Indiana, Louisville top our too early 2012-13 preseason Top 25

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It’s tempting to place Kentucky atop the ranking for the 2012-13 season.

Yes, the Wildcats are probably going to lose all five starters and the sixth man from the 2012 NCAA tournament champions who won an NCAA record 38 games. But I can’t. Not until Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel decide where they’re playing next season. But once the two top recruits in the class of 2012 choose – they’re both elite players and at least one will be in Lexington – it’ll provide a more accurate assessment of where UK will fall.

Until then, I’m going with one of the two teams that did beat Kentucky this season and returns nearly every player from a 27-win team. Oh, did mention that team also sports a top-5 recruiting class?

(Note: When the NCAA’s NBA draft withdrawal date passes on April 11 and the 10 top 100 recruits commit, this ranking will be more informed. Until then, it’s just a waaaaay too early guess on everything. Also, the early version didn’t include Butler. This one does. Call it a late-night oversight.)

source: AP

1. Indiana Hoosiers (Final ’12-13 record: 27-9)
Tom Crean’s rebuild is complete. The Hoosiers should have four starters back (frontcourt studs Cody Zeller and Christian Watford are expected to return) and five freshman who’ll provide depth and athleticism. Indiana won’t be a scrappy underdog next season. Be interesting to see how the Hoosiers handle it.

2. Louisville Cardinals (30-10)
The game’s most efficient defense will stay that way with Gorgui Dieng back in the middle and a (knock on wood) healthy roster around him. Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear should get the expected freshman-to-sophomore boost, transfer Luke Hancock adds experience and shooting. Also, that Peyton Siva’s pretty good. Only concern? No real impact freshmen.

3. Kentucky Wildcats (38-2)
The Wildcats are all the way down here. Oops. Sharpshooter Kyle Witljer is the only significant returner, but transfer Ryan Harrow spent all season practicing with UK. That’s a nice head start. Add freshmen Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley – not to mention either Muhammad or Noel – and coach John Calipari has the talent for another Final Four run. Who doubts that?

4. N.C. State Wolfpack (24-13)
Too high for a team that was an average ACC team that got hot at season’s end? Maybe. But the Wolfpack return four starters and bring in a top 5 recruiting class headed by guard Rodney Purvis. It’s an athletic, balanced group that also boasts elite athletes. Now we’ll see if coach Mark Gottfried can pull off some magic for an entire season.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes (31-8)
Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. return, along with a group of underclassmen ready for more playing time. Coach Thad Matta has the Buckeyes positioned to contend every year. And if center Jared Sullinger makes a surprise return for his junior season? Even better.

6. Kansas Jayhawks (32-7)
Too kind? Maybe not. The Jayhawks will shot-blocker Jeff Withey, guard Elijah Johnson and steady wing Travis Releford. Throw in touted freshman Perry Ellis and redshirt freshmen Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor and Bill Self will have enough pieces to win his ninth straight Big 12 title.

7. Michigan Wolverines (24-10)
This is if point guard Trey Burke returns. Give him Tim Hardaway Jr. on the wing, Jordan Morgan and elite recruit Mitch McGary inside and it’s a team that can contend for the Big Ten title. Losing wing Evan Smotrycz doesn’t help, though.

8. Baylor Bears (30-8)
Quincy Acy’s gone, but there’s still plenty of ballers in Waco, including guards Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip. Quincy Miller’s season wasn’t that awful and incoming center Isaiah Austin would offset the loss of Perry Jones III goes pro.

9. Creighton Bluejays (29-6)
Too high for a team that doesn’t play defense? Maybe. But Doug McDermott’s a player of the year candidate, Gregory Echenique’s among the best centers in the game and they have solid support. Just need to replace point guard Antoine Young in the starting lineup.

10. Memphis Tigers (26-9)
The Tigers lose guard Will Barton and senior forward Wesley Witherspoon, but remain a talented, deep team that has a coach in Josh Pastner who continues to improve as a motivator and Xs-and-Os guy. Expect Memphis to crush its final season in C-USA.

11. Duke Blue Devils (27-7)
Speaking of no defense, don’t expect another season of soft D in Durham. Austin Rivers may be gone, but the Devils boast experience and shooters. That’s enough for 25 wins with Coach K on the sideline.

12. St. Louis Billikens (26-8)
When you lose one starter from a team that won 26 games, finish among the top 15 in kenpom.com ratings and nearly knock off a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, you get ranked in the top 15. It’s a no-brainer.

13. Florida Gators (26-11)
Billy Donovan’s team got a huge boost when forward Patric Young elected to return. Even if guard Bradley Beal bolts for the NBA, the Gators should be the SEC’s second-best team behind Kenny Boynton, Young and Erik Murphy.

14. Michigan State Spartans (29-8)
This is probably too low for MSU given how Tom Izzo’s team exceeded expectations in 2011-12. But they do lose do-everything forward Draymond Green, not to mention Austin Thornton and Brandon Wood. Can incoming freshman Gary Harris provide scoring?

15. Syracuse Orange (34-3)
Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine and Fab Melo are gone. But ‘Cuse still has talent in C.J. Fair, Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams and add a dynamite big man in DaJuan Coleman. Also, they could add Noel. That would be a massive boost.

16. Butler Bulldogs (22-15)
Bulldogs couldn’t hit a perimeter shot this season. That won’t apply next year when Rotnei Clarke and incoming freshman Kellen Dunham suit up. That’ll make life easier for Andrew Smith and Khyle Marshall down low, not to mention glue guy Roosevelt Jones.

17. Arizona Wildcats (23-12)
For now, the Wildcats boast the top recruiting class of 2012. Three five-star recruits arrive to bolster Nick Johnson, Solomon Hill and a healthy Kevin Parrom. But this anticipates a young team maturing, something the 2011-12 squad didn’t do.

18. Wisconsin Badgers (26-10)
Floor leader Jordan Taylor’s gone. That’s bad. But every other important player returns, including Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, Mike Brueswitz and Josh Gasser. Also, Bo Ryan adds an athletic forward in freshman Sam Dekker. Athletic! At Wisconsin!

19. VCU Rams (29-7)
Senior star Brad Burgess is gone — their best player — but everyone else is back for a team that won a ton of games, featured some nasty defense and apparently is insistent on winning NCAA tournament games every season.

20. San Diego State Aztecs (26-8)
One player’s gone, replaced by three impact transfers. I’d say that’s a healthy recipe for success when Chase Tapley, James Rahon and MWC player of the year Jamaal Franklin are already in the mix.

21. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (22-12)
Four starters return, but with sharpshooting wing Tim Abromaitis back from a knee injury, Notre Dame could contend for a Big East title. Better be OK playing as favorites, though.

22. North Carolina Tar Heels (32-6)
UNC needs James Michael McAdoo to stay. Desperately. Without him, their frontcourt would be shot, leaving Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston to do the heavy lifting. Hope incoming freshman Marcus Paige is ready to run the show.

23. Missouri Tigers (30-5)
Only regulars Michael Dixon and Phil Pressey return. But Laurence Bowers is back from a knee injury and the Tigers add three transfers in Keion Bell, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross who’ll step right into the rotation. Time to see that national coach of the year at work.

24. Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-7)
It’s really not a Top 25 without Gonzaga. Mark Few’s team loses center Robert Sacre, but everyone else is back. That’s enough for a preseason ranking.

25. Kansas State Wildcats (22-11)
New coach Bruce Weber inherits a nice situation. Four starters return, along with the top three bench players. Will they respond to a guy who’s motivational methods are less severe?

Also considered (in no particular order): UCLA, Texas, UNLV, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida State, Stanford, Colorado, Marquette, Ohio, Saint Mary’s, New Mexico, Xavier, Cincinnati.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

2019 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. The NBA released its official list of early entry candidates as it includes 233 total names –175 coming from colleges or other educational institutions. 

Underclassmen have until April 22nd to declare for the NBA draft this season and until May 29th to remove their name from consideration and return to college. With players now allowed to sign with agents, we’re not designating players who are “testing the waters” vs. declaring with an intention to stay in the draft.

One change worth remembering here is that underclassmen are now allowed to hire an agent to help them navigate their way through the NBA draft process, and that is expected to increase the number of players that test the waters of the draft. 

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

This will be updated throughout the spring, as more and more players put their names in the mix. 

2019 EARLY ENTRANTS

  • MILAN ACQUAAH, California Baptist
  • BRYCE AIKEN, Harvard
  • NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER, Virginia Tech
  • AL-WAJID AMINU, North Florida
  • DESMOND BANE, TCU
  • R.J. BARRETT, Duke
  • CHARLES BASSEY, Western Kentucky
  • TYUS BATTLE, Syracuse
  • TROY BAXTER JR., FGCU
  • DARIUS BAZLEY, Princeton High School (OH)
  • KERRY BLACKSHEAR JR, Virginia Tech
  • PHIL BLEDSOE, Glenville State
  • BOL BOL, Oregon
  • MARQUES BOLDEN, Duke
  • JORDAN BONE, Tennessee
  • KY BOWMAN, Boston College
  • DAQUAN BRACEY, Louisiana Tech
  • KEITH BRAXTON, St. Francis (PA)
  • IGGY BRAZDEIKIS, Michigan
  • OSHAE BRISSETT, Syracuse
  • ARMONI BROOKS, Houston
  • CHARLIE BROWN JR., Saint Joseph’s
  • MOSES BROWN, UCLA
  • YOELI CHILDS, BYU
  • BRANDON CLARKE, Gonzaga
  • NIC CLAXTON, Georgia
  • AMIR COFFEY, Minnesota
  • RJ COLE, Howard
  • TYLER COOK, Iowa
  • ANTHONY COWAN JR., Maryland
  • JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech
  • JARRON CUMBERLAND, Cincinnati
  • CALEB DANIELS, Tulane
  • TULIO DA SILVA, Missouri State
  • AUBREY DAWKINS, UCF
  • JAVIN DELAURIER, Duke
  • SILVIO DE SOUSA, Kansas
  • MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia
  • ALPHA DIALLO, Providence
  • JAMES DICKEY, UNC Greensboro
  • DAVID DILEO, Central Michigan
  • DAVON DILLARD, Shaw
  • LUGUENTZ DORT, Arizona State
  • DEVON DOTSON, Kansas
  • JASON DRAGGS, Lee College
  • CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue
  • CJ ELLEBY, Washington State
  • STEVE ENOCH, Louisville
  • BRUNO FERNANDO, Maryland
  • JAYLEN FISHER, TCU
  • SAVION FLAGG, Texas A&M
  • DANIEL GAFFORD, Arkansas
  • DARIUS GARLAND, Vanderbilt
  • EUGENE GERMAN, Northern Illinois
  • QUENTIN GOODIN, Xavier
  • TONY GOODWIN II, Redemption Christian Academy
  • KELLAN GRADY, Davidson
  • DEVONTE GREEN, Indiana
  • QUENTIN GRIMES, Kansas
  • JON AXEL GUDMUNDSSON, Davidson
  • KYLE GUY, Virginia
  • RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga
  • JAYLEN HANDS, UCLA
  • JERRICK HARDING, Weber State
  • JARED HARPER, Auburn
  • KEVON HARRIS, Stephen F. Austin
  • JAXSON HAYES, Texas
  • DEWAN HERNANDEZ, Miami
  • TYLER HERRO, Kentucky
  • AMIR HINTON, Shaw University
  • JAYLEN HOARD, Wake Forest
  • DAULTON HOMMES, Point Loma
  • TALEN HORTON-TUCKER, Iowa State
  • DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia
  • TY JEROME, Virginia
  • JAYCE JOHNSON, Utah
  • KELDON JOHNSON, Kentucky
  • MARKELL JOHNSON, N.C. State
  • TYRIQUE JONES, Xavier
  • MFIONDU KABENGELE, Florida State
  • SACHA KILLEYA-JONES, N.C. State
  • LOUIS KING, Oregon
  • V.J. KING, Louisville
  • NATHAN KNIGHT, William & Mary
  • SAGABA KONATE, West Virginia
  • MARTIN KRAMPELJ, Creighton
  • ROMEO LANGFORD, Indiana
  • CAMERON LARD, Iowa State
  • A.J. LAWSON, South Carolina
  • DEDRIC LAWSON, Kansas
  • JALEN LECQUE, Brewster Academy (N.C. State recruit)
  • JACOB LEDOUX, Texas-Permian Basin
  • NASSIR LITTLE, UNC
  • TEVIN MACK, Alabama
  • JERMAINE MARROW, Hampton
  • NAJI MARSHALL, XAVIER
  • CHARLES MATTHEWS, Michigan
  • SKYLAR MAYS, LSU
  • JALEN MCDANIELS, San Diego State
  • E.J. MONTGOMERY, Kentucky
  • JA MORANT, Murray State
  • ANDREW NEMBHARD, Florida
  • KOUAT NOI, TCU
  • ZACH NORVELL JR., Gonzaga
  • JAYLEN NOWELL, Washington
  • JOEL NTAMBWE, UNLV
  • JORDAN NWORA, Louisville
  • CHUMA OKEKE, Auburn
  • KZ OKPALA, Stanford
  • MIYE ONI, Yale
  • DEVONTE PATTERSON, Prairie View A&M
  • REGGIE PERRY, Mississippi State
  • LAMAR PETERS, Mississippi State
  • FILIP PETRUSEV, Gonzaga
  • JALEN PICKETT, Siena
  • SHAMORIE PONDS, St. John’s
  • JORDAN POOLE, Michigan
  • CLETRELL POPE, Bethune-Cookman
  • JONTAY PORTER, Missouri
  • KEVIN PORTER JR., USC
  • MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall
  • PAYTON PRITCHARD, Oregon
  • NEEMIAS QUETA, Utah State
  • BRANDON RANDOLPH, Arizona
  • CAM REDDISH, Duke
  • ISAIAH REESE, Canisius
  • NAZ REID, LSU
  • NICK RICHARDS, Kentucky
  • LAQUINCY RIDEAU, South Florida
  • ISAIAH ROBY, Nebraska
  • AYINDE RUSSELL, Morehouse
  • KEVIN SAMUEL, TCU
  • PAUL SCRUGGS, Xavier
  • SAMIR SEHIC, Tulane
  • JOSH SHARKEY, Samford
  • SIMI SHITTU, Vanderbilt
  • NIKE SIBANDE, Miami OH
  • JUSTIN SIMON, St. John’s
  • D’MARCUS SIMONDS, Georgia State
  • JAVONTE SMART, LSU
  • JUSTIN SMITH, Indiana
  • DERRIK SMITS, Valparaiso
  • LAMAR STEVENS, Penn State
  • JALEN SYKES, St. Clair College (Canada)
  • ETHAN THOMPSON, Oregon State
  • KILLIAN TILLIE, Gonzaga
  • DONNIE TILLMAN, Utah
  • TRES TINKLE, Oregon State
  • OBI TOPPIN, Dayton
  • RAYJON TUCKER, Arkansas-Little Rock
  • JUSTIN TURNER, Bowling Green
  • NICK WARD, Michigan State
  • PJ WASHINGTON, Kentucky
  • TREMONT WATERS, LSU
  • KALEB WESSON, Ohio State
  • COBY WHITE, UNC
  • JIMMY WHITT, SMU
  • JOE WIESKAMP, Iowa
  • LINDELL WIGGINTON, Iowa State
  • KRIS WILKES, UCLA
  • CHARLES WILLIAMS, Howard
  • EMMITT WILLIAMS, LSU
  • GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee
  • ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke
  • HOLLAND WOODS II, Portland State
  • KENNY WOOTEN, Oregon

RETURNING TO SCHOOL

  • UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas
  • AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois
  • ASHTON HAGANS, Kentucky
  • MARKUS HOWARD, Marquette
  • TRE JONES, Duke
  • JALEN SMITH, Maryland
  • CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

Prosecutor: Greed fueled college basketball coaches’ bribes

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NEW YORK (AP) — A scandal in which college basketball coaches were bribed to steer NBA-bound players to favored agents and money managers was motivated by greed, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday — before defense lawyers criticized the case as an FBI-led setup.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eli Mark said at the opening of a criminal trial that Christian Dawkins cheated to elevate prospects for his fledgling sports management company.

“This is a case about money, bribes and college basketball,” Mark said.

The prosecutor said Dawkins was aided in his scheme by Merl Code, a Clemson point guard in the 1990s who developed many contacts while doing work for shoemakers Nike and Adidas.

Mark said Code played a key role in the crimes by introducing college basketball coaches to two investors in Dawkins’ company. Those individuals, the prosecutor said, were undercover FBI agents.

“Why was Code doing this? Simple, greed,” Mark said.

Mark said Dawkins gave envelopes stuffed with cash to coaches who Code brought to him.

He said the men arranged payouts to coaches at the University of South Carolina, University of Arizona, University of Southern California, Creighton and Texas Christian University.

Dawkins’ attorney, Steven A. Haney Sr., said his client was 22 years old when the undercover FBI agents posing as investors and a cooperator seeking leniency from criminal charges met him on a yacht in lower Manhattan in 2017 to convince him to bribe college coaches.

Haney said that although Dawkins accepted thousands of dollars in cash given to him on the yacht, jurors will learn that Dawkins and Code resisted the plan to bribe coaches.

“He said he was going to bribe the coaches but he didn’t,” Haney said.

Haney predicted a not guilty verdict.

“You are not going to condemn a man for something he didn’t do,” the lawyer told jurors.

Attorney Andrew Mathias, representing Code, said evidence will show his client did not want to bribe coaches.

“Merl wanted to get paid for making introductions,” Mathias said.

He said Code repeatedly said coaches should not be given money.

He also told jurors they could conclude there was reasonable doubt because no coaches would testify.

Prosecutors objected, but Judge Edgardo Ramos allowed the statement.

The trial was the second to result from an investigation that’s exposed a seedy side of college basketball recruitment.

Code and Dawkins already were convicted in October on similar charges and were each sentenced to six months in prison. This time, the focus is on bribes to coaches instead of players’ families.

Former assistant basketball coaches Tony Bland at USC, Emanuel “Book” Richardson at Arizona, Chuck Person at Auburn University and Lamont Evans at South Carolina and Oklahoma State have pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy charges and are awaiting sentencing.

North Carolina lands second 2019 guard commitment of the day

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North Carolina added another top-100 talent on the perimeter on Tuesday as four-star Class of 2019 guard Anthony Harris pledged to the Tar Heels.

The commitment from Harris comes on the same day that North Carolina made a major splash by landing five-star 2019 guard Cole Anthony.

The 6-foot-4 Harris was previously committed to Virginia Tech, but he opted to re-open his recruitment once head coach Buzz Williams left and took the same position at Texas A&M.

Missing most of his senior season with a torn ACL, Harris gives the Tar Heels another solid perimeter option who should contribute as early as next season. Playing with notable programs on the high school level like Team Takeover in the Nike EYBL and Paul VI during the high school season, Harris can contribute in many different ways.

Team Takeover was arguably the best AAU team in the country last spring and summer as Harris put up 8.6 points, 2.5 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game while shooting 46 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range. More importantly, Harris is a strong and willing defender who is capable of locking down opposing perimeter options.

The commitment of Harris gives North Carolina’s thin perimeter group even more depth for next season as they now have Anthony, Harris, seniors Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson and fellow freshman Jeremiah Francis. Sophomore shooter Andrew Platek is also returning.

Regarded as the No. 65 overall player in the Class of 2019 per the 247Sports composite, Harris is a quality late pickup for the Tar Heels as North Carolina’s perimeter depth looks far better at the end of Tuesday than it did entering the day. While Anthony is likely a one-and-done player, Harris will likely stay and contribute for at least a few seasons as he comes from a winning background.

Michigan’s Jordan Poole staying in 2019 NBA Draft

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Michigan sophomore guard Jordan Poole will remain in the 2019 NBA Draft, according to a post on his Instagram.

The 6-foot-5 Poole already announced his intention to declare for the NBA draft while signing an agent. But Poole has made it clear that he’ll not be returning to school before the May 29th deadline as he’s set on turning pro.

“I need to thank God for putting me in the position to walk along the right path. There has been much consideration, but after weighing all my options and having many positive discussions, my family and I, along with the help of coach (John) Beilein and the rest of the coaching staff, believe now is the right time for me to begin my professional basketball career,” Poole said in a statement. “It has been a dream of mine to play in the NBA. I feel I am ready to go after that dream.”

As a sophomore, Poole became a key piece for the Wolverines as he averaged 12.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.2 rebounds per game. Shooting 43.6 percent from the floor and 36.9 percent from three-point range, Poole is a talented shot creator who can be very streaky.

Poole’s decision to leave has major ramifications on Michigan for next season as the Wolverines currently sit at No. 2 in the NBCSports.com Preseason 2019-20 Top 25. Without Poole, Michigan will likely turn to Eli Brooks to earn more minutes.

The pro decision of freshman wing Ignas Brazdeikis now becomes a major focus for the Wolverines this offseason as his return would likely solidify Michigan as a top-five preseason team. If Brazdeikis also opted to go pro like Poole, and junior Charles Matthews, then the Wolverines would need to figure out where their offense will come from next season.

Arizona lands grad transfer Max Hazzard

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Arizona has landed a commitment from UC Irvine grad transfer Max Hazzard, one of the most sought after transfers on the market this season. Hazzard’s brother, Jacob, was a walk-on for the Wildcats from 2012-2016.

The 5-foot-10 rising senior averaged 12.5 points and 2.1 assists and shot 38.7 percent from three as a junior with the Anteaters. He put up 19 points against Kansas State’s suffocating defense in UCI’s upset win in the first round of the 2019 NCAA tournament.

Hazzard joins a perimeter in Tucson that is absolutely loaded. He joins a recruiting class that includes five-star guards Nico Mannion and Josh Green, plus four-star bigs Zeke Nnaji and Christian Koloko and four-star guard Terry Armstrong. Sean Miller also returns a number of backcourt veterans, namely Brandon Williams, Brandon Randolph and Dylan Smith.

The Wildcats look like they should be favorites, along with Oregon, to win the Pac-12 this season.