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Jim Calhoun has reportedly been offered a coaching job

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Jim Calhoun, the Hall of Fame coach, may be making a return to college basketball in the state of Connecticut.

According to Dom Amore, the longtime UConn reporter for the Hartford Courant, Calhoun, 75, may be lured out of retirement to take over the Division III program at the University of St. Joseph’s in West Hartford.

“I’ve got a couple of other things in the works, one involving basketball, which I’m intrigued by,” Calhoun said. “It’s coaching.”

But this appears to be serious. St. Joseph is starting a Division III men’s basketball program, to begin play in 2018, and posted an opening for a head coach in late June. Calhoun would only say that the school was local, but sources confirmed it is St. Joseph. A decision could come within a week.

Up until review in 2016, St. Joseph’s had been an-all female institution. The university will admit male students in the fall of 2018.

Calhoun has been linked to jobs since his departure from UConn. In 2014, days after Steve Donahue was relieved of his duties at Boston College, a report surfaced that Calhoun, a native of Braintree, Massachusetts, had an interest in the opening. He later dismissed that report, stating on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio, ““No, I’m not interested. … I have not talked to the people at BC.  BC has not talked to me.  You could imagine that with all my Boston ties a lot of people have called me.”

Calhoun, who has not coached since 2012, won 873 in his career. His first head coaching job was at Northeastern before turning UConn into a national powerhouse, winning three national championships. He was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2005.

Since leaving Storrs, he has worked as an analyst for ESPN.

Marquette opens Maui Invitational with 94-83 win over VCU

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LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Markus Howard gathered the ball, gave a head fake, quickly moved his right foot forward to make the defender think he would drive to the basket. That one little jab step was enough to get the defender leaning and Howard stepped back for a 3-pointer that swished through.

After a rare poor-shooting half, the nation’s best 3-point shooter had found his rhythm.

Howard scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half, Andrew Rowsey added 20 and Marquette opened the Maui Invitational with a 94-83 victory over Virginia Commonwealth on Monday.

“I missed a couple shots and I can’t really even think about it. I have to move on to the next play,” Howard said. “The second half it’s like a start-over, hit your restart button, so I was looking at it that way.

Marquette (2-1) started slow, but got rolling behind Rowsey, who had 15 points in the first half. Howard, the nation’s top 3-point shooter as a freshman last season, struggled in the first half before catching fire. He made 4 of 9 from the arc in the second half and finished with seven assists, leading the Golden Eagles into the Maui semifinals against No. 6 Wichita State or California.

Sam Hauser added 20 points and Marquette hit 13 of 36 from the arc overall.

“I thought we took some really quick, ill-advised shots in the first half,” Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “The second half, I thought we had much greater poise on the offensive end.”

VCU (2-2) caused some problems with its pressure defense — 17 Marquette turnovers — but had trouble slowing the Golden Eagles shooters, particularly after offensive rebounds.

Marquette had 15 offensive rebounds that led to 22 second-chance points.

Malik Crowfield led the Rams with 17 points.

“They were tough today, they did a great job of getting more opportunities that I think it really cost us,” VCU coach Mike Rhoades said. “Put ourselves in a tough position, giving really good shooters extra shots over and over again.”

Rhoades was an assistant under Shaka Smart on the 2011 Final Four team and took over this season when Will Wade left for LSU. New coach, but the Rams still play that always-in-your-face “Havoc” defense that drives teams crazy and into mistakes.

VCU opened the season with wins over Grambling State and North Florida before losing to Virginia on Friday.

The Golden Eagles are coming off their first NCAA Tournament appearance under Wojciechowski, but lost two senior starters and two key reserves from that team.

Marquette beat Mount Saint Mary’s in its opener, but lost by 15 to No. 19 Purdue last Tuesday.

Both teams were creating a bit of havoc in a first half filled with runs. VCU went on an early run, Marquette scored 12 straight points during a 20-5 spurt to go up eight and the Rams rallied back.

Marquette led 45-44 after a first half filled with 21 combined turnovers.

Howard, who hit 54 percent of his 3-pointers last season, missed all four of his attempts in the first half.

He kept firing, as good shooters do, and the shots that were missing before started dropping, helping the Golden Eagles build a 73-64 lead midway through the second half.

The Rams tried to claw their way back, but the Golden Eagles had an answer every time they got close.

“We have a lot of fight and we can score the ball, but we’ve got to guard,” Rhoades said.

THE TAKEAWAY

Marquette took better care of the ball against VCU’s pressure in the second half and proved it can be a handful when its perimeter shooters are knocking down shots.

The Rams created some problems defensively, but allowed too many good perimeter looks against a strong outside-shooting team.

MARQUETTE IN MAUI

The Golden Eagles like it in Maui. The win on Tuesday improved them to 5-2 at the Maui Invitational. One of their losses: To Duke in the 2007 title game, when Wojciechowski was a Blue Devils assistant coach.

VANN-LESS RAMS

Isaac Vann had been a big contributor for VCU after transferring from Maine, averaging 18 points and 6.5 rebounds off the bench this season. The sophomore swingman didn’t have much of an impact against Marquette, finishing with seven points and no rebounds.

UP NEXT

Marquette faces the winner between No. 6 Wichita State and California in the semifinals on Tuesday.

VCU gets the Wichita State-Cal loser on Tuesday.

Michael Porter, Jr. missing Monday’s game to see “specialist”

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The mysterious leg injury that has kept Michael Porter, Jr. off the floor to start his collegiate career took a potentially serious turn Monday.

The Missouri freshman will miss the Tigers’ game Monday against Emporia State in order to see a specialist regarding the injury, according to multiple reports.

Porter, Jr., one of the favorites to be the top pick in June’s NBA draft, has missed the last two Missouri games after playing just 2 minutes in the team’s opener against Iowa State. The 6-foot-10 wing did not watch the Tigers’ win last week over Wagner from the bench, opting instead to watching from the locker room. He did not travel with the team to Utah, who toppled the Tigers, 77-59.

The Tigers haven’t offered much clarity or specificity on what exactly the injury is or what the timetable Porter, Jr. may be facing.

Missouri heads to Orlando later this week for the AdvoCare Invitational, and it’s uncertain whether or not Porter, Jr. will make the trip. Given his draft potential, it’s probably safe to assume that Porter, Jr. will be abundantly cautious with his health in order to prevent whatever the injury is from worsening.

For the Tigers, it deprives them of one of the country’s – presumably – most dynamic players in coach Cuonzo Martin’s first season in Columbia. Missouri has other young talent, namely Porter, Jr.’s brother, Jontay, and Jeremiah Tilmon, but their ceiling will be lowered considerably if Porter, Jr. continues to be sidelined.

Five-star center Bol Bol commits to Oregon

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Oregon received a commitment from one of the best players in the 2018 class and one of the more intriguing stories in basketball.

Bol Bol, son of former 7-foot-7 NBA center Manute Bol, announced his commitment and signing with the Ducks on Monday.

“I didn’t know much about the school until I started getting recruited by Oregon’s assistant coach, Tony Stubblefield,” Bol wrote in The Players Tribune. “And then later by coach (Dana) Altman. Before that, I knew they had a lot of jerseys, a lot of different shoe combinations, but that was about it. But it was really those first few meetings with coach Stubblefield that impressed me the most. He was accessible. He got to know me. He was really real with me.

And he was honest about the fact that Oregon has never really gotten a top recruit when it was between the Kentuckys and Dukes. He didn’t shy away from that. What he did was lay out the vision they had for me.”

The 7-foot-2 Bol averaged 22.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.9 blocks while shooting 63.2 percent from the field last summer in the EYBL. He is finishing his high school career at Findlay Prep in Nevada. He’s a consensus top-five player in his class.

“We are really excited to welcome Bol Bol to our program,” Altman said in a statement. “Obviously he is a very unique player with a special basketball history and a great basketball family.”

Manute Bol played in over 600 NBA games and lead the league in blocked shots twice. He died in 2010 at the age of 47.

“I know my dad would want me to represent my family well,” the younger Bol wrote. “I know he would want me to pursue my interests outside of basketball, like music, fashion and eventually, the humanitarian work that he began in Sudan.

“Most of all, I know he’d want me to be my own person.”

Bol gives Altman one of the best recruiting classes in the country with fellow five-star prospect Louis King on board along with top-60 recruits Will Richardson and Miles Norris.

AP Poll: Duke consolidates top spot in Top 25 after Champions Classic

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Duke proved on a national stage at the Champions Classic last week why so many voters had the Blue Devils atop their Top 25 ballot before the season began.

Now, even more voters have them there.

The Blue Devils, who beat then-No. 2 Michigan State 88-81 in Chicago, pulled in 54 of 65 first-place votes from a national media panel in the AP Top 25 released Monday. That was an increase of 20 first-place votes over the first regular-season poll released last week.

Arizona was the only other team to receive a No. 1 nod, getting 11 first-place votes and taking the Spartans’ place at No. 2. Kansas moved up to third after topping then-No. 7 Kentucky in the other game at the Champions Classic, while Michigan State and Villanova rounded out the top 5.

Wichita State remained at No. 6, while Florida and Kentucky flip-flopped their spots. North Carolina was ninth and Southern California rounded out the top 10.

The Blue Devils got 37 points from Grayson Allen in knocking off the Spartans in the Champions Classic, an impressive performance against one of the toughest teams on their schedule. It certainly left a bigger impression on voters than a ragged 78-61 victory over Southern, arguably the weakest opponent on their schedule, that included 15 turnovers and 4-for-20 shooting from the arc.

“We’ve got to take every game seriously,” the Blue Devils’ Wendell Carter Jr. said.

Well, maybe not this week. Duke faces Furman on Monday night and Portland State on Thursday.

Arizona has won each of its first three games by at least 25 points, but gets a stiffer test against undefeated North Carolina State on Wednesday night, while the Jayhawks cruised to No. 3 thanks to their win over the Wildcats and a laugher over South Dakota State.

Kentucky continued is slow slide, but not so much because of its nip-and-tuck loss to Kansas on a neutral floor. Rather, the Wildcats sleepwalked through a 78-61 victory over East Tennessee State on Friday night in what was a 6-point game at halftime.

“I knew we would have a let-down after Kansas,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “But it just shows, they’re just — they’re not mature enough to figure all this out and that every game matters and you’re being evaluated personally and us as a team every game we play.”

BEST OF THE REST

Miami was No. 11, followed by Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Minnesota and Xavier — all of them staying right where they were last week. Texas A&M and Gonzaga were next, while Purdue and Louisville moved up one spot apiece and Seton Hall jumped to No. 20.

Saint Mary’s, Baylor, UCLA, West Virginia and newcomer Alabama rounded out the Top 25, while Northwestern was the only team to drop from the poll after getting trounced by Texas Tech.

ON THE DOCKET

Several major tournaments this week could produce some high-profile matchups and a reshaping of the Top 25. Villanova and Arizona could meet in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, while Wichita State and Notre Dame could likewise at the Maui Invitational. UCLA and Baylor are in the Hall of Fame Classic, while Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, Gonzaga and Florida are among the teams in the inaugural, two-bracket Phil Knight Invitational in Oregon.

ROLL TIDE

Alabama broke into the Top 25 after three wins over weak opposition, but the Tide will have to earn their spot now. They face BYU on Friday night in New York before getting No. 14 Minnesota in the premier Saturday matchup of the Barclays Center Classic.

ON THE DOORSTEP

Virginia was the top team outside the Top 25 to receive votes, appearing on 28 of 65 ballots, and Texas Tech moved just outside the rankings after its woodshed win over Northwestern. That gave the Red Raiders the title of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Tournament in Connecticut.

Here is the full AP Poll:

1. Duke (54 first-place votes)
2. Arizona (11)
3. Kansas
4. Michigan State
5. Villanova
6. Wichita State
7. Florida
8. Kentucky
9. North Carolina
10. USC
11. Miami
12. Cincinnati
13. Notre Dame
14. Minnesota
15. Xavier
16. Texas A&M
17. Gonzaga
18. Purdue
19. Louisville
20. Seton Hall
21. Saint Mary’s
22. Baylor
23. West Virginia
23. UCLA
25. Alabama

Others receiving votes: Virginia 93, Texas Tech 81, TCU 36, Northwestern 20, Nevada 19, Providence 11, Maryland 9, Michigan 9, Texas 7, Creighton 6, Oklahoma 5, Temple 4, Oregon 4, Arkansas 3, UT Arlington 2, Belmont 1, Rhode Island 1, Stephen F. Austin 1

Feast Week Primer: Get prepped for all the Thanksgiving college hoops you can handle

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And so begins one of the best weeks of the college basketball calendar.

For the next seven days, we’ll get afternoon hoops, wild finishes late into the night and a nice pivot to make from tilting fantasy football on Thanksgiving. Bet a few Maui overs and use the PK80 as a cover to get away from that one uncle that always wants to talk politics. 

It’s a foolproof move. 

And I’m here to get you ready for all you need to know about this week in basketball.

What makes this week particularly intriguing this year is that there are not only a handful of tantalizing events, but those events feature teams and programs that still have quite a bit to prove. With very few exceptions, this is going to be the first chance that we get to see some of the best teams in the country play competition they didn’t pay for. 

It’s almost time for the morning tip-off in Maui.

Lets’s dive into these tournaments, breaking them down event by event, from the most intriguing to the snooze-worthy:

BATTLE 4 ATLANTIS

  • WHEN: Wed-Fri
  • WHO: No. 3 Arizona, No. 5 Villanova, No. 19 Purdue, Tennessee, SMU, N.C. State, Northern Iowa, Western Kentucky
  • WHERE: Paradise Island, Bahamas

FAVORITE: This is tough, as Villanova and Arizona both look like top five teams with a legitimate claim to being the best team in college basketball. No one in the country is playing better than Allonzo Trier is right now, and the size the Wildcats have inside – senior center Dusan Ristic and potential No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton – would be a nightmare for NBA teams to deal with, let alone a program like Villanova that has thrived with undersized guys.

That said, Philly’s Wildcats have looked the part early on. Jalen Brunson is flat-out one of the best point guards in college basketball and maybe the most indispensable player in the country. Villanova has the perimeter pieces to stretch Arizona out and, if Mikal Bridges, Eric Paschall and Donte DiVincenzo continue their hot start, Villanova can win that game.

TEAM WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE: Is it crazy to think that Purdue is better after having lost Caleb Swanigan to the NBA? Maybe, but the Boilermakers have certainly looked like the second-best team in the Big Ten. What you may not realize about this group is that they can play big if they need to – hello, Isaac Haas – but with Vincent Edwards, Carsen Edwards and Dakota Mathias on the roster, they can matchup small with anyone. With the way they shoot, anyone can get beaten on any given night. This is their chance to make a statement nationally.

MATCHUP WE NEED TO SEE: It’s easy: Arizona vs. Villanova. Whenever there is a chance to get two top five teams squaring off, we need to hope that it will come to fruition.

THE STUD: Ayton is arguably the best prospect in college basketball, and Brunson is every media member’s favorite quintessential point guard, but Trier is the best player in this event. He’s scored 90 points in three games this season while taking 40 shots. That’s pretty good.

PREDICTION: Villanova squeaks past Purdue but cannot handle Arizona’s size inside.

PK80 VICTORY

  • WHEN: Thu-Sun
  • WHO: No. 2 Michigan State, No. 9 North Carolina, Oregon, Oklahoma, Arkansas, UConn, DePaul, Portland
  • WHERE: Portland

FAVORITE: Even after their loss to Duke last week, Michigan State is my pick to win the national title. Much of this depends on whether or not Miles Bridges is healthy – he sprained his ankle on Sunday night – but the Spartans should have enough talent to get them to the title against a field that is intriguing but just doesn’t have the kind of high-end talent that can pick them off.

TEAM WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE: Everyone?

This is what makes this bracket so appealing to me. We don’t really know anything about most of these teams. North Carolina is rebuilding their front line, and while the early returns have been impressive, they haven’t come against programs of a similar caliber. Oklahoma, and specifically Trae Young, have been very impressive through their first two games of the season, but they didn’t really play anyone. The same can be said for Oregon, who is currently sitting at 3-0 in the SWAC. Arkansas and UConn both have team with veterans on the roster and talent on their perimeter, but neither of them have done much of anything to date. How this tournament plays out will be quite illuminating.

MATCHUP WE NEED TO SEE: I want to see either Oregon or Oklahoma get a shot at Michigan State. Both the Ducks and the Sooners have looked terrific, and I think both have a shot of finishing within the top three of their league. Getting a test against one of the best would help determine just how good they could end up being.

THE STUD: Miles Bridges is the stud of this event, while Luke Maye has been North Carolina’s best player in Joel Berry II’s absence, but the guy to watch here is Trae Young. He’s a terrific passer that loves to fire up heat checks from 28-feet and Lon Kruger has given him the reins of the offense. You’ll enjoy watching him play.

PREDICTION: The Spartans get it done. What’s more intriguing to me is who actually gives them a run for their money.

Miles Bridges (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

PK80 MOTION

  • WHEN: Thu-Sun
  • WHO: No. 1 Duke, No. 8 Florida, No. 17 Gonzaga, Texas, Butler, Stanford, Ohio State, Portland State
  • WHERE: Portland

FAVORITE: Duke. They’re the best team in the country right now, and I’m not sure there is anyone in this event that is going to have the horses to run with them if Marvin Bagley III is healthy.

TEAM WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE: To me, it’s Texas. We know Gonzaga is going to have something of a rebuilding year with everything they lost from a national runners-up, and Florida is Florida. They are who they are: Good enough to be in the mix, probably not good enough to be considered a Final Four contender. Texas, however, is the team that really intrigues me. The addition of Mo Bamba to their front line changed their defense and adding Matt Coleman has made them more difficult to guard in the half court, but they also added Dylan Osetkowski, and he’s been terrific. It’s far too early to make any sweeping claims on the Shaka Smart era, but he’s in year three, his two best players may end up leaving after this season and he’s yet to really do anything. This is the year to make some noise. Can they do it?

MATCHUP WE NEED TO SEE: I think Texas might be the second-best team in the Big 12. Let’s see them get a shot at Duke in the semifinals.

THE STUD: It’s gotta be Bagley. Grayson Allen is Grayson Allen. As good as Mo Bamba is, watching defensive-minded centers is only so entertaining. Bagley, however, is the guy with the potential to be a franchise-changing draft pick and the one player in this event that is always going to be must-see TV.

PREDICTION: Duke gets it done. They’re just better than everyone else in this field.

HALL OF FAME CLASSIC

  • WHEN: Mon-Tue
  • WHO: No. 23 UCLA, No. 25 Baylor, Creighton, Wisconsin
  • WHERE: Kansas City

FAVORITE: At this point, I think Baylor is probably the best team in this event, although this field is as balanced and as difficult as any to predict. Manu Lecomte is playing as well as any guard in the Big 12 right now, and the next-man-up mantra that Scott Drew has developed within the Baylor program seems to be paying dividends. UCLA is probably the most talented team, and Creighton and Wisconsin both have potential all-americans on their roster, but for my money Baylor is the team to beat.

TEAM WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE: With everything swirling around the UCLA program right now, the Bruins are in danger of having the bottom fall out of their season. Having players get arrested overseas for shoplifting while getting ready to play games is bad enough, but the Bruins now have to deal with the media circus that is LaVar Ball vs. Donald Trump. LaVar will be on CNN on Monday night to discuss this war of words less than an hour after UCLA’s game against Creighton finishes.

MATCHUP WE NEED TO SEE: We got it in the first round, as we were not only gifted an uptempo battle between UCLA and Creighton but we’ll also get to see the Badgers go toe-to-toe with Baylor. Ethan Happ vs. Jo Lual-Acuil is a better matchup than you probably realize.

THE STUD: It would be easy to say Lecomte, or Happ, or even Marcus Foster here, but I’m going to go with Foster’s teammate, Creighton guard Khyri Thomas. I’ve long held Thomas in very high regard given his ability to shoot the three and lock-up defensively, and he’ll have a chance to showcase that on a national stage tonight.

PREDICTION: Baylor beats Creighton in the final, UCLA goes 0-2 and LaVar Ball is still the topic of conversation.

Lavar Ball (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

NIT SEASON TIP-OFF

  • WHEN: Thu-Fri
  • WHO: No. 22 Seton Hall, Virginia, Vanderbilt, Rhode Island
  • WHERE: MSG

FAVORITE: It’s probably Seton Hall. The Pirates have yet to really get things going this season, particularly with Angel Delgado on the interior, but they are tough and they are old and they are loaded with New York City guys playing their final season of college basketball. This will be something of a homecoming for Khadeen Carrington and Desi Rodriguez, and I expect them to play like it.

TEAM WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE: Virginia fans are all over my mentions since I don’t have the Cavaliers ranked in my top 25. I’m not convinced that a win over a down-VCU program on the road makes the Wahoos one of the best teams in the country. They are, as is my colleague Raphielle Johnson. Win this tournament, and we’ll talk.

MATCHUP WE NEED TO SEE: Seton Hall vs. Virginia. If you don’t like defense, don’t tune in. That game may not crack 60 points, but it will feature two potential Sweet 16 teams.

THE STUD: Angel Delgado is probably the best player in this tournament, but I’m most exited to see what will happen should Kyle Guy of Virginia get squared off with Seton Hall’s perimeter defenders.

PREDICTION: I think Virginia wins this tournament if they can get past Vanderbilt. I think The ‘Dores matchup much better with the pack-line defense than Seton Hall does.

MAUI INVITATIONAL

  • WHEN: Mon-Wed
  • WHO: No. 6 Wichita State, No. 13 Notre Dame, VCU, Marquette, Michigan, LSU, Cal, Chaminade
  • WHERE: Maui

FAVORITE: At this point, it has to be Wichita State. I wrote a column last week on how we need to put the Shockers into the discussion as the best team in college basketball, and I truly believe that. But the only NCAA tournament team that they’ve beaten in the post-Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker era is Dayton in last year’s tournament. This is their chance to do just that, although the field leaves a little something to be desired.

TEAM WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE: Technically, it’s Wichita State, but since we’ve talked enough about them I’m going to go with Michigan. The Wolverines have not looked good through the first 10 days of the season. They are going through some issues at the point, and Charles Matthews is still figuring out what he’s going to be asked to do by John Beilein. I thought this was a team that could compete for the top four in the Big Ten. That looks like a bad take so far.

MATCHUP WE NEED TO SEE: If we don’t get a matchup between Wichita State and Notre Dame in the title game, it will be a massive disappointment. Those are two top 15 teams in college hoops, and there would be nothing better on the Wednesday night of Thanksgiving weekend than seeing them face-off in Lahaina Gymnasium for the Maui crown.

THE STUD: Bonzie Colson. If you’ve never seen this kid play, you have to tune in. He’s not only one of the best players in college hoops and a legitimate National Player of the Year contender, but he’s also one of the most unique players I’ve ever come across.

PREDICTION: Wichita State wins a thriller over the Irish in the final.

Landry Shamet (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS INVITATIONAL

  • WHEN: Thu-Fri
  • WHO: No. 15 Xavier, Arizona State, Kansas State, George Washington
  • WHERE: Las Vegas

FAVORITE: Xavier has been very good early on this season, landing one of the most impressive wins of the year to date when they went into Wisconsin and knocked off the Badgers. There is a reason they are ranked where they are ranked.

TEAM WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE: Arizona State has started off the season quite well, as they are sitting at 4-0 on the season with a back court that has looked unguardable at times. There are two players on their roster – Tra Holder and Shannon Evans – averaging more than 20 points and six assists while shooting better than 46 percent from three. Yikes.

MATCHUP WE NEED TO SEE: We know Xavier is good. We’re not quite sure if Arizona State is good, but they sure have looked good. Let’s get them facing off in the final, for the good of America.

THE STUD: Trevon Bluiett. He may be the best scorer in college basketball – he’s yet to finish with less than 25 points in a game this season – and he’s one of the heavy favorites to win Player of the Year as of today.

PREDICTION: Xavier gets the job done. As impressive as Arizona State has been, I think their guards will struggle with the size and length of Xavier’s back court.

ADVOCARE INVITATIONAL

  • WHEN: Thu-Sun
  • WHO: No. 24 West Virginia, Missouri, St. John’s, Oregon State, Nebraska, UCF, Long Beach State, Marist
  • WHERE: Orlando

FAVORITE: I’m going to go with West Virginia here simply because I think that West Virginia’s loss to Texas A&M had more to do with circumstance and matchup than anything else, but I’m not sure there is a favorite. To me, this is the tournament we’ll learn the most from because …

TEAM WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE: … all six of the high-major programs in the event have something to prove. West Virginia got their tails kicked in the highest-profile game on the season’s opening night. Was that a fluke? We don’t know if or when Missouri if going to get Michael Porter Jr. back, or if they’re any good with him. UCF looked like a potential top 25 team heading into the season and then proceeded to get decimated by injuries. They’re playing key games for their NCAA tournament standing in their own back yard. I think St. John’s and Oregon State are going to be good this year, but we won’t know until we see them in this event. And with Nebraska, we’re trying to figure out if Tim Miles has a team that’s good enough to keep him employed.

MATCHUP WE NEED TO SEE: Are we assuming that Porter, who has been dealing with a leg injury, is healthy? If so, I would love to see him square off with West Virginia. If not, then St. John’s has a back court – Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds – that is talented enough to give the Mountaineers press fits. That game would be sloppy, but it would be so much fun.

THE STUD: It’s Porter. He’s a top five player in the sport and the potential No. 1 overall pick. He also might not play, in which case West Virginia’s Jevon Carter would probably take the title of ‘best player in the event.’

PREDICTION: This is tougher to predict than you think, but I’m going to go with St. John’s. I think the talent is there for them to make their statement this weekend.

WOODEN LEGACY

  • WHEN: Thu-Sun
  • WHO: No. 21 Saint Mary’s, San Diego State, Harvard, Georgia, St. Joseph’s, Washington State, Cal State Fullerton, Sacramento State
  • WHERE: Anaheim

FAVORITE: Randy Bennett has done an unbelievable job building up the Saint Mary’s program and developing the kind of continuity that most mid-major coaches only dream of. The Gaels return quite a bit from last season’s team, including star big man Jock Landale, and badly need to add some quality wins to their name. Like Gonzaga in years past, Saint Mary’s still needs to prove themselves, even if they are the favorite to win the WCC.

TEAM WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE: Is San Diego State really going to be a contender in the Mountain West? Is the Mountain West anywhere near being a multi-bid league? Can the Aztec program survive the departure of Steve Fisher? We’re not going to get those answers this week, but a strong performance may slow down the torrent of questions.

MATCHUP WE NEED TO SEE: Two of the ten best big men in college basketball will be in Anaheim for this event, and the world will be done a disservice if we don’t get to see Yante Maten of Georgia take on Landale in the title game.

THE STUD: While the easy answer is Landale, the truth is that it is Maten. Both are terrific players that deserve far more attention than they’ve gotten.

PREDICTION: Saint Mary’s wins the title, and does it in relatively easy fashion.

EMERALD COAST CLASSIC

  • WHEN: Fri-Sat
  • WHO: Maryland, TCU, St. Bonaventure, New Mexico
  • WHERE: Niceville, Florida

FAVORITE: At this point, I think it’s Maryland. The Terps have been impressive through four games, as Anthony Cowan looks like he may be an upgrade from Melo Trimble, Kevin Huerter seems to have taken a step forward and the freshman class of the Terps has played well. And they still haven’t gotten Justin Jackson right yet.

TEAM WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE: No one is going to take TCU seriously until they do something to make us take them seriously. It’s TCU, and while they were a fringe top 25 team heading into the season, they’re still TCU. Winning this event would certainly put them on the map.

MATCHUP WE NEED TO SEE: Maryland vs. TCU is the best final that could happen, but I’m going to go with the first round battle between the Terps and St. Bonaventure. Specifically, Jaylen Adams vs. Anthony Cowan at the point, because …

THE STUD: … Adams is the best player in this event. He’s a legitimate NBA prospect that, when paired with Matt Mobley in the back court, makes the Bonnies one of the most dangerous teams in the country.

PREDICTION: TCU brings home the title after St. Bonaventure does them the favor of picking off Maryland behind a 30-burger from Adams.

LEGENDS CLASSIC

  • WHEN: Mon-Tue
  • WHO: No. 16 Texas A&M, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Oklahoma State
  • WHERE: Barclays Center

FAVORITE: The Aggies are the default favorite here seeing as they are the only team that looks destined to get to the NCAA tournament.

TEAM WITH SOMETHING TO PROVE: Oklahoma State has been the trendy pick to finish last in the Big 12, and Pitt has been an absolute disaster during the Kevin Stallings tenure, but my pick here is Penn State. If the Nittany Lions are truly going to be in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid – that’s not the craziest thing in the world, given the talent on their roster – they need a good showing here. And at the very least a win over Pitt in the opening round.

MATCHUP WE NEED TO SEE: Texas A&M vs. Penn State? Does anyone really need to see that?

THE STUD: Big Bob Williams. He is the Aggies best prospect even if he’s not their best player. He will be the guy that will draw NBA scouts to this game, as he has a chance to be a lottery pick.

PREDICTION: If the Aggies don’t cruise to a title in these two games, it’s time to be worried about my pick of them winning the SEC.