Saint Joseph’s picked to win the Atlantic 10 at league’s media day

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Picking a clear favorite to win the Atlantic 10 this season is a tough task, and the media’s picks at Atlantic 10 Media Day at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn display that.

Six teams received at least two first-place votes, with Saint Joseph’s receiving 11 and locking up enough overall points to be the media’s pick to win the conference.

Phil Martelli welcomes back every key contributor from last season’s 20-14 (9-7 A-10) team, led by guards Carl Jones and Langston Galloway and forward C.J. Aiken.

Following Saint Joseph’s in the poll is Saint Louis, which received ten first-place votes. The Billikens (25-7, 12-4) return the majority of their key contributors from last season’s NCAA tournament team, but the most important piece (Rick Majerus) isn’t coaching this season due to health issues.

Jim Crews, who has head coaching experience at both Evansville and Army, will look to lead Saint Louis to their first Atlantic 10 regular season title.

VCU and Butler, the two newcomers to the conference, were pegged to finish third and sixth respectively with the Rams receiving three first-place votes and the Bulldogs two.

Here’s the entire poll, with first-place votes in parentheses:

1. Saint Joseph’s (11)
2. Saint Louis (10)
3. VCU (3)
4. Temple (2)
5. Massachusetts (2)
6. Butler (2)
7. La Salle
8. Dayton
9. Xavier
10. Richmond
11. St. Bonaventure
12. Charlotte
13. George Washington
14. Fordham
15. Rhode Island
16. Duquesne

Only the top 12 teams will play in the Atlantic 10 tournament at the Barclays Center March 14-17.

The league’s media also made it’s all-conference team selections, and while no Saint Joseph’s players was named to the first team All-Atlantic 10 squad four projected starters are on the second and third teams.

First Team:  Kevin Dillard (Dayton), Chris Gaston (Fordham), Chaz Williams (UMass), Kwamain Mitchell (Saint Louis), Khalif Wyatt (Temple).

Second Team: Rotnei Clarke (Butler), Chris Braswell (Charlotte), Ramon Galloway (La Salle), Langston Galloway (Saint Joseph’s), Carl Jones (Saint Joseph’s).

Third Team: Darien Brothers (Richmond), C.J. Aiken (Saint Joseph’s), Halil Kanacevic (Saint Joseph’s), Scootie Randall (Temple), Juvonte Reddic (VCU).

All-Defensive Team: Roosevelt Jones (Butler), Pierria Henry (Charlotte), C.J. Aiken (Saint Joseph’s), Jordair Jett (Saint Louis), Briante Weber (VCU).

All-Rookie Team: Kellen Dunham (Butler), Jordan Hare (Rhode Island), Daniel Dingle (Temple), Melvin Johnson (VCU), Semaj Christon (Xavier).

The only jarring sight in these preseason honors is likely the fact that Xavier was picked to finish 9th, and given the many personnel (and coaching staff) losses that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

But when considering that the Musketeers have finished no worse than third in the standings every year since 2006 (tied for 7th that season), it’s definitely strange to see them that low in the league’s pecking order.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Luke Maye to return to North Carolina for senior season

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Here’s something I never thought I’d say: Luke Maye is returning to North Carolina for his senior season, meaning that the Tar Heels will have their preseason National Player of the Year candidate back in the fold.

Who saw that coming?

“I have had a great experience learning from the NBA process and growing as a basketball player during the past couple weeks,” Maye wrote on Instagram. “I would like to thank my family, friends, coaches and teammates for all of their support. Through this process, I have decided that I am going to comeback to school to improve as a player and finish my college career. I am looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that I will face and there is no better group to do it with than my teammates and the Carolina family! Time to finish the right way with two of the best players and leaders that I know! Let’s finish our legacy the right way!”

Maye, who averaged 16.9 points and 10.1 boards as a junior, declared for the draft last month, but he did not get invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. The 6-foot-9 forward is a stretch four that will fit perfectly at the four for the Tar Heels this season, with Nassir Little, Cam Johnson and Kenny Williams on the perimeter and a trio of sophomore bigs to handle the five.

Getting Maye back was key, but expected. UNC reaching their ceiling this season will depend on whether or not their point guard play is up to par. With Jalek Felton gone and Joel Berry II graduated, that is going to come down to whether or not Seventh Woods can handle the lead guard role or if Coby White can step in and start as a freshman.

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.