Argument starter: A 2012-13 NCAA tournament projection

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As Big Blue Nation continues to celebrate its eighth NCAA championship, it’s certainly possible that UK will be a No. 1 seed again next March – depending on how many current Wildcats return. Even with some expected departures, coach John Calipari is bringing another Top 5 recruiting class to Lexington. So let’s go ahead and write in UK as a No. 1 seed in our very early look at the 2013 bracket.

A lot will change over the next week or so as players decide whether to enter the NBA Draft. In the months ahead we’ll also see how the final recruiting pieces fit together.

As of today, Indiana, Louisville, and Kansas join Kentucky as projected No. 1 seeds. Ohio State, Baylor, Michigan, and Florida are next in line.

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This far in advance the bracket is guess work – based on returning players, some realistic expectations, and a few potential surprises. We also have several teams changing conference affiliation in 2012-13. Notable teams include Missouri and Texas AM moving from the Big 12 to the SEC. Oral Roberts moves to the Southland and Belmont to the Ohio Valley. We’ll take a look at these and other changes in greater depth at a later date.

Expect Butler to return to March Madness next spring. Maryland makes the early bracket, too, as does Pittsburgh. And John Groce has the pieces to give the Illini a chance. Even Bruce Weber should return – with Kansas State. All in all, a lot of fun. November isn’t too far away.

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Tulsa vs. Saint Mary’s | West Region
  • Oklahoma State vs. Northern Iowa | East Region
  • Ms Valley State vs. Savannah State | Midwest Region
  • Charleston Southern vs. Mercer | South

BRACKET PROJECTION …

MIDWESTIndianapolis   SOUTHDallas
Dayton   Dayton
1) Kentucky   1) Indiana
16) Savannah St / Ms Valley St   16) Charleston S’thern / Mercer
8) Minnesota   8) UCLA
9) Notre Dame   9) Florida State
     
Salt Lake City   San Jose
5) Creighton   5) Cincinnati
12) Drexel   12) Nevada
4) Texas   4) San Diego State
13) Ohio   13) Loyola-MD
     
Philadelphia   Kansas City
6) Butler   6) Tennessee
11) Massachusetts   11) VCU
3) North Carolina   3) NC State
14) Princeton   14) South Dakota State
     
Auburn Hills   Austin
7) Marquette   7) Wisconsin
10) Stanford   10) Villanova
2) Michigan   2) Baylor
15) Middle Tennessee St   15) UC-Santa Barbara
     
WEST – Los Angeles   EAST – TBA (not decided)
Kansas City   Lexington
1) Kansas   1) Louisville
16) Vermont   16) LIU-Brooklyn
8) Georgetown   8) Kansas State
9) Missouri   9) Alabama
     
San Jose   Salt Lake City
5) UNLV   5) Memphis
12) Purdue   12) Illinois
4) Arizona   4) Duke
13) Tulsa / St. Mary’s   13) Oklahoma St / No. Iowa
     
Austin   Auburn Hills
6) Gonzaga   6) Xavier
11) Colorado   11) New Mexico
3) Syracuse   3) Michigan State
14) Oral Roberts   14) Davidson
     
Lexington   Philadelphia
7) St. Louis   7) Pittsburgh
10) Murray State   10) Maryland
2) Ohio State   2) Florida
15) Montana   15) Lehigh

NOTES on the BRACKET: Kentucky is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Indiana, Louisville, and Kansas. Next in line are Ohio State, Baylor, Michigan, and Florida.

Last Five teams in (at large): Illinois, Saint Mary’s, Oklahoma State, Northern Iowa, Tulsa

First Five teams out (at large): Mississippi, West Virginia, Virginia, LSU, Iowa

Also considered: St. John’s, Vanderbilt, Iowa State, Temple, Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Loyola-Marymount, Texas AM, La Salle, Arkansas, Valparaiso, Detroit, California, Wake Forest, Long Beach, Houston, Northwestern, George Mason, Iona, Fairfield, Miami-FL, Georgia Tech, BYU, Colorado State, Wyoming, New Mexico State, Kent State, Akron, Milwaukee, Duquesne, South Carolina, Marshall, Southern Mississippi.

Here is the team breakdown by Conference …

Big East (8): Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Marquette, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Villanova

Big Ten (8): Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Purdue, Illinois

SEC (5): Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri

ACC (5): North Carolina, NC State, Duke, Florida State, Maryland

Big 12 (5): Kansas, Baylor, Texas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State

Pac 12 (4): Arizona, UCLA, Stanford, Colorado

Mountain West (3): San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico

Atlantic 10 (3): Xavier, St. Louis, Massachusetts

West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s

Conference USA (2): Memphis, Tulsa

Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Northern Iowa

Colonial (2): Drexel, VCU

Conference champions … Butler (Horizon), Murray State (OVC), Nevada (WAC), Loyola-MD (MAAC), Ohio (MAC), Davidson (Southern), Oral Roberts (Southland), South Dakota State (Summit), Princeton (Ivy), Middle Tennessee State (Sun Belt), Montana (Big Sky), Lehigh (Patriot), UC-Santa Barbara (Big West), LIU-Brooklyn (NEC), Charleston Southern (Big South), Vermont (America East), Mercer (Atlantic Sun), Mississippi Valley State (SWAC), Savannah State (MEAC)

Elite Class of 2020 point guard to reclassify

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Nico Mannion, a five-star point guard from Arizona, announced on Friday that he will be reclassifying into the Class of 2019.

Mannion was a top 20 player in 2020 but, according to 247 Sports, he will be ranked No. 11 in 2019. The athletic, 6-foot-3 Mannion was long-rumored to be considering a move up a class because of his age. He’ll turn 18 in March of next year, meaning that he’ll arrive on campus the same age as a typical college freshman.

Mannion cut his list to ten schools in June — Duke, Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Marquette and Utah — but Duke and Arizona appear to be the favorites at this point.

Mannion plays his high school ball for Pinnacle High School in Phoenix and with West Coast Elite on the Under Armour Association circuit. He played for Team USA’s youth ranks, but his mother is Italian and, in June, he was called up to the Italian men’s senior national team, scoring nine points in 29 minutes of a FIBA World Cup Qualifier.

Nebraska to lose junior big man to transfer

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Nebraska’s frontcourt depth took a blow on Thursday as junior big man Jordy Tshimanga informed the program that he will be transferring.

“Jordy called me tonight and asked for his release,” head coach Tim Miles said in a statement that was given to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “The University of Nebraska and our program wish Jordy and his family the best.”

Tshimanga averaged 4.0 points and 4.6 boards in 13 minutes this past season, and a source close to the program told NBC Sports he wasn’t expected to play much more than that this season.

Miles’ has spent the better part of the last two seasons on the hot seat, and this certainly doesn’t make his job easier, but with the talent the Cornhuskers have on their roster, they look like an NCAA tournament team already. They bring back their top four scorers, including former five-star prospect Isaac Copeland and potential first-team all-Big Ten wing James Palmer. With or without Tshimanga, Nebraska has a shot to finish top four in the Big Ten.

North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State part of Las Vegas event

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State and Texas will play in an early season basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Invitational will include games at campus sites, then the final two rounds on Nov. 22-23 in Las Vegas. North Carolina takes on Texas in one semifinal, and Michigan State faces UCLA in the other.

UNC, UCLA and Michigan State are all top 20 teams in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

The championship is Nov. 23, and the semifinal losers also play each other that day.

NCAA to study possible effects of widespread legal wagering

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA plans to study how the expansion of legalized betting could affect college athletics and member schools.

The NCAA announced Thursday it will create a working group of “subject matter experts” to assess areas such as officiating, NCAA rules, federal and state laws, and the use of integrity services. NCAA leadership has already called for federal regulation on sports betting. NCAA rules prohibit sports wagering by athletes and athletic department employees.

The Supreme Court opened the door for states to have legal wagering on sporting events when it struck down a federal ban in May. Schools in some states such as West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey are already exploring the possibility of collecting integrity fees in anticipation of legal sports books opening in their states.

“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”

The NCAA Board of Governors has already suspended the association’s ban on holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, a policy that only affected Nevada.

“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”

Arizona releases non-conference schedule

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A trip to Maui, a home date against Baylor and trips to UConn and Alabama highlight Arizona’s non-conference schedule, which the school released Thursday, this season.

Despite losing nearly the entirety of last year’s talented-but-troubled group, Sean Miller still scheduled aggressively. The first test will come the week of Thanksgiving in Hawaii at the Maui Invitational. It’s an extremely competitive field with Duke, Auburn, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Illinois, San Diego State and Xavier. The bracket for the event has yet to be released.

The Wildcats travel to Storrs to face UConn in Dan Hurley’s first season on Dec. 2, and then a week later visit Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

The marquee home game will be Saturday, Dec. 16, when Scott Drew and Baylor come to Tucson.

Here’s the full schedule:

Day Date Opponent Location

Sunday Nov. 11 Cal Poly Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Nov. 14 UTEP Tucson, Ariz.

Monday Nov. 19 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Tuesday Nov. 20 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Wednesday Nov. 21 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Wednesday Nov. 28 Texas Southern Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 2 at UConn Hartford, Conn.

Thursday Dec. 6 Utah Valley Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 9 at Alabama Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Saturday Dec. 15 Baylor Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Dec. 19 Montana Tucson, Ariz.

Saturday Dec. 22 UC Davis Tucson, Ariz.