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Seven programs with the most on the line during July’s live period

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The July evaluation period will kick off on Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. We’ve already told you what the live period is and why it’s important. We’ve given you a list of 15 players to keep an eye on this month. And we’ve given you a full breakdown of what grassroots basketball is.

Today, we’ll break down seven programs with the most on the line heading into this month:

Auburn: “Auburn made huge news when it hired Bruce Pearl. Since then, the Tigers have landed commitments from Juco and graduate transfers, but Pearl’s show-cause penalty runs through late August. What that means is that he won’t be out on the recruiting trail this month. How does that hurt his Class of 2015? And if it does, will it hinder Pearl’s rebuild?” – Terrence Payne

Indiana: “Tom Crean had a lot of roster turnover this offseason, but in the past he could always rely on a stable base of in-state talent to come through as potential recruits. The Class of 2015 in Indiana doesn’t have as much to offer and the Hoosiers are in a lot of battles for marquee prospects. This will be an important July for Indiana.” – Scott Phillips

Missouri: “The biggest question when Missouri hired Kim Anderson to replace Frank Haith was going to be how the longtime Division II coach would be able to recruit. Well, he managed to keep Tim Fuller on staff and hired Huntington Prep coach Rob Fulford as an assistant, meaning that he’ll have the pieces in place to land a big time recruiting class. How will they fare in their first summer on the road together?” – Rob Dauster

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Oregon: “The Ducks have three talented guards joining the program this season (JaQuan Lyle, Casey Benson and Ahmaad Rorie), and they’ve also landed 2015 guard Kendall Small. But with Joseph Young entering his senior year and the tumultuous offseason the program’s had to deal with, this will be an important month when it comes to Dana Altman and his staff placing the program back on solid ground.” – Raphielle Johnson

Virginia Tech: “Buzz Williams left a very successful program at Marquette, where he was a very successful recruiter, to join the ACC with Virginia Tech and it’ll be very interesting to see if he can pull in major recruits to the East Coast. How will new recruits respond to Virginia Tech? That’s one of the biggest questions entering July.” – SP

Wisconsin: “You don’t usually throw Bo Ryan’s ballclub in the mix of major recruiting battles, but coming off of a Final Four, Wisconsin needs to be in the mix for two in-state five-star big men in Henry Ellenson and Diamond Stone. If the Badgers can land one of those two big men, Bo Ryan and Wisconsin fans will be ecstatic. Skilled bigs thrive in Bo Ryan’s system, and Ellenson and Stone are both really skilled.” – SP

The entire Big East: “One of the reasons that Buzz Williams left Marquette had to do with the formation of the new Big East and the level at which that conference and the programs within that conference will be able to compete in the future. Will it maintain a status of being one of the marquee basketball leagues in the country, or will it fall into relative irrelevance without games on ESPN and without a high-major football league associated with it?” – RD

Five more teams that need a strong 2015 recruiting class:

  • Arizona: “Sean Miller could end up losing a lot of talent after next season. He’s been the king of west coast recruiting lately and initially had a back court of two, five-star guards, but saw Dorsey decommit last month.” – TP
  • California: “Unlike the one April evaluation weekend he’ll have an important assistant to rely on when it comes to further cultivating those relationships with in-state recruits: assistant Yanni Hufnagel. That’s a big deal, and one that will likely prove fruitful.” – RJ
  • Cincinnati: “Mick Cronin loses Sean Kilpatrick, Justin Jackson and Jermaine Lawrence and after getting an extension is looking at a possible NIT-caliber season. Can he reload with his 2015 class?” – RD
  • Houston: “Of the eight newcomers added by Kelvin Sampson and his staff this spring seven are either junior college or four-year transfers. This month will be important as they look to strengthen their relationships with the top grassroots program within Texas (especially in the Houston area).” – RJ
  • Rutgers: “How many Big Ten-caliber impact players does this program have? The hiring of Greg “Shoes” Vetrone should help them recruiting-wise, and given the overall strength of the Big Ten that will be necessary.” – RJ

WEEKLY AWARDS: Denzel Valentine’s big week, Kansas makes a statement

Denzel Valentine
(AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

In the title game of the Wooden Legacy, a game that was billed as a matchup between the two best players in college basketball — Valentine and Kris Dunn — Valentine was downright bad …

… by his standards. He finished with “just” 17 points, six assists and five boards. I say “just” because, in the previous two games of the tournament, the Spartan superstar averaged 30.5 points, 10.0 boards and 8.0 assists. He’s been, hands down, the best player in college basketball this season, and that didn’t change this week.


  • Ben Bentil, Providence: Kris Dunn is the guy that is going to get all the national praise, but it was Bentil’s emergence that was critical for the Friars. He averaged 21.7 points and 6.0 boards in three games in the Wooden Legacy, carrying PC when Dunn was battling foul issues.
  • Wayne Selden, Kansas: The highlight of Selden’s week was scoring 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting in the Maui title game win over No. 19 Vanderbilt. For the week, he averaged 19.3 points and shot 12-for-17 from three.
  • Justin Robinson, Monmouth: Robinson averaged 25.7 points in three games for Monmouth at the Advocare Invitational. The Hawks beat No. 17 Notre Dame and USC in the process, only losing to Dayton by three.
  • Justin Jackson, North Carolina: Remember when Justin Jackson was struggling? He averaged 21.5 points, 9.0 boards and 5.0 assists in wins over Northwestern and Kansas State. That came on the heels of a 25-point performance in the loss at Northern Iowa.
  • Henry Ellenson, Marquette: Ellenson notched three straight double-doubles for the Golden Eagles this week, which included 16 points and 11 boards in a win over Ben Simmons and LSU.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas headed out to Maui as a team that many weren’t really sure what to make of. They looked good against Michigan State for 30 minutes, then they blew that game as Denzel Valentine went bananas. They had as much depth as anyone in the country, but Brannen Greene was suspended, Cheick Diallo was ineligible and Wayne Selden was the most notable of a handful of talented players that had been somewhere between inconsistent and ineffective this year.

That all changed in Maui — well, other than Greene’s suspension — as Kansas rolled over Chaminade, UCLA and Vanderbilt to bring home the tournament title. Blowing out Chaminade was to be expected. But beating down a talented UCLA team? Dominating a very good Vanderbilt squad? That’s the Kansas we’ve been hoping to see show up for a few years now. The question is whether or not it’s sustainable, and at least on paper, it appears to be. Selden’s shooting percentages will come back to earth, but his raw numbers are less important than his confidence and aggressiveness. Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham are going to continue to take pressure off of each other in the back court. Perry Ellis isn’t going anywhere.

I questioned whether or not Kansas was truly one of the nation’s elite when the season started. I think they answered that question for me.


  • Xavier: The Musketeers not only won the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, they blew out in-state — and former Atlantic 10 — rival Dayton in the finals.
  • Syracuse: The Orange are going to be a factor in the ACC this season. How much? I don’t know. But after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis by knocking off No. 18 UConn and No. 25 Texas A&M, it’s clear they’re going to be involved all season.
  • Northeastern: The Huskies picked up a road win against No. 15 Miami on this buzzer-beating jumper.
  • Arkansas-Little Rock: The Trojans picked up their second huge road win of the year, going into Tulsa and knocking off the Golden Hurricane. They’re now 5-0 on the season, having also won at SDSU.
  • Tournament winners: West Virginia knocked off Richmond and San Diego State to bring home the Las Vegas Invitational title, No. 24 Cincinnati beat Nebraska and George Washington in the Barclays Center Classic and Marquette knocked off LSU and Arizona State to win the Legends Classic.


Tuesday: No. 2 Maryland at No. 9 North Carolina, 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday: Butler at No. 24 Cincinnati, 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday: Louisville at No. 3 Michigan State, 7:15 p.m.
Wednesday: No. 13 Indiana at No. 6 Duke, 9:15 p.m.
Saturday: No. 11 Arizona at No. 10 Gonzaga, 3:15 p.m.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.