as he put up 6.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, making one start on the season. As McDermott noted in Ducey’s story, he’s not concerned about Hanson missing practice time from a learning curve standpoint but he is a bit worried about his conditioning. Before the knee surgery, Hanson was also nursing some ankle injuries that he was dealing with during the season, so he hasn’t had a great chance to get in proper condition.

This loss will definitely hurt Creighton as they have a ton of backcourt pieces for next season, but not as many in the front court. Hanson’s an experienced player who will help once he returns but it will something worth monitoring to see what kind of condition he’s in during the early season.

VIDEO: Mixtape of the Under Armour Association

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Now that summer basketball is nearly finished, a lot of good mixtapes are beginning to pop up from this spring and summer’s action.

Ball is Life just dropped some highlights from all of the Under Armour Association events from this spring and summer in one mixtape and it’s loaded with high-level players making tremendous plays.

Some of the top Class of 2017 prospects included in the video include Trevon Duval, Kris Wilkes, Ira Lee, M.J. Walker and North Carolina commit Jalek Felton.

Judge to review surveillance video in Appling gun case

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 30:  Keith Appling #11 of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Connecticut Huskies during the East Regional Final of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 30, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) A Michigan judge will review surveillance footage from the night former Michigan State basketball player Keith Appling was arrested outside a strip club on weapons and drug charges.

Appling’s defense attorney presented the footage at Friday’s preliminary examination. It includes security videos from the Pantheon Club parking lot and video from police dashboard cameras.

The hearing was adjourned until Aug. 5 to allow Judge William Hultgren time to review the footage.

The 24-year-old Appling played for the Spartans from 2010-2014 and had two 10-day contracts with the Orlando Magic this season.

He was arrested in May after two guns and suspected marijuana were found in a vehicle he was in.

Appling also faces a trial in Detroit where he was charged in June with carrying a concealed weapon.

Arkansas hoping for more backcourt depth and stronger press in 2016-17

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Dusty Hannahs #3 of the Arkansas Razorbacks drives to the basket against Michael Humphrey #10 of the Stanford Cardinal  at Barclays Center on November 27, 2015 in Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Arkansas is coming off of a disappointing 16-16 season in which they missed the postseason.

The Razorbacks lost two key guards in Anthlon Bell and Jabril Durham — who both exhausted their eligibility — but they’re hoping a couple of additions will bolster the depth of their backcourt and make their trademark press stronger.

In a story from Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Razorbacks are excited about the possibilities of their new backcourt.

Although Arkansas lost two talented seniors and a transfer in Jimmy Whitt, they return Dusty Hannahs, Manny Watkins and Anton Beard while also getting two of the best junior college guards in the country. Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon come in highly touted for next season and both junior college guards garnered a lot of praise from their play last season.

With Arkansas also bringing in some freshman guards like C.J. Jones and RJ Glasper, head coach Mike Anderson is hoping to have enough bodies to play fast and use his press. The team appears to be optimistic as well.

“I think we’ll have a lot more toughness at the guard position, and depth,” Watkins said to Murphy. “We’ve got a lot of guys. When we’re pressing and stuff, we’ve got bodies we can bring in.”

Arkansas also returns an SEC Player of the Year candidate in big man Moses Kingsley and they could be an intriguing team to track this season if Barford and Macon are as good as advertised. They’ll certainly have more bodies to throw at opposing guards and that should help Arkansas play faster than they did last season.