How will the Big East and its nine teams fare?

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There seem to be vehement defenders on both sides of the argument. Some say the Big East is deserving of the nine bids it received this year. Some are quick to call it the most overrated conference in the nation.

Detractors approve of the committee’s denial of Seton Hall, though may not be so overjoyed about South Florida’s admittance. Some even went as far as to say Connecticut didn’t deserve a spot.

What’s the verdict? CollegeBasketballTalk breaks down what some Big East teams are looking at in the NCAA tournament:

Best Chance to End Up in New Orleans: No. 1 Syracuse

The Orange are ranked second in the nation and, despite losing in the Big East tournament to Cincinnati, you can’t deny what they bring to the table.

With their lethal transition attack and a future NBA lottery pick in Dion Waiters, Syracuse could make its way through the East region and make it to the Final Four. The biggest obstacle I see is Vanderbilt.

Just as Vanderbilt beat an athletic Kentucky team to win the SEC title, the Commodores could shoot well from the outside and Festus Ezeli could be the same type of inside presence as Yancy Gates, who powered Cincinnati to an upset over Syracuse in the Big East tournament.

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Toughest First Matchup: No. 9 Connecticut vs. No. 8 Iowa State

The Huskies had the toughest schedule in the nation this season, so it seems only right that they would draw a tough Iowa State team in the Round of 64.

With multi-talented Royce White running the show for the Cyclones and capable shooters from the outside, the Huskies won’t be able to relax on the defensive end.

The winner will most likely have a matchup with No. 1 Kentucky.

Most Likely to Get Upset: No. 3 Georgetown vs. No. 14 Belmont

Belmont is a high-scoring dark horse out of the Atlantic Sun Conference that, if they get in a shootout with Georgetown, could send the Hoyas home early.

The Bruins move the ball well and are in the top five in the country in assists per game and in the top thirty in field goal percentage. Kerron Johnson is a name to watch for Belmont.

Team That Barely Snuck In But Has Something To Prove: No. 12 South Florida

Analysts debated whether South Florida should get in, but they now find themselves in a First Four game against Pac 12 opponent California.

Coach Stan Heath said during the Big East tournament that he loves his team’s grinding, slow pace where no one player is averaging double figures in scoring.

If South Florida is able to beat Cal, they will meet Temple in the Round of 64. The Bulls have been written off so far because of their perceived lack of strength in scheduling, but this NCAA tournament will give them a chance to prove critics wrong.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

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Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.