On Monday afternoon, the matchups for the 2K Classic and Legends Classic were announced.
On Nov. 16, a doubleheader will take place at Madison Square Garden. Providence will take on Washington. The other matchup will feature Virginia Tech and Saint Louis. The Billikens, like the Huskies, under new head coach Mike Hopkins, are in the process of a rebuild. This will likely result in a matchup between the Friars, a fringe top-25 team looking for its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, squaring off against the Hokies, listed at No. 23 in NBC Sports’ early preseason rankings.
The Legends Classic held days later at the Barclays Center will feature a doubleheader of Penn State and Pitt and an old Big 12 showdown between Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. The Nittany Lions and Panthers met last season on a neutral floor, with Pitt picking up an 81-73 victory. The Aggies have not faced the Cowboys since moving to the SEC in 2012.
Boykins will be immediately eligible at PItt as a graduate transfer after he missed nearly the entirety of last season with a shoulder injury. As a junior, Boykins averaged 10.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists while shooting 38.4 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from 3-point range.
The 6-foot-5 guard gives the Panthers experience and accomplishment for a team sorely missing it after graduating four players and seeing another six leave the program. Pittsburgh went 16-17 and 4-14 in the ACC, tying them for 12th in the league, in the first season with longtime Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings at the helm.
Looking Forward: Which programs are set to step backwards as we head into 2016-17?
The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs.
In other words, by now, we have a pretty good feel for what college basketball is going to look like during the 2016-17 season. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some programs on the decline heading into next season.
Wichita State: It’s hard to see the Shockers take too much of a tumble given how good a coach Gregg Marshall is and their superiority to the rest of the Missouri Valley Conference, but the graduations of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker mean the end of an era. Those two were the constants of a Final Four team, then a 35-0 squad, followed by a Sweet 16 and finishing last March in the second round. There’s still talent in Wichita and they are still going to be the heavyweights of the Valley, but the dominance and national prestige that came with VanVleet and Baker may have also left with them.
UNLV: Things haven’t exactly been at a highwater mark in Las Vegas in awhile, but the Running Rebels appear to continue to sink. First, they fired coach Dave Rice in the middle of the season, which is never received well in coaching circles, exactly the place you need to go to, you know, hire another coach. The Rick Pitino pipedream never materialized, and then Mick Cronin couldn’t pull the trigger despite giving life in the desert a serious look. That left UNLV with Little Rock’s first-year coach Chris Beard, until an ugly debate regent debate to approve his contract preempted an exit to Texas Tech just a week after taking the job. New head coach Marvin Menzies was hired with just two scholarship players left in the program. All of that messiness is a terrible sign for the current health of a once-mighty program.
Iowa State: The news for the Cyclones this spring has been almost universally positive, starting with point guard Monte’ Morris deciding to not even test the NBA draft process and return for a senior season in which he’ll be the Cyclones’ focal point. ISU also will be getting Naz Mitrou-Long back after the sharpshooter was granted a medical hardship waiver. But the reality remains that the Cyclones lost one of the best players in program history in Georges Niang and have been enjoying the most successful run in program history. Some sort of slide is likely — and has been expected — as a result. But coach Steve Prohm and ISU may have enough talent to return to the NCAA tournament for a school-record sixth time and forestall any setback.
North Carolina State: It really looked like Mark Gottfried was going to get things rolling in a big way following the 2014-15 season in which the Wolfpack went 22-14, had a good core returning and recruiting booming. But Trevor Lacey turned pro (only to go undrafted), Kyle Washington transferred and NC State stumbled to a 16-17 record last season. Now, Cat Barber is leaving to go pro and Abdul-Malik Abu may do the same or follow the Martin twins into the transfer, and suddenly the forecast in Raleigh isn’t so sunny even with Dennis Smith Jr. in the fold.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers traded a coach who won two Big East titles, went to the Sweet 16 twice, the Elite Eight once and only missed the NCAA tournament twice in 13 years for a guy that Vanderbilt was pushing out the door. Not great. Even if things had gotten stale for Pitt fans with Jamie Dixon, the results he achieved are hard to argue. Few believe that Kevin Stallings is the answer to jumpstart the program back to where Dixon had it during the first years of his tenure, especially as the ACC continues to be a monster to navigate.
Kansas State: The Bruce Weber era in Manhattan started out with a bang, as he tied for a Big 12 title in his first year taking over for Frank Martin, but it’s been backsliding since, capped with a 17-16 (5-13 Big 12) campaign this past season. He couldn’t make it work with the most talented player (Marcus Foster) he’s had there, and there hasn’t exactly been a line of high-level recruits making their way to Manhattan. And if that wasn’t bad enough, KSU fans had to watch Oklahoma State hire former Wildcat assistant Brad Underwood while their administration gave Weber a stay of execution.
Ohio State: This is probably the trickiest inclusion, as Thad Matta’s track record would suggest that last year’s NIT appearance was merely a slip on the path to a return to the top of the Big Ten. The trouble, though, is that seeing four members of a heralded five-man 2015 recruiting class all decide to transfer is a major red flag. The Buckeyes do welcome another strong class to Columbus this fall, headlined by Derek Funderburk, but there are some visible cracks in the facade.
PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: No. 15 Oregon, UNLV take center stage
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 15 Oregon vs. UNLV, 11:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
For the second straight day the college basketball schedule is relatively light, and there’s no denying that the matchup between the Ducks and Runnin’ Rebels is the most intriguing contest. While the game will be played in Las Vegas it will be played at the MGM Grand Garden Arena as opposed to the Thomas & Mack Center, which is being used for the National Finals Rodeo.
The Ducks, despite not having Jordan Bell or Dylan Ennis, have played well and have the look of a Pac-12 contender thanks to players such as Dylan Brooks, Elgin Cook, Chris Boucher and Tyler Dorsey. On the other side UNLV has just one loss, and with a Mountain West POY candidate in sophomore guard Patrick McCaw leading the way this group has the the depth and talent needed to get back to the NCAA tournament. This game will provide a nice résumé boost for the winner.
THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Pittsburgh vs. Duquesne, 7:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
The Panthers will look to rebound from their loss to No. 11 Purdue with a win against the 6-1 Dukes, who are off to their best start since the 2007-08 season. Guards Derrick Colter and Micah Mason are combining to average nearly 37 points per game to lead the way for Jim Ferry’s team, which will need strong efforts on the glass from L.G. Gill and Darius Lewis if the Dukes are to beat Pitt. Pitt has won all five games in the series that have been played at the CONSOL Energy Center, and their rotation led by forwards Michael Young and Jamel Artis and point guard James Robinson will be a test. Look for this edition of the “City Game” to be tight one.
SIX THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 2 Maryland returns to action for the first time since their loss at No. 9 North Carolina, hosting Saint Francis (PA) in College Park. If there’s one player the Terrapins would like to get going its senior forward Jake Layman, who struggled in Chapel Hill. He’s still adjusting from being a mismatch at the four as he was last season to spending most of his time at the three, but he’s talented enough to make the transition.
2. The celebrations put forth by the Monmouth bench have been great, but don’t ignore the fact that King Rice’s Hawks are a pretty good team. Monmouth opens MAAC play with a game at Canisius, and a deep team led by point guard Justin Robinson will need to be at its best against the Golden Griffins. Jim Baron’s team has lost two straight, but they have five players scoring in double figures led by high-scoring guard Malcolm McMillan (23.6 ppg). The western New York swing can be a tough one in MAAC play, so Monmouth’s focus will be key.
3. Wake Forest hosts Arkansas in a matchup of teams hoping to work their way into the conversation in their respective conferences. The Demon Deacons managed to finish third at the Maui Invitational, and they’re off to a 5-2 start despite not having injured guard Codi Miller-McIntyre. Freshman Bryant Crawford has played well in Miller-McIntyre’s absence, and forwards Dinos Mitoglou and Devin Thomas can be a tough matchup in the front court. Arkansas had a lot to replace from last season’s NCAA tournament team, and while they’re still turning teams over the half-court defense has been a struggle.
4. Two of the best players whose highlights don’t garner major attention amongst casual fans will be on the same court in New York City, as DeAndre Bembry leads Saint Joseph’s up against Maodo Lo and Columbia. But this won’t be a one-on-one kind of game, with the Hawks boasting an improved Isaiah Miles (who is leading the team in scoring) and Columbia having three other players averaging double figures led by guard Alex Rosenberg.
5. Northern Illinois hasn’t played the most rigorous of schedules to this point, but they’ll put their 7-0 record on the line at Missouri. Mark Montgomery’s team has been successful thanks in part to their offensive balance, with five players averaging at least eight points per game (Aaric Armstead leads at 13.0 ppg) and forward Marin Maric (10.6, 7.9 rpg) having posted double-doubles in each of the last two games. That balance will be key on the road against a Missouri team led by freshman Kevin Puryear.
6. After managing to hold off UT-Arlington in overtime earlier this week Texas hosts 6-2 Samford. Scott Padgett’s team opened the season with a loss at No. 24 Louisville but have won six of their last seven with the lone defeat being by just one point at Austin Peay. Texas hasn’t been all that good on the defensive glass, as opponents have grabbed more than 42 percent of their misses, and it’s an area Shaka Smart’s team needs to address. Samford’s ranked 301st in adjusted offensive efficiency, which should benefit Isaiah Taylor and company.
GAME OF THE DAY: Pittsburgh vs. No. 9 Gonzaga, 10:00 p.m. (ESPN)
The Panthers and Bulldogs made the long trek to Okinawa for their season opener, and it should be an interesting game between the two. Pittsburgh is looking to return to the NCAA tournament after narrowly missing out last season, with point guard James Robinson and forwards Jamel Artis and Michael Young leading the way. As for Gonzaga, Mark Few has one of the top front courts in the country at his disposal featuring Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski and Domas Sabonis (who took a hard fall in their exhibition last weekend). The question for Gonzaga: how well will a backcourt hit hard by departures perform? We’ll get your first piece of evidence Friday night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 1 North Carolina vs. Temple, 7:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
The Tar Heels enter the season as one of the favorites to win the national title, and they’ll be without their best player for the next couple weeks. Marcus Paige is out with a broken bone in his non-shooting hand, which means other perimeter options will be needed to step forward as distributors and perimeter shooters. Joel Berry II, Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson are three of the perimeter players to keep an eye on for the Tar Heels, who face a Temple squad that has to account for the graduation of point guard Will Cummings. The Owls are hoping to reach the NCAA tournament after missing out in each of the last two seasons, and a good showing in Annapolis could help Jaylen Bond and company in that quest.
While there’s heightened optimism on The Plains thanks to the arrival of a talented recruiting class, and rightfully so, this is a dangerous opener to Bruce Pearl’s second season at Auburn. UAB returns all five starters from a team that won the Conference USA tournament title and upset Iowa State in the NCAA tournament, including forward William Lee and guard Robert Brown. The question for UAB is how they’ll match up with Auburn’s rugged power forward Cinmeon Bowers, who averaged 12.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game as a junior. Look for this to be one of the better games of the day.
SIX THINGS TO WATCH FOR:
1. Shaka Smart makes his debut as head coach at Texas and he’ll do so in Shanghai, with the Longhorns taking on a very young Washington team. Led by guard Isaiah Taylor, Texas returns four starters and added a talented recruiting class that includes Tevin Mack and Kerwin Roach.
2. There’s a lot of optimism in Milwaukee as Marquette’s talented freshman class led by Henry Ellenson opens up regular season play. However, they better be careful with a Belmont team that has plenty of experience and is the preseason pick to win the OVC. Senior guard Craig Bradshaw leads the way for Rick Byrd’s Bruins, who are tough to slow down on the offensive end of the floor.
3. The Mountain West will be involved in some intriguing opening night match-ups Friday night. Preseason favorite San Diego State hosts a dangerous Illinois State team, with another contender in Boise State visiting one of the preseason favorites in the Big Sky in Montana. And then there’s the battle of possible league dark horses, as Fresno State hosts an experienced Pepperdine squad.
4. Steve Prohm leads No. 7 Iowa State up against Colorado in Sioux Falls in his first regular season game as head coach. The Cyclones are expected to be contenders both in the Big 12 and nationally thanks to the return of players such as Georges Niang and Monté Morris. They’ll face a Colorado team that has a lot of questions to answer, but they’re anchored by one of the better post players around in senior Josh Scott.
5. Defending national champion No. 5 Duke opens its regular season with a home game against Siena. Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils added a highly regarded freshman class to some solid returnees, including sophomore guard Grayson Allen who’s expected by many to break out this season.
6. No. 22 Baylor has a difficult season opener to deal with, as they’ll host Stephen F. Austin in Waco. Brad Underwood’s Lumberjacks have reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons, and this experienced group led by senior forward Thomas Walkup will not back down from this challenge. Baylor boasts one of the nation’s best front courts led by seniors Rico Gathers Sr. and Taurean Waller-Prince.
TOP 25 SCHEDULE
Colorado vs. No. 7 Iowa State, 5:00 p.m. (ESPN2)
Pittsburgh vs. No. 9 Gonzaga, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN)
North Carolina A&T at No. 23 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.
Albany at No. 2 Kentucky, 7:00 p.m. (SEC Network)
No. 1 North Carolina vs. Temple, 7:00 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Siena at No. 5 Duke, 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
Mount St. Mary’s at No. 3 Maryland, 7:00 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Morgan State at No. 6 Virginia, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
Northern Michigan at No. 25 Michigan, 7:00 p.m.
Eastern Illinois at No. 15 Indiana, 7:00 p.m.
Florida Atlantic at No. 13 Michigan State, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
Fairleigh Dickinson at No. 11 Villanova, 7:00 p.m.
Maine at No. 20 Connecticut, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Saint Francis (PA) at No. 19 Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Northern Colorado at No. 4 Kansas, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
Charleston Southern at No. 10 Wichita State, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
Austin Peay at No. 18 Vanderbilt, 8:00 p.m. (SEC Network)
McNeese State at No. 21 LSU, 9:00 p.m. (SEC Network)
Western Illinois at No. 17 Wisconsin, 9:00 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Pacific at No. 12 Arizona, 9:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
Stephen F. Austin at No. 22 Baylor, 9:30 p.m.
Southern Utah at No. 16 Utah, 10:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
Rice at No. 14 California, 11:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
With shooting guard Josh Langford and power forward Nick Ward having already committed, Michigan State is well on its way to putting together one of the top classes in the Class of 2016. Things got even better for head coach Tom Izzo and his staff Friday, as four-star point guard Cassius Winston announced that he’ll be a Spartan.
Winston, who attends University of Detroit Jesuit HS, made the decision at a school pep rally and he gives Michigan State a player more than capable of running the show at the point. Winston, who played for The Family grassroots program, missed time this spring with a broken wrist but is now back to full strength.
“Winston is an immense pickup for Michigan State as he’s a talented in-state product who can score or make other players around him better,” NBC Sports recruiting insider Scott Phillips said of the newest Spartan. “A plus shooter with good feel, Winston should give some immediate help on the ball for the Spartans.”
Winston (and Langford) will join a backcourt that currently has sophomore Tum Tum Nairn as its lone point guard (senior Denzel Valentine will see some time at the point this season, as well). West Virginia transfer Eron Harris and freshman Matt McQuaid will also have eligibility remaining beyond the 2015-16 season.
And with five-star small forward Miles Bridges still on the board, what’s already a very good recruiting class would become even better should Michigan State manage to reel him in. Bridges took his official visit to Michigan State last weekend, as did Winston.