Viewer’s guide to November hoops tourneys

‘Tis the time for early season college basketball tournaments.

If you’re like us, you’ll spend the next two weeks glued to the TV, watching every game you can and trying to figure out a way to DVR the rest. In fact, there’s so much basketball to watch, it’s too much for one person to properly describe. That means it’s time for back-forth between me and Rob Dauster. We’ve got you covered.

Can’t miss tournament

Mike: The CBE Classic might feature more NCAA tournament-worthy teams (Duke, Gonzaga, K-State and San Diego State among them), but the Maui Invitational is the biggest deal. The field’s solid (Michigan State, UConn and Wichita State), but the potential semifinal matchup between Washington and Kentucky is as good as it gets this fall. When Terrence Jones intially committed to Washington in May, then immediately changed his mind and eventually headed to Lexington, it set off a mini-recruiting war of words between each program’s supporters. The players also want a piece of each other. Huskeis guard Isaiah Thomas said as much on Twitter.

Rob: The CBE Classic is certainly loaded at the top, but in my humble opinion, it does not qualify for this category. You see, this is the Can’t Miss “Tournament” category, and the CBE

Classic is not a tournament. Let me explain. The four “hosts” — Duke, Marquette, Kansas State, and Gonzaga — automatically make it to the round of four, which is held in Kansas City. For these early season tournaments, that generally isn’t a huge issue, but one of the early matchups in the CBE is between Gonzaga and San Diego State. There are some that would argue SDSU and Gonzaga the two best teams on the west coast, but if the Aztecs win — in Spokane, nonetheless — the Zags still advance? That’s not a tournament!

(Excuse me while I step down from my pedestal.)

Back to the point, I’m going to go with the Puerto Rico Tip-off simply because I apparently have no desire to agree with you in this category. North Carolina gets Hofstra and Charles Jenkins in the first round and looks destined to play an underrated Minnesota team in the second round. On the other side of the bracket, tourney teams Vanderbilt and West Virginia loom while Sun Belt favorite Western Kentucky is fresh off of a 28 point beatdown of St. Joe’s.

Mike: OK, it’s settled. You head to Puerto Rico, I’ll head to Maui — in late November. It’s a win-win!

Breakout player


Rob: One thing that is great about the Coaches vs. Cancer is that it happens at a time when most people will be able to tune in. That means that those people are going to get a chance to see Pitt’s Brad Wanamaker play. When you think about the Panthers, the first kid that comes to mind is Ashton Gibbs, their leading scorer and a potential first team all conference player. And while Gibbs is listed as a point guard, he really is the scoring guard for that team. Wanamaker is the playmaker. He’s the guy that facilitates that offense. He looks like he has streamlined his body and gotten more explosive in his senior season. Through three games he is averaging 19.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 6.3 apg while shooting 65 percent from the floor. Don’t be surprised when he makes a name for himself at Madison Square Garden.

Mike: I do like Wanamaker, and that whole Pitt team. Wanamaker reminds me of how college hoops used to be — a guy would stay in school four years, improving each season. By the time they’re seniors, it all pays off. Of course, Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer doesn’t fit that stereotype given everyone’s known he’s a big-time talent for years. And if they haven’t, they’re not paying attention. The 6-10 senior forward is smooth and efficient offensively, hits the defensive glass and doesn’t commit turnovers. He’s perfect for Bo Ryan’s offense — or any offense, really. He’ll help the Badgers take the title in the Old Spice Classic and propel himself into the national spotlight early.

Or, if you prefer your stars to play above the rim, try the Preseason NIT on Monday night. Pepperdine’s Keion Bell is bound to have at least three (nasty) dunks on UCLA players.

Rob: That’s the Keion Bell that did this, right? Right.

Team in for a rude awakening

Mike: I would pick on your Hoyas, but after their scare at ODU, I think they’ll be ready for Wofford in the Charleston Classic semifinals. (He writes without much conviction.) Wake Forest, on the other hand, should be shaking at the thought of playing Virginia Commonwealth in the Preseason NIT. The Demon Deacons are supposedly the No. 3 seed in the event, but the odds of them advancing to NYC aren’t good. Not with VCU’s underrated offense coming to Winston-Salem. Jeff Bzdelik doesn’t have the players to beat ACC foes yet, let alone top-flight non-BCS schools like VCU.

Rob: Can Wake Forest be rudely awoken again? They just got smacked at home by Stetson, losing their starting point guard in the process. I think it is safe to say this team is going to be at the bottom of the ACC this season.

Mike: Fair enough. What if I stick in the ACC and tell everyone to keep a close eye on UNC? You’ve already mentioned the Tar Heels’ opponents (Hofstra and likely Minnesota), which only adds to the steep learning curve Roy Williams’ team has this year.

Rob: I’ve got two teams for you. I’ll stay in the Big East for the first one and go with the UConn Huskies. Don’t get me wrong, I see this UConn team having some potential this season. I love Kemba Walker, and Alex Oriakhi looks well on his way to becoming a bigger Jeff Adrien after corralling 18 boards in their opener on Friday. But beyond that, the Huskies are young. Talented? Yes. Athletic? Yes. But they are very inexperienced and will be going up against a Wichita State team that is loaded with experience, plays tough defense, and is the favorite to win the MVC. Should they manage to win that game, UConn gets Michigan State in the second round. That could get ugly.

The second team is Kansas State. Wildcat fans may not agree with this pick, but I think that K-State is a bit overrated right now. Its not that they don’t have the talent, but I think that there are a lot of question marks — things like Curtis Kelly getting benched, a lack of scoring on the wings, a back court mate for Jacob Pullen — that need an answer. An early season matchup with a team as good as Gonzaga or potentially Duke could expose K-State.

Skip it

Mike: Unless you’re a Missouri fan dying to see the Tigers run up the score on sub-par teams, skip the Cancun Challenge. If the teams are smart, they’ll blow off the games and go sit on the beach.

Rob: You weren’t joking. The Cancun field is terrible. Other than Missouri, the only potential tournament team is Morgan State, and that is because they are the favorite to win the MEAC, which may be the worst conference in the country. I’d recommend skipping the Legends Classic as well. Syracuse should be pretty good, but Georgia Tech and Michigan are down, and UTEP just lost to Pacific.

Most vivid memory 

Rob: Simple. Gonzaga knocking off Michigan State 109-106 in the Maui Invitational in 2005. Three OT’s, Adam Morrison going for 43, buzzer beaters, future NBA players, two of the best coaches and the best programs in the country, and a missed layup that could have won the game with 4 seconds left in the third OT. It was terrific. The lasting image I have from that game comes courtesy of Maurice Ager. Ager led the Spartans rally at the end of regulation by hitting five threes in the last 7:10. The fifth came at the buzzer in regulation, and after hitting the shot, Ager stood at center court, screaming to the ceiling while pounding his chest before getting enveloped by his teammates.

That is what college basketball is all about. I still get chills watching the YouTube highlights.

Mike: That’s one of mine, too. I remember thinking we were bound to see a Final Four rematch, but it wasn’t to be.

My most vivid memory isn’t a fond one. A year after I graduated from Kansas, the Jayhawks played Ball State at Maui – and came away with a numbing 93-91 loss. It didn’t mean much that season (Kansas went to the Final Four and Ball State landed in the NIT), but it was a sight to see KU players on the sidelines nursing cramps and getting beaten badly on defense. It’s just one of the reasons why the early season tourneys can be so fun – sometimes, the unexpected happens, just like in March.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”