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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

Cyclones add big man for 2017

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 15:  Head coach Steve Prohm of the Murray State Racers shouts from the sidelines against the Colorado State Rams  during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 15, 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Iowa State secured its first commitment Wednesday of what will be a pivotal class of forwards in 2017.

KeyShawn Faezell of Mississippi committed to Steve Prohm and the Cyclones, he announced Wednesday.

“After praying to God to lead me in the right path and talking with my dad,” Faezell wrote, “I’ve decided to further my education and basketball career under coach Prohm at Iowa State University.”

Faezell, a 6-foot-9 consensus top-150 forward in the 2017 class, joins wing Terrence Lewis as the first two members of a class that figures to number at least six for ISU. The addition of Faezell is key because ISU will be losing three members of its frontcourt it will likely be leaning on heavily in 2015-16 in Deonte Burton, Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie. A 2016 big man, Cameron Lard, has also yet to enroll in classes this fall due to academic issues, making Faezell’s commitment even more important should Lard be unable to get clearance.

“They need some people to come in and compete,” Feazell told the Ames Tribune. “I think I fit in the program.”

Prohm’s teams dating back to his Murray State days have always been guard-oriented and guard-heavy, but beginning to stack the roster with quality big men will be key as he looks to continue the Cyclones’ success in the Big 12, which includes a school-record five-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

BYU adds commit for 2019

Dave Rose
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BYU added a commitment from a high school senior this week, but the Cougars won’t be seeing him on campus until 2019.

Kolby Lee, a 6-foot-9 forward from Idaho, pledged to BYU on Monday evening, but won’t suit up until after serving a two-year mission for the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to the Deseret News.

“I had a great feeling about BYU, and I prayed about it,” Lee told the paper. “I just feel like it’s the right fit for me. It just seems right. It feels right.”

Lee chose BYU over offers from  Utah State, Boise State and UC Davis. He was rated a four-star prospect by ESPN and three by Scout.

His decision to forego immediately joining BYU certainly isn’t a new wrinkle for the Cougars, who routinely see their players either delay their initial eligibility or pause it mid-career while serving on missions.

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

ACC non-commital on HB2 stance

John Swofford
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With North Carolina unwilling to rescind their controversial so-called bathroom bill, the NBA has withdrawn its All-Star Game from the state this year and numerous high-profile music acts have canceled performances as a result.

The ACC is declining to join them with a hard-line, or really any, position.

“We don’t want to damage our league with any premature decisions,” commissioner John Swofford said on The David Glenn Show. “We’ll just see how it plays out.”

The ACC, of course, has quite the presence in the state with North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest all in the Tar Heel State. Swofford’s comments are sure to draw the interest of the LGBT community, which has roundly been critical of the bill, which requires people to use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate, and has recently been active in college athletics, opposing the Big 12’s potential inclusion of BYU in its expansion plans over concerns of the Church of Latter Day Saints school’s honor code.

North Carolina’s bill has also drawn the eye of the NCAA, which is requiring potential championship sights to provide information on local anti-discrimination laws.

One of the loudest voices in the ACC, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, has come out against the law.

“It’s an embarrassing bill,” Coach K said last month.

The Champions Classic renewed through 2019

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 27: Bill Self head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks claps for his team as they celebrate winning the Big 12 Conference Championship after they defeated Texas Tech Red Raiders 67-58 at Allen Fieldhouse on February 27, 2016 in Lawrence, Kansas. With the win, Kansas clinched its 12th straight conference championship. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The Champions Classic is back, baby!!!

On Wednesday, the four schools that participate in the event — Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State — announced that they have signed deals to extend the life of the doubleheader for another three years.

This is terrific news. The Champions Classic is always the best early-season event of the season, an annual double-header that always ends up putting together two of the best non-conference games in packed NBA arenas. This year, it features Duke, the consensus preseason No. 1 team in the country, squaring off with Kansas, who is a consensus top three team with the No. 1 freshman in the class, Josh Jackson, on their roster, in one game.

The other game? Kentucky, the third consensus top three team nationally, going up against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, who will be, at worst, a top 15 team in the preseason polls.

So yeah, we’re going to get a pair of sensational basketball games in Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15th. MSG also just so happens to be the best arena to watch a great neutral site basketball game.

It’s going to be awesome.

There’s only one possible way to make it better: turn it into a two-day event, with the winners squaring off for the Champions Classic title the following night.

Make it happen.

Anyway, here’s the schedule:

Nov. 14, 2017 (United Center, Chicago)
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Michigan State

Nov. 13, 2018 (Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis)
Michigan State vs. Kansas
Duke vs. Kentucky

Nov. 12, 2019 (Madison Square Garden, New York)
Kansas vs. Duke
Michigan State vs. Kentucky