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Duke-North Carolina Preview: Small-ball vs. front court strength will determine this game

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The debate will rage on as long as the four programs involved are among the nation’s elite.

Which is the better rivalry: Kentucky vs. Louisville or Duke vs. North Carolina?

Kentucky-Louisville is clearly the more vitriolic of the two. The hatred between those two fan bases runs deep, and a win in the one game they play annually is the kind of thing that can save an otherwise disappointing season and provides year-long bragging rights. Those games always end up being the dogfights that set the tone for the commonwealth’s internal war.

But Duke-North Carolina will always be the “better” rivalry in my eyes, for two reasons.

1. They play home-and-home every year, meaning that we get a game in Cameron Indoor Stadium and a game in the Dean Done each and every season.

2. But more importantly, those games carry more meaning. Duke and North Carolina are always going to be competing for ACC titles, and more often than not, these games will play some role in who will be the ACC’s regular season conference champion and who, if anyone, will get the No. 1 seed that so often comes out of the conference.

That’s not different this season.

North Carolina is going to head into Cameron on Thursday evening sitting all alone in first place in the ACC regular season standings. Florida State and Virginia are a game off the pace while Duke is sitting tied with Syracuse and Louisville two games in back of the Tar Heels in the loss column. Put another way, Duke’s hopes of making a miracle run to the ACC regular season title will come to an end with a loss at home to the Tar Heels.

And while it seems crazy to think that the Blue Devils, who went through more issues during the month of January than any team in college basketball, could win the ACC title, it’s not that far-fetched, is it?

Duke made a fundamental change to the way that they play three games ago. They’re fully embracing small-ball. Jayson Tatum starts at the four. He plays near all of his minutes at the four. Amile Jefferson starts at the five, Harry Giles III spells him when he needs a rest and Marques Bolden’s time as a contributor for Duke seems to be over, at least for the time being. This puts Duke in a position where they can play Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Tatum together while still having another floor-spacer on the floor, and this has made them a nightmare to defend.

The key to that lineup, however, is Tatum. More specifically, the key to that lineup is Tatum’s ability to defend and to rebound the ball. He’s going to be outsized by just about every opponent that Duke faces, and if he is able to keep from getting run over by bigger, more physical post players while holding his own on the glass – he had 14 rebounds last week against Notre Dame – this four-out, one-in look will be lethal for Duke.

That’s where Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks come into play. They may not be the best front line in the country, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a stronger, more experienced pair anywhere in college hoops. Throw in Tony Bradley, and that trio averages 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds. They post 33 points and 20 boards combined per game and will give Tatum by far his toughest challenge to date.

Justin Jackson has been sensational for UNC this season, by far their most consistent perimeter player. He’s turned into a 39.3 percent three-point shooter and a go-to scorer that’s unafraid to take and able to make big shots. There’s an argument to make for him as the ACC Player of the Year. But he’s not the guy that makes the UNC offense go. That’s Joel Berry II, who has been equal parts terrific and inconsistent this season. When he’s on, the Tar Heels are as good as anyone in the country, but he’s been prone to dreadful games. He was 0-for-8 from the floor with a technical foul in the loss at Miami. He was 3-for-13 from the floor in both the losses at Georgia Tech and Indiana.

UNC certainly needs him to show up, but he’s not UNC’s x-factor.

Theo Pinson is.

An athletic defender that can rebound and provide another playmaking presence, Pinson is the perfect counter to Duke’s myriad of soon-to-be NBA wings. He can guard Tatum, he can guard Allen and he can guard Kennard, but he’s also dealing with a foot injury that just won’t go away and it’s unclear yet if he’s going to play.

PREDICTION: While the matchup with the bigger Tar Heels worries me, I think Duke is going to win this game because A) Cameron and B) if Pinson is out or banged up, I’m not sure how UNC slows down all those perimeter weapons. Give me Duke (-2.5).

Commission on College Basketball says ban cheats, end 1-and-done

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Commission on College Basketball sharply directed the NCAA to take control of the sport, calling for sweeping reforms to minimize one-and-done, permit players to return to school after going undrafted by the NBA and ban cheating coaches for life.

The independent commission, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, released a detailed 60-page report Wednesday, seven months after the group was formed by the NCAA in response to a federal corruption investigation that rocked college basketball. Ten people, including some assistant coaches, have been charged in a bribery and kickback scheme , and high-profile programs such as Arizona, Louisville and Kansas have been tied to possible NCAA violations.

“The members of this commission come from a wide variety of backgrounds but the one thing that they share in common is that they believe the college basketball enterprise is worth saving,” Rice told the AP. “We believe there’s a lot of work to do in that regard. That the state of the game is not very strong.

“We had to be bold in our recommendations.”

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report ahead of Rice presenting its findings to top NCAA officials. It’s not yet clear how the governing body would pay for some of the proposals, and some of the panel’s key recommendations would require cooperation from the NBA, its players union and USA Basketball.

The commission offered harsh assessments of toothless NCAA enforcement, as well as the shady summer basketball circuit that includes AAU leagues and brings together agents, apparel companies and coaches looking to profit on teenage prodigies. It called the environment surrounding college basketball “a toxic mix of perverse incentives to cheat,” and said responsibility for the current mess goes all the way up to university presidents.

The group recommended the NCAA have more involvement with players before they get to college and less involvement with enforcement. It also acknowledged the NCAA will need help to make some changes and defended its amateurism model, saying paying players a salary isn’t the answer.

“The goal should not be to turn college basketball into another professional league,” the commission wrote in its report.

Rice was scheduled to present the commission’s report to the NCAA’s Board of Governors and Division I Board of Directors on Wednesday morning. The two groups of university presidents planned to meet after Rice’s presentation to consider adopting the commission’s recommendations. If adopted, the hard work of turning the recommendations into NCAA legislation begins.

NCAA President Mark Emmert has said he wants reforms in place by August. The commission does, too. And it wants to review the NCAA’s plans for implementation before it goes before the boards for approval.

The 12-member commission made up of college administrators and former coaches and players was tasked with finding ways to reform five areas: NBA draft rules, including the league’s age limit that has led to so-called one-and-done players; the relationship between players and agents; non-scholastic basketball, such as AAU, meant to raise the profile of recruits; involvement of apparel companies with players, coaches and schools; and NCAA enforcement.

NCAA officials mostly stayed out of the process. Emmert and Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson were part of the commission, but not included in executive sessions, when proposals were being formed. The commission spent 70 percent of its time in executive session, Rice said, and kept its work secret until Wednesday’s reveal.

The overarching message to those in college athletics: Take responsibility for problems you have created.

ONE-AND-DONE

The commission emphasized the need for elite players to have more options when choosing between college and professional basketball, and to separate the two tracks.

The commission called for the NBA and its players association to change rules requiring players to be at least 19 years old and a year removed from graduating high school to be draft eligible. The rule was implemented in 2006, despite the success of straight-from-high-school stars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. The commission did, however, say if the NBA and NBPA refuse to change their rules in time for the next basketball season, it would reconvene and consider other options for the NCAA, such as making freshmen ineligible or locking a scholarship for three or four years if the recipient leaves a program after a single year.

“One-and-done has to go one way or another,” Rice told the AP, expressing hope the NBA would act.

The commission decided against attempting to mirror rules for baseball but said it could reconsider. Major League Baseball drafts players out of high school, but once an athlete goes to college he is not eligible to be drafted until after his third year. Baseball players can also return for their senior seasons after being drafted as long as they do not sign professional contracts.

The commission did take a piece of the baseball model and recommended basketball players be allowed to test the professional market in high school or after any college season, while still maintaining college eligibility. If undrafted, a college player would remain eligible as long as he requests an evaluation from the NBA and returns to the same school. Players could still leave college for professional careers after one year, but the rules would not compel them to do so.

ENFORCEMENT

The commission recommended harsher penalties for rule-breakers and that the NCAA outsource the investigation and adjudication of the most serious infractions cases. Level I violations would be punishable with up to a five-year postseason ban and the forfeiture of all postseason revenue for the time of the ban. That could be worth tens of millions to major conference schools. By comparison, recent Level I infractions cases involving Louisville and Syracuse basketball resulted in postseason bans of one year.

In those cases, then-Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who was later fired after being tied to the FBI investigation, received a five-game NCAA suspension for violations related to an assistant coach hiring strippers for recruits, and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was suspended for nine games for academic misconduct and extra benefits violations. The commission said suspensions should be longer, up to one full season.

Instead of show cause orders, which are meant to limit a coach’s ability to work in college sports after breaking NCAA rules, the report called for lifetime bans. The commission also said coaches and administrators should be contractually obligated comply with NCAA investigations.

AGENTS

The commission proposed the NCAA create a program for certifying agents, and make them accessible to players from high school through their college careers.

AAU AND SUMMER LEAGUES

The NCAA, with support from the NBA and USA Basketball, should run its own recruiting events for prospects during the summer, the commission said, and take a more serious approach to certifying events it does not control.

The NCAA should require greater transparency of the finances of what it called non-scholastic basketball events and ban its coaches from attending those that do not comply with more stringent vetting, the report said. Such a ban could wipe out AAU events that have flourished in showcasing future talent.

APPAREL COMPANIES

The commission also called for greater financial transparency from shoe and apparel companies such as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas. These companies have extensive financial relationships with colleges and coaches worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and Adidas had two former executives charged by federal prosecutors in New York in the corruption case.

The commission also called out university presidents, saying administrators can’t be allowed to turn a blind eye to infractions.

To that end, the commission said university presidents should be required to “certify annually that they have conducted due diligence and that their athletic programs comply with NCAA rules.”

The commission recommended the NCAA Board of Governors, currently comprised of 16 university presidents and chancellors, include five public members with full voting privileges who are not currently employed as university leaders.

Finally, the commission admonished those within college sports who use the NCAA as a scapegoat for the problems in basketball, saying universities and individuals are accountable for keeping the game clean.

“When those institutions and those responsible for leading them short-circuit rules, ethics and norms in order to achieve on-court success, they alone are responsible,” the commission wrote. “Too often, these individuals hide behind the NCAA when they are the ones most responsible for the degraded state of intercollegiate athletics, in general, and college basketball in particular.”

2018 NBA Draft Early Entry List: Who declared? Who is returning? Who are we waiting on?

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Here is a full list of the players that have signed with an agent, declared and are testing the waters and those that have decided to return to school.

Underclassmen have until April 22nd to declare for the NBA draft this season and until 11:59 p.m. on May 30th to remove their name from consideration.

The NBA Combine will be held May 16-20 this year. 

The full list of early entrants, from both the collegiate and international ranks, can be found here.

DECLARED, SIGNING WITH AGENT

TESTING THE WATERS

  • ESA AHMAD, West Virginia
  • MIKE AMIUS, Western Carolina
  • KOSTAS ANTETOKOUNMPO, Dayton
  • UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas
  • SEDRICK BAREFIELD, Utah
  • TYUS BATTLE, Syracuse
  • LAMONTE BEARDEN, Western Kentucky
  • BRIAN BOWEN, Louisville
  • KY BOWMAN, Boston College
  • JORDAN BRANGERS, South Plains
  • BARRY BROWN, Kansas State
  • BRYCE BROWN, Auburn
  • TOOKIE BROWN, Georgia Southern
  • TROY BROWN, Oregon
  • C.J. BURKS, Marshall
  • JORDAN CAROLINE, Nevada
  • HAANIF CHEATEM, FGCU
  • KAMERON CHATMAN, Detroit
  • YOELI CHILDS, BYU
  • CHRIS CLEMONS, Campbell
  • TYLER COOK, Iowa
  • ISAAC COPELAND JR., Nebraska
  • BRYANT CRAWFORD, Wake Forest
  • MIKE DAUM, South Dakota State
  • JON DAVIS, Charlotte
  • JORDAN DAVIS, Northern Colorado
  • SHAWNTREZ DAVIS, Bethune Cookman
  • TERENCE DAVIS, Ole Miss
  • TYLER DAVIS, Texas A&M
  • NOAH DICKERSON, Washington
  • DONTE DIVINCENZO, Villanova
  • TORIN DORN, N.C. State
  • NOJEL EASTERN, Purdue
  • CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue
  • JON ELMORE, Marshall
  • JACOB EVANS, Cincinnati
  • BRUNO FERNANDO, Maryland
  • JARREY FOSTER, SMU
  • MELVIN FRAZIER, Tulane
  • WENYEN GABRIEL, Kentucky
  • KAISER GATES, Xavier
  • EUGENE GERMAN, Northern Illinois
  • ADMON GILDER, Texas A&M
  • MICHAEL GILMORE, FGCU
  • JESSIE GOVAN, Georgetown
  • TYLER HALL, Montana State
  • JAYLEN HANDS, UCLA
  • ZACH HANKINS, Xavier
  • ETHAN HAPP, Wisconsin
  • JARED HARPER, Auburn
  • MALIK HINES, UMass
  • ARIC HOLMAN, Mississippi State
  • JALEN HUDSON, Florida
  • DEWAN HUELL, Miami
  • KEVIN HUERTER, Maryland
  • TRAMAINE ISABELL, Drexel
  • DEANGELO ISBY, Utah State
  • JUSTIN JAMES, Wyoming
  • ZACH JOHNSON, Miami
  • CHRISTIAN KEELING, Charleston Southern
  • DEVONTE KLINES, Montana State
  • SAGABA KONATE, West Virginia
  • KALOB LEDOUX, McNeese State
  • MARQUEZ LETCHER-ELLIS, RICE
  • ABDUL LEWIS, NJIT
  • MAKINDE LONDON, Chattanooga
  • DOMINIC MAGEE, Southern Miss
  • FLETCHER MAGEE, Wofford
  • CALEB MARTIN, Nevada
  • CODY MARTIN, Nevada
  • ZANE MARTIN, Towson
  • CHARLES MATTHEWS, Michigan
  • LUKE MAYE, North Carolina
  • JALEN MCDANIELS, San Diego State
  • MARKIS MCDUFFIE, Wichita State
  • CHRISTIAN MEKOWULU, Tennessee State
  • AARON MENZIES, Seattle
  • ELIJAH MINNIE, Eastern Michigan
  • SHELTON MITCHELL, Clemson
  • TAKAL MOLSON, Canisius
  • JUWAN MORGAN, Indiana
  • MATT MORGAN, Cornell
  • TRAVIS MUNNINGS, Louisiana-Monroe
  • RENATHAN ONA EMBO, Tulane
  • JOSH OKOGIE, Georgia Tech
  • JAMES PALMER JR., Nebraska
  • LAMAR PETERS, Mississippi State
  • JALON PIPKINS, CSUN
  • SHAMORIE PONDS, St. John’s
  • JONTAY PORTER, Missouri
  • MARCQUISE REED, Clemson
  • TRAYVON REED, Texas Southern
  • ISAIAH REESE, Canisius
  • CODY RILEY, UCLA
  • KERWIN ROACH II, Texas
  • JEROME ROBINSON, Boston College
  • AHMAAD RORIE, Montana
  • QUINTON ROSE, Temple
  • ADMIRAL SCHOFIELD, Tennessee
  • MICAH SEABORN, Monmouth
  • RONSHAD SHABAZZ, Appalachian State
  • TAVARIUS SHINE, Oklahoma State
  • CHRIS SILVA, South Carolina
  • YANKUBA SIMA, Oklahoma State
  • FRED SIMS, Chicago State
  • OMARI SPELLMAN, Villanova
  • MAX STRUS, DePaul
  • DESHON TAYLOR, Fresno State
  • KHYRI THOMAS, Creighton
  • REID TRAVIS, Stanford
  • JARRED VANDERBILT, Kentucky
  • LAGERALD VICK, Kansas
  • CHRISTIAN VITAL, Connecticut
  • JAYLIN WALKER, Kent State
  • NICK WARD, Michigan State
  • TREMONT WATERS, LSU
  • PJ WASHINGTON, Kentucky
  • QUINNDARY WEATHERSPOON, Mississippi State
  • ANDRIEN WHITE, Charlotte
  • DEMAJEO WIGGINS, Bowling Green
  • LINDELL WIGGINTON, Iowa State
  • AUSTIN WILEY, Auburn
  • KRIS WILKES, UCLA
  • JUSTIN WRIGHT-FOREMAN, Hofstra

RETURNING TO SCHOOL

 

Former Texas center James Banks III transfers to Georgia Tech

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After playing sparingly in two seasons at Texas, 6-foot-10 center James Banks III made the decision to transfer. Tuesday night Banks announced his next stop, with the Decatur, Georgia native committing to Georgia Tech.

After sitting out the 2018-19 season per NCAA transfer rules, Banks will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

In 46 total games at Texas, Banks averaged 1.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 10.7 minutes per game. As a freshman Banks appeared in 32 games and averaged 12.4 minutes per appearance, contributing 1.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. With the additions of Mohamed Bamba and Jericho Sims, Banks’ playing time decreased in 2017-18, as he appeared in 14 games and averaged 1.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 6.8 minutes per game.

Georgia Tech currently has four scholarship front court players for the 2018-19 season, with one being rising redshirt senior forward Abdoulaye Gueye. Rising redshirt junior Sylvester Ogbonda and rising sophomores Evan Cole and Moses Wright will have eligibility remaining when Banks becomes available to compete at the start of the 2019-20 season.

Villanova basketball team snaps photo with Meek Mill prior to 76ers game

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Tuesday’s Game 5 between the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers was a big one for both teams, as the visiting Heat were looking to stave off elimination and the 76ers were one win away from their first playoff series victory in six years.

What added to the atmosphere at Wells Fargo Center was the release of hip hop artist Meek Mill, who due to a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling was released from prison. Among those also in attendance were the reigning national champion Villanova Wildcats, who along with comedian Kevin Hart, Meek Mill and the artist’s lawyers took a photo prior to the game.

Villanova was originally scheduled to handle the pregame ringing of the replica Liberty Bell, but they were bumped due to Meek Mill’s release.

City prosecutors were of the belief that Meek Mill, who had been imprisoned without bail since November, was entitled to a new trial after being found guilty of a probation violation stemming from a conviction handed down in 2009. This was a factor in the Supreme Court’s decision to grant Meek Mill, who rang the bell prior to the start of Tuesday’s game, his freedom.

Meek Mill received a groundswell of support throughout his incarceration from members of the 76ers and Super Bowl champion Eagles and other public figures, including 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Ohio State lands grad transfer Keyshawn Woods

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With three of the team’s top five scorers from this season, led by Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop, moving on Ohio State entered the offseason in need of players who could potentially have an immediate impact in 2018-19.

Tuesday evening the Buckeyes picked up a commitment from a grad transfer, as former Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods announced that he will play his final season at Ohio State.

Woods appeared in 28 games for the Demon Deacons in 2017-18, averaging 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 25.7 minutes per game. The 6-foot-3 guard was used primarily as a reserve this past season, making just five starts for Wake Forest. Woods began his collegiate career at Charlotte, playing the 2014-15 season there before transferring to Wake Forest.

During the 2016-17 season, the first in which he was eligible to play at Wake Forest, Woods started 22 of the 33 games he played in and averaged 12.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Woods shot 49.5 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from three during that campaign, and the hope in Columbus is that he can get back to that level in his lone season as a Buckeye.

Ohio State’s best returnee on the perimeter next season will be rising junior C.J. Jackson, who averaged 12.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game as a sophomore. Ohio State also adds a talented freshman class that includes guards Duane Washington Jr. and Luther Muhammad. Florida State transfer C.J. Walker will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the upcoming campaign per NCAA transfer rules.