Indiana gets the top spot in the preseason AP poll

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The preseason Associated Press poll was released today, and it should come as no surprise that Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers lead the way.

Indiana received 43 of the 65 first-place votes, with No. 2 Louisville (20) and No. 3 Kentucky (2) accounting for the others.

The Big Ten claimed three spots in the Top 5, with Ohio State and Michigan landing fourth and fifth.

The last time a conference held three of the top five spots in the preseason AP poll was in 2008-09, when Connecticut (2nd), Louisville (3rd) and Pittsburgh (5th) of the Big East did.

This is the first time that Indiana has received the top spot in the preseason AP poll since the beginning of the 1979-80 season, a group led by Mike Woodson (now head coach of the New York Knicks) and freshman guard Isiah Thomas.

That group finished the season with a 21-8 record (13-5 Big Ten), but they lost to a Joe Barry Carroll-led Purdue team in the 1980 Mideast Regional semis.

The full preseason AP poll:

Rank School Votes Prev Rank
1 Indiana 0-0 1592 (43) NR
2 Louisville 0-0 1568 (20) NR
3 Kentucky 0-0 1453 (2) NR
4 Ohio State 0-0 1292 NR
5 Michigan 0-0 1290 NR
6 North Carolina State 0-0 1270 NR
7 Kansas 0-0 1210 NR
8 Duke 0-0 1094 NR
9 Syracuse 0-0 1062 NR
10 Florida 0-0 936 NR
11 North Carolina 0-0 904 NR
12 Arizona 0-0 902 NR
13 UCLA 0-0 840 NR
14 Michigan State 0-0 789 NR
15 Missouri 0-0 664 NR
16 Creighton 0-0 622 NR
17 Memphis 0-0 539 NR
18 UNLV 0-0 488 NR
19 Baylor 0-0 486 NR
20 San Diego State 0-0 463 NR
21 Gonzaga 0-0 384 NR
22 Notre Dame 0-0 297 NR
23 Wisconsin 0-0 285 NR
24 Cincinnati 0-0 120 NR
25 Florida State 0-0 101 NR

Receiving votes: Murray State 59, Virginia Commonwealth 58, Texas 46, Saint Louis 46, Minnesota 40, Butler 33, Pittsburgh 32, Saint Joseph’s 25, Marquette 23, Tennessee 15, Oklahoma State 14, Kansas State 12, Georgetown 9, New Mexico 9, Ohio 9, Miami (FL) 8, Saint Mary’s 6, West Virginia 6, Davidson 5, Drexel 5, Northern Iowa 5, Valparaiso 3, Stanford 2, Lehigh 2, Colorado State 1, Oral Roberts 1

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

West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate returns to school

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The nation’s most entertaining shot-blocker is back for another season.

Sagaba Konate, a 6-foot-9 center from Mali, will return to school for his junior season to anchor West Virginia’s defense for yet another season, according to ESPN.

Konate declared for the draft and went through the combine, and while his shot-blocking and intensity shined through there as it did throughout the season, he’s more of a mid-to-late second round pick than he is a first rounder at this point.

As a sophomore, Konate averaged 10.8 points, 7.6 boards and 3.2 blocks. He also shot 79 percent from the free throw line.

So let’s sit back and enjoy what we get to see for another year:

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.