The NCAA has finally released the bracket for the Preseason NIT, the last remaining early season tournament that is truly a 16 team tournament. Where as most events guarantee the pod host — one of the four high-profile teams in the event — a spot in the semifinals, the programs partaking in the NIT have to earn their way to Madison Square Garden.
First and foremost, here is the bracket:
The matchup that everyone will be rooting for is a final between Duke and Arizona on the Friday after Thanksgiving, a game that would pit two teams that could sneak into the preseason top five.
It’s no guarantee, however. Arizona will be locking horns with a Rhode Island team that should be much improved this season and is dangerous enough that they could spring an early-season upset of the Wildcats, especially if it takes some time for Aaron Gordon to adjust to the college level.
Duke should be able to make their way out of their pod, where they will likely faceoff with Alabama in the semifinals. The Crimson Tide lost some talent this offseason, with Trevor Lacey and Devonta Pollard no longer a part of the program, but with Trever Releford leading a veteran back court, Anthony Grant’s club shouldn’t be a pushover.
But they may also get knocked off before they can even reach MSG, as Georgia State is a team to keep an eye on this season in the Sun Belt. RJ Hunter averaged 17.5 points as a freshman, and in addition to returning their two other double-figure scorers, the Panthers will also add Ryan Harrow to their mix. He’s eligible immediately.
Rutgers wasn’t given any favors by the NCAA in their bracket. The Scarlet Knights are going to have a tough season in their first year post-Mike Rice, and they get a good Canisius team, a talented Drexel team and Elon, who should contend for the SoCon title.
Over the course of the next month, I will be putting together NBA Draft Prospect Profiles for our sister site, Pro Basketball Talk, of the most talented and promising prospects from the college ranks.
Today, the first example of those profiles went live. It’s of Deandre Ayton and you can read all of the 1,500 words here. We take a good long look at why he’s the best prospect in the draft and the reasons why he may never actually reach his immense ceiling.
If you’re not into reading, here is a four-minute video breakdown of his strengths, his weaknesses and how he can turn the latter into the former.
Florida State announced on Friday that Phil Cofer has been granted a fifth-year of eligibility by the NCAA.
Cofer is a 6-foot-8 power forward that averaged 12.8 points and 5.1 boards a season ago, shooting 37.5 percent from three and providing the kind of versatility defensively that allowed the Seminoles to play they way that they needed to play.
“I am happy to announce that I will be returning to Florida State’s basketball team next season,” Cofer said in a statement. “I have been working hard, on and off the court, to prepare for another incredible season. I can’t wait to put the Florida State uniform back on.”
The Seminoles are currently ranked 13th in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.
Jessie Govan is returning to Georgetown.
The 6-foot-10 center who averaged a double-double last season will withdraw from the NBA draft to play his senior season with the Hoyas, according to multiple reports.
Govan’s return to D.C. is a huge development for the Hoyas. As a junior, Govan averaged 17.9 points and 10 rebounds per game. He shot 50.8 percent from the floor and 34.8 percent from distance. He went from a nice contributor as a sophomore to a breakout star last season for first-year coach Patrick Ewing.
Without Govan, the Georgetown frontcourt would have been very young and unproven. Now Ewing gets back a major impact player who will not only help the Hoyas compete in 2018-19, but bridge the gap to NC State transfer Omer Yurtseven’s eligibility in 2019.
The Hoyas were surprisingly competitive in Ewing’s first year back at his alma mater, and now has a chance to see an even bigger uptick this season with its anchor in the middle back in the fold.
An ugly episode has reached its conclusion with the University of Missouri paying $50,000 and its athletic director apologizing to South Carolina women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley.
Mizzou will donate $25,000 to Staley’s charity foundation and the other $25,000 going to her attorneys after she filed a defamation lawsuit stemming from an incident last winter when Tigers athletic director Jim Sterk claimed she “promoted that kind of atmosphere” after he alleged that Missouri players were called racial epithets and spit on after a game at South Carolina in January.
“Following a very spirited and intense game I attended in late January between the nationally ranked Missouri and South Carolina women’s basketball teams, I made comments in a local radio interview that were construed to suggest that Coach Staley promoted the negative experiences of racial epithets and spitting,” Sterk said in a statement Missouri released Thursday.
“I do not believe Coach Staley would promote such conduct, and I sincerely apologize to her for those comments.”
The lawsuit, which was filed in February, stemmed from an incident after a Missouri player claimed she had been spit after a loss in Columbia in January.
“We had players spit on and called the ‘N’ word and things like that,” Sterk said on Jan. 30, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I mean it was not a good environment and unfortunately and I think Coach (Dawn) Staley promoted that kind of atmosphere. And it’s unfortunate that she felt she had to do that.”
With Thursday’s announced settlement, both parties are looking to put the incident in the past.
“I accept his apology and I appreciate the contribution of $25,000 to INNERSOLE, a not for profit organization I co-founded that provides new sneakers to children who are homeless or in need,” Staley said in a statement. “I’m glad we can share in support of this worthy cause and I look forward to moving past this with a continued spirited but positive competition amongst our programs.”
A meeting between two of the sport’s most successful programs highlights this year’s slate of games in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, which was unveiled Thursday.
Kansas will visit Rupp Arena to play Kentucky on Jan. 26 as part of the annual event’s sixth year of competition.
The Jayhawks have won three-straight against the Wildcats with two being part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge and last year’s meeting part of the Champion’s Classic. Both teams ranked in the top five of our preseason Top 25.
Another marquee matchup will be defending SEC champ and likely top-10 preseason ranked Tennessee hosting Bob Huggins and West Virginia. Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton will welcome his alma mater to Stillwater with South Carolina the Cowboys’ matchup.
All games will be played on Saturday, Jan. 26. The challenge was split 5-5 last season. The Big 12 holds a 3-1-1 advantage in the event with its teams holding an overall record of 29-21.
2019 SEC/Big 12 Challenge
Alabama at Baylor
Iowa State At Ole Miss
Kansas at Kentucky
Kansas State at Texas A&M
Vanderbilt at Oklahoma
South Carolina at Oklahoma State
Florida at TCU
Texas at Georgia
Arkansas at Texas Tech
West Virginia at Tennessee