Connecticut satisfied with their new home

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When the dust had settled with conference realignment finally coming to an end — it is over, right? — it became clear that Connecticut was on the outside looking in. Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse would all be headed to the ACC with Louisville joining the league for the 2014-15 season. Even Rutgers, the school with little basketball history to speak of, is destined for the Big Ten in 2014. Only Cincinnati and South Florida, along with the Huskies, were seemingly left out in the cold without a home.

Connecticut, the school with three National Basketball Championships since 1999, is relegated to the newly formed American Athletic Conference — a combination of schools formerly hailing from the Atlantic 10, Big East, and Conference USA. It almost certainly wasn’t their ideal destination, but Connecticut athletic director Warde Manuel is satisfied with the conference, he told the Associated Press

I’ve been done (speaking of looking to transition to one of the five power conferences). If my focus is always looking outside this organization and what we’re doing, we’re not going to maintain the success that we’ve had…It’s a business problem. My concern is the stability of UConn, and what we do at UConn. We’re going to compete for national championships.

The business problem Manuel speaks of is not generating the kind of dollars Connecticut would have received from the ACC, as an example, through a lucrative television deal. Despite less money coming in through this avenue, Manuel is confident Connecticut will be able to get creative to bring in money through other methods, such as ticket prices, corporate sponsorships or other revenue generators.

How confident is he? Well, a $40 million basketball training center is already under construction, and plans are in the works for a new on-campus hockey arena — it was announced last year that the Huskies will be joining Hockey East, arguably the best college hockey league in the country — and upgrades to the soccer, baseball and softball facilities.

Regardless of conference affiliation, Connecticut is still very relevant in the national college basketball scene. Whether they are wearing the ACC logo or AAC logo on their jerseys doesn’t change that. However, it is imperative that they continue to play a rigorous non-conference schedule and make routine trips to the NCAA Tournament to maintain their luster.

Added Mike Aresco, the commissioner of the AAC: “I think it’s really, really important for UConn to be able to play at the level they’ve become accustomed to. And while they will have different teams coming in, and a different look, they will be playing a high level of competition, and presenting marquee matchups will be important to us.”

It’s very possible that the AAC becomes a great niche for the Huskies, especially for their football program that proved they could be more than competitive since making the transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2004 — they reached the Fiesta Bowl in 2011 playing Oklahoma.

Granted they will be in a much smaller pond compared to the power five conferences, but perhaps the AAC is a much better spot for football than the ACC or Big Ten would have been. It would have been a tall task to compete against the top teams in the ACC and Big Ten, especially when basketball is the marquee sport at Connecticut.

As Warde Manuel has made clear, the AAC is Connecticut’s home, and excited times are ahead for the Huskies and the other schools in the newly formed conference.

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

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.