(Scott Phillips/NBC Sports)

July Live Period Preview: 15 names that you need to know

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Ben Simmons (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

Wednesday, July 9th, at 5:00 p.m. will mark the start of July’s live recruiting period, a series of three five-day stretches where coaches are allowed to be on the road evaluating and scouting some of the nation’s top prospects. Over the course of the next three days, we will be getting you prepped with everything that you need to know heading into these 15 days.

First up, 15 names that you’ll want to keep an eye on this month:

CLASS OF 2015:

Jaylen Brown: “No one would blame you if you confused Jaylen Brown with Stanley Johnson: Same size, same build, some power wing style of play, they even have the same haircut. I’m not sure if Brown is the best prospect in this class, but there isn’t a player that works harder or has a more professional mindset and attitude when it comes to preparing. Oh, and he just so happens to be filthy.” – Rob Dauster

Jalen Brunson: “Brunson is the best point guard in the class and the only player in the top 25 that can truly be considered a pure point guard instead of being a scoring guard that wants the ball in his hands. And it doesn’t hurt that Brunson’s recruitment is one of the most intriguing: most had him pegged as following his dad to Temple … before his dad was arrested.” – RD

RELATED: What is the July live period, and why is it important?

Henry Ellenson: “Although the 2015 class is loaded with five-star big men, Ellenson is one of the few that can stretch the floor with consistency. With a brother who recently landed at Marquette via transfer, does the big man stay in his home state, or does his recruitment go national, with recent offers from Duke, North Carolina and UCLA?” – Scott Phillips

Malik Newman: “The top guard in a long list of forwards atop the class, the 6-foot-3 Newman is arguably the most gifted scorer on the grassroots circuit. He lost his top spot in the Rivals Top 150 to Ben Simmons, but can he regain it with a big July? Oh, and what about that package deal with Diamond Stone?” – Terrence Payne

Ivan Rabb: “The native of Oakland is the No. 1 player in the 2015 class, according to some, and the big man could separate himself from the pack with a strong month. Athletically gifted, Rabb needs to be a bit more assertive in July to be a potential No. 1 player.” – SP

source: AP
Diamond Stone (AP)

Ben Simmons: “The Australian native is a versatile 6-foot-8 forward that has already committed to LSU and has claimed the top spot in a front court-heavy Class of 2015. He led Montverde Academy to an undefeated season, and was the MVP of the NBPA Top 100 Camp.” – TP

Ray Smith: “The five-star wing from Las Vegas has vaulted up the Class of 2015 rankings in the last year and he’s one of the few elite small forwards in his class. He’s now ranked in the top ten by Rivals.com. Does his recruitment go national with a big July?” – SP

Diamond Stone: “Stone is a big-bodied center that is supremely skilled offensively, which makes him an elite recruit … and a coach’s dream alongside Malik Newman. I think many tend to take the “package deal” talk with a grain of salt given how fluid of a situation recruiting can be. Will Newman and Stone wind up on the same campus when it’s time to attend college? Who knows, but that won’t stop prominent programs from attempting to make that happen.” – Raphielle Johnson

Allonzo Trier: “Trier started all five games for Billy Donovan and USA Basketball at the FIBA Americas U18 Championships. He’s also the leading scorer in the Nike EYBL at 29.4 points per game. Trier, who was a New York Times magazine coverboy at 13, is one of the fastest-rising guards in 2015.” – TP

Stephen Zimmerman: “Zimmerman, the No. 7 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals.com, is one of the most unique players in the Class. He’s 6-foot-11, he’s left-handed, he’s got 15-foot range, he’s lanky and athletic, and he’s an excellent passer. Zimmerman has cut his list down to eight schools.” – RD

CLASS OF 2016:

Josh Jackson: “The No. 1 player in the 2016 class, Jackson deserves more national media attention because he’s a complete wing that can really get rolling as a scorer. Jackson also defends and rebounds and has some natural passing ability as well.” – SP

Thon Maker: “No wild player comparisons here, but the 7-foot-1 Maker is clearly a player to watch this month. Sure there’s the skill level, which makes him one of the most sought-after players regardless of class, but there’s also the question of which class he’ll be a part of. Will he stay in the 2016 class, or will he reclassify into the 2015 class?” – RJ

Dennis Smith, Jr.: “Smith has been on the receiving end of a lot of praise this spring and summer, and his skill level has made him one of the top players in his class. And given the fact that he’s from North Carolina, ACC programs will make sure to be in attendance for many (if not all) of his games this month.” – RJ

Jayson Tatum: “Tatum’s got all kinds of potential. A smooth and skilled 6-foot-7 wing, Tatum can play and defend multiple positions. He needs to add strength to his frame, but the top five recruit and St. Louis-native will have his pick of colleges.” – RD

Derryck Thornton: “Thornton’s had a very good spring and summer to date, emerging as one of the best distributors regardless of class and winning MVP at the Stephen Curry Point Guard Camp. With the nation’s coaches out and about this month, July could be a big month for a player already held in high regard.” – RJ

UConn-Syracuse rivalry game brings back memories of the best of the Big East

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 05:  Rodney Purvis #15 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts after hitting a three pointer against the Syracuse Orange during the Tire Pros Classic at Madison Square Garden on December 5, 2016 in New York City. Connecticut defeated Syracuse 52-50  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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The cliché ‘here, it just means more’ has never rang more true than it did on Monday night in Madison Square Garden.

A bad Syracuse team and a worse UConn team got together in New York City to play an awful basketball game, one where the two teams didn’t crack 100 points combined until there were 2.2 seconds left; where UConn won 52-50 despite shooting 31.4 percent from the floor because the Orange made just 25.9 percent of their field goals; where UConn did everything they could in the final minute to give the game to the Orange, including missing five free throws.

In a game between two teams that entered with a combined 8-6 record, Syracuse and UConn fans packed the Garden and created an environment that was just as rowdy, raucous and bi-partisan as a Big East tournament quarterfinal game that goes to six overtimes.

Businessmen in $5,000 suits were court side, going just as crazy as the UConn fans that packed their student section. Day-traders showed up in Orange t-shirts over their shirt and ties.

It didn’t matter that the Orange entered the game on a two-game losing streak. It didn’t matter UConn, a young team that has already lost two starters to season-ending injury, looks like a team that will be lucky to earn an invite to the NIT.

It never matters when these two former Big East rivals get together in the Basketball Mecca.

“It may be a slap in the face,” said Larry Avitabile, a Connecticut native that now calls Manhattan home, “but I hope UConn shows up as a bad loss when they show Syracuse’s NCAA tournament résumé.”


The rivalry between UConn and Syracuse is unlike any other rivalry in college basketball because of their proximity to New York City and Madison Square Garden, where the Big East has held their conference tournament since 1983.

Both fanbases claim the Big Apple as their own. Both schools consider themselves New York City’s college basketball team. None of the schools that left the Big East and none of the programs still in the conference traveled to the Garden the way that UConn and Syracuse travel to the Garden.

And the result is what you saw on Monday night.

Half of the Garden was blue.

The other half was Orange.

It simply does not get better than that.

Every season, one of the biggest talking points this time of the year is how neutral site games sterilize what makes college basketball special: the energy that comes with playing a game in front of a home crowd. The product on the court is never going to be as good as the product on the floor of any NBA game. That’s a fact of life when the best players at this level are 19 year olds a couple of years away from being able to impact an NBA game or 22 year olds that weren’t quite good enough to be able to make the jump to the pros.

And basketball at any level is never going to be a more popular than the NFL or college football. Unless you live in places like Lexington or Lawrence, college basketball probably isn’t even as important as the MLB or the NHL.

But those big, on-campus games are unparalleled in any sport at any level in this country. The experience of watching, say, UCLA’s visit to Rupp Arena on Saturday or North Carolina’s trip to Assembly Hall last week comes through on the television broadcasts.

When UConn and Syracuse square off in the Garden, it’s like two teams are playing a home game in the building.

“It’s New York City, it’s one of the best venues to play basketball in, it’s on everybody’s bucket list,” said Syracuse guard Andrew White. “Then, given the teams that were here, and the location, you’re dipping into history. This venue and this game is one of the tops all-time.”

White is a fifth-year senior that spent the last four seasons playing for Kansas in the Big 12 and Nebraska in the Big Ten. He’s seen it all. He’s played in the most electric college gyms. He knows what constitutes a great place to play a basketball game.

“I knew what to expect,” said White, who hails from southern Virginia. “I knew what I was getting into coming into this game. It’s Syracuse and UConn at the Garden. Say no more.”

College basketball needs all the games like this that it can get. It’s why those two programs would be doing a disservice to the sport if they decide to discontinue the series after the 2017 Jimmy V Classic, when they will play in the Garden for the second straight season.

Because UConn has too much talent and Kevin Ollie recruits at too high of a level to be down for that long. The Orange are just a year removed from getting to the Final Four and have plenty of young talent of their own on the roster.

Those programs will return to their rightful spots in the top 25 sooner rather than later.

And if those two fanbases can turn one of the ugliest games of the season into what we experienced in the arena on Monday night, imagine what it will be like in that building when those two teams are actually good.

 

Eastern Kentucky basketball player charged with rape

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RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) Authorities say an Eastern Kentucky basketball player has been arrested on a rape charge.

Records at Kentucky’s Madison County Detention Center show 23-year-old Jaylen Babb-Harrison was arrested Sunday in Richmond and charged with first-degree rape.

A statement from Eastern Kentucky says Babb-Harrison, a redshirt senior guard, has been suspended from the team. It says the school is cooperating with police.

Local media organizations cited an arrest citation in reporting that police were called to a Richmond hospital when a female reported she was at Babb-Harrison’s home and that he had sex with her against her will.

WKYT-TV reports Babb-Harrison declined to be interviewed at a jail. His first court appearance is set for Wednesday.

Online jail records didn’t list an attorney for the player.

Judge dismisses sex charges against ex-Michigan State star

3 Apr 2000: Mateen Cleaves #12 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates on the floor as he holds up the trophy after winning the NCAA Men''s Finals Four Game against the Florida Gators at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Spartans defeated the Gators 89-76.
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FLINT, Mich. (AP) A judge has dismissed all charges against former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves, who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman after a charity golf event.

Judge Cathy Dowd in Flint, Michigan, said Monday there wasn’t enough evidence to send Cleaves to trial. Prosecutors can appeal.

A woman said she twice tried to get away from Cleaves but was pulled back into a motel room and sexually assaulted in September 2015. A witness confirmed that she saw the woman try to escape a room at the Knights Inn near Flint.

But a police officer said the woman never indicated that she was assaulted. Cleaves pleaded not guilty.

The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they were sexually assaulted. Cleaves led Michigan State to the 2000 national championship.

Coaches Poll: Villanova takes the top spot

VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 03: Kris Jenkins #2 of the Villanova Wildcats yells to his team in the first half against the Saint Joseph's Hawks at The Pavilion on December 3, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. The Villanova Wildcats defeated the Saint Joseph's Hawks 88-57. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Villanova has overtaken Kentucky as the new No. 1 in the Coaches Poll on Monday.

The defending champions also took No. 1 in the new AP poll thanks to an 8-0 start while UCLA beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena this weekend. The Bruins finished at No. 2 while Kansas and Duke are right behind them.

RANKINGS: AP Poll | NBC Sports Top 25

  1. Villanova (28)
  2. UCLA (1)
  3. Kansas (1)
  4. Duke (2)
  5. North Carolina
  6. Baylor
  7. Kentucky
  8. Gonzaga
  9. Indiana
  10. Creighton
  11. Saint Mary’s
  12. Virginia
  13. Louisville
  14. Xavier
  15. Butler
  16. West Virginia
  17. Wisconsin
  18. South Carolina
  19. Purdue
  20. Arizona
  21. Florida
  22. Notre Dame
  23. Cincinnati
  24. Oregon
  25. Iowa State

AP Poll: Defending champion Villanova is the new No. 1

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Josh Hart
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The defending national champs are back at No. 1.

Villanova is atop the latest Associated Press top 25 poll this week as the 8-0 Wildcats are off to a hot start. With Kentucky’s loss to UCLA and North Carolina’s loss at Indiana there were some major shakeups in the polls this week.

  1. Villanova (57 first-place votes)
  2. UCLA (2)
  3. Kansas
  4. Baylor
  5. Duke
  6. Kentucky
  7. North Carolina
  8. Gonzaga
  9. Indiana
  10. Creighton
  11. Louisville
  12. Saint Mary’s
  13. Xavier
  14. Virginia
  15. West Virginia
  16. Butler
  17. Purdue
  18. Wisconsin
  19. South Carolina
  20. Arizona
  21. Florida
  22. Cincinnati
  23. Notre Dame
  24. Oregon
  25. Iowa State