If college hoops had the BCS, who would you want in the National Title game?

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Jameis Winston and Florida State beat Auburn for the BCS National Title on Monday night in one of the most thrilling football games that you’ll ever see.

Was it the best ever?

I’m probably the wrong person to ask, but I feel comfortable saying that there has never been a national title game that was markedly better than last night’s. It got me to thinking: if you could pick a matchup for the NCAA Tournament Title game right now, who would it be and why? Our panel answered. You can chime in in the comments:

Raphielle Johnson: Arizona vs. Syracuse.

This would be the ideal title game matchup right now if we were to go with a BCS-style game. Why? These are two of the most talented teams in the country, and they’ve backed it up with results as well.

While Arizona may not have the deepest rotation, head coach Sean Miller does have the pieces needed to attack just about any system they’ll encounter. And for as much as their need for a consistent perimeter shooter has been discussed, they’re still a Top 25 team in adjusted offensive efficiency per kenpom.com. Defensively their work has been excellent to this point in the season, and it helps to have athletes such as Nick Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and Brandon Ashley when it comes to defending. As for Syracuse Jim Boeheim’s team put forth an uncharacteristic performance against Miami on Saturday, which is a credit to the Hurricanes more than an indictment of the Orange. Tyler Ennis has been one of the nation’s best point guards, and forwards C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant have done what was expected of them when the season began. The combination of talent and depth makes Syracuse a logical selection for this game.

Scott Phillips: Kansas vs. Kentucky

I’ll preface this by saying that I want to see the two teams playing the best ball in the country facing each other for the NCAA title, I just hope that it happens to be Kansas and Kentucky because they’re the two most talented teams I’ve seen play this season. No disrespect to the other top contenders that are playing better ball than the Jayhawks and Wildcats, but they don’t boast the type of talent that these two teams possess. Can you imagine the intrigue around the storylines? Wiggins in the title game. Kentucky’s freshmen trying to prove everyone wrong. Embiid vs. Cauley-Stein in the post. Self vs. Calipari. Now wrap your mind around those four incredible storylines for a second and realize that none of the four even intertwined. This would be a matchup for the ages; two titans of college basketball colliding with the best talent in the country on the floor. Hardcore fans, casual fans; they’d all tune in for this one. And it would hopefully be a hell of a game.

Terrence Payne: Florida vs. Syracuse

Personally, after going through the preseason debate of Michigan State or Kentucky for the No. 1 spot, I’d like to see a national title between the Spartans and Wildcats, to have that initial argument come full circle. Even though they played a week into the season. I’m not sure will see a rematch. I’m going with Florida and Syracuse as my ideal national championship. The Gators look the part of the contender as they get players back in the lineup (still waiting on Chris Walker) and as they begin to mesh as a team. The Orange still have key pieces from last season’s Final Four team in addition to point guard Tyler Ennis, who’s playing as well as any freshman in the nation. Maybe I’m wrong, but the ACC-SEC battle seemed to work last night in the BCS Championship Game, right?

Rob Dauster: Arizona vs. Michigan State

There’s been a lot of talk here about so-and-so being the two best teams in the country, and it’s all been wrong.

Why?

Because Arizona and Michigan State are the two best teams in the country, at least right now. That could end up changing if some of these super-talented freshmen turn into super-human basketball players in the next three months, but as of today, the matchup this is the matchup that I would most look forward to.

Think about it: there may not be two better game-planners and in-game coaches that Sean Miller and Tom Izzo, which is saying a lot considering the quality of coaching at the top level of college basketball. Nick Johnson is one of the nation’s best defenders, and he’ll be locked-up with the now-healthy Gary Harris, creating a matchup almost as intriguing as watching two of the nation’s most physically-gifted players in Aaron Gordon and Branden Dawson square off. Brandon Ashley and Adreian Payne will spend 40 minutes trying to out-face-up-game each other, while the key to the game could end up being the play of the point guards (Keith Appling and T.J. McConnell).

You guys are crazy if you don’t want to see this game happen with everything on the line.

Kevin Doyle: Arizona vs. Florida

If Arizona has holes, they’ve masked them well to date. The Wildcats are one of the most sound defensive teams in the country, have a rock solid point guard in T.J. McConnell, a center in Kaleb Tarczewski who is leaps and bounds better than a season ago, and a dynamite wing in Nick Johnson. All of that, and I haven’t even mentioned Aaron Gordon. The X-factor on this team is Gabe York. He has one role: to shoot and hit threes. He has been sub-par in that regard thus far, but if Sean Miller can rely on him for a couple of threes per game, Arizona’s offense becomes that much better.

As for Florida, they may seem like a peculiar pick, but I don’t think we have seen this Gators team even close to their best this season. Remember, they were playing without Scottie Wilbekin and Dorian Finney-Smith to begin the season, and Kasey Hill has missed time due to injury. As good and talented as Kenny Boynton was during his career, Wilbekin is an upgrade, in my opinion. Plus, Casey Prather is better than anyone could have possibly projected this year. Florida hasn’t come close to peaking yet. If we have learned anything about Billy Donovan, it’s to not doubt him in March. Florida has been to the Elite Eight the past three seasons, and this season they make it to the championship.

New-look Virginia back to work after winning NCAA title

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Tony Bennett’s first offseason as a national champion coach has come with benefits on the recruiting trail. His first season at Virginia after winning the title, however, will bring challenges.

Five players who helped Virginia beat Texas Tech to capture the first basketball title in school history are gone, and that’s four more than expected. Center Jack Salt graduated, and guards De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy declared for the NBA draft. Seldom-used Marco Anthony transferred.

Recruiting was already well underway before the Cavaliers won it all, but Bennett said Wednesday the result “certainly can’t hurt and I think it has helped. It validates a lot of good stuff that’s happened in the past.”

Virginia hopes the spoils of those improvements are evident quickly in incoming freshmen guard Casey Morsell, big men Justin McKoy and Kadin Shedrick and junior college shooting guard Tomas Woldetensae.

Virginia opened its summer practice period on Tuesday, and Bennett said he’s not sure just yet who will be ready to contribute.

“Everyone will have ample opportunity, the newcomers, so to speak,” he said. “To say who, you just don’t know. … There are some opportunities out there. So it’s the returners and we can go down the list of the guys we brought in, but I think they’re excited about the opportunity.

“There’s always a learning curve any time you go from whether it’s high school to college or junior college to college or coming from a redshirt to being eligible. … Going up a level and playing in the ACC, for any of these guys, there’s the challenge of the physicality and the level of talent and the speed.”

Woldetensae, a left-handed shooter, averaged 17.3 points per game and shot 47.6 percent from 3-point range last season at Indian Hills Community College.

“We thought we needed to add some experience and a quality player on the perimeter and when he was mentioned and we did our homework and watched film and all those kinds of things,” he said. “His personality came out as a young man of character and we always start there. He seemed wanting to challenge himself at a very high level.”

The Cavaliers were delighted that Mamadi Diakite decided to come back for his senior year after testing the professional waters. And they added senior transfer Sam Hauser, who averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds last season at Marquette. Hauser will be eligible to practice with the team, but won’t be able to play until 2020-21.

Bennett’s offseason included numerous speaking engagements, recruiting, talking to NBA scouts about his players and some time to decompress.

He also checked an item off his bucket list when, with his father, longtime college coach Dick Bennett, he played Augusta National Golf Club, home of The Masters. That, he said, “was amazing.”

Now, it’s back to work.

“I’m grateful for the busy-ness of it,” he said of the offseason. “It means something good happened.”

Four-star forward commits to West Virginia

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West Virginia landed a top-75 recruit Thursday night.

Isaiah Cottrell, a 6-foot-9 forward from Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, committed to West Virginia’s 2020 recruiting class.

Cottrell picked the Mountaineers overs offers from the likes of Kansas, Washington and Arizona, among others. His father, Brian Lewin, played for West Virginia in the 1990s. The four-star prospect continues a promising recruiting trend for Bob Huggins, who landed a top-40 commit in center Oscar Tshiebwe in the 2019 class.

The Mountaineers missed the NCAA tournament last season for the first time in four years as they slid to 15-21 overall and last in the Big 12 with a 4-14 mark.

John Calipari’s new deal at Kentucky worth $86 million over 10 years

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John Calipari and Kentucky agreed in April to what was described as a “lifetime contract.” Thursday, the exact terms of that deal were disclosed.

The Wildcats coach’s new contract worth $86 million over 10 years.

“I’ve said from day one that this would be the gold standard and it has been for student-athletes and coaches,” Calipari said in a statement released by the school. “As I enter my 11th year, I’m reminded it took me 20 years to get an opportunity to like this. There is no other place I want to be. As I look forward, my mindset is what’s next and how can we be first at it for the young people that we coach.”

Calipari, 60, will likely continue to be a source of speculation for other jobs presuming he keeps things rolling in Lexington as he has for the last 10 years, but what Kentucky is paying him will almost certainly be more than any other program – and potentially NBA franchises – are going to be willing to. Calipari’s success, NBA history and ability to always be central to the broader college basketball conversation means he’ll always be in demand, but it’s hard to picture a situation that could intrigue Calipari enough to leave one of – if not the – best jobs in basketball.

“(Calipari) has added a special chapter to the greatest tradition in college basketball and it’s a chapter we want him to continue writing until the end of his coaching career,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “We are pleased to announce a new contract that will enable him to do exactly that.”

Calipari 305-71 with one national championship, four Final Fours and 26 first-round draft picks in 10 years with the Wildcats. He and Kentucky will likely open the 2019-20 season as one of the frontrunners for the national championship.

Michigan State reports violation for Tom Izzo hosting visit for former high school

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Michigan State self-reported an NCAA rules violation for Tom Izzo hosting Iron Mountain High School for a tour while the team was in town to compete for its first ever state title that weekend.

Izzo unknowingly committed the violation — which only occurred because Iron Mountain was competing in the Breslin Center that weekend — and the Spartans immediately gave notice once they became aware of it. Proud of his alma mater for advancing to Michigan’s final weekend, Izzo was merely taking interest in players and a team connected to his youth. The Iron Mountain program toured the Breslin Center with Izzo and toured Michigan State’s locked room while also watching the Spartans practice before their state semifinal game.

Since it was a special privilege for Iron Mountain, playing in an event there, the Spartans were technically at fault for a violation. The fact that Izzo and Michigan State have to report a violation for this sort of thing is kind of ridiculous since Izzo has a natural connection to the team in question. Although Michigan State likely isn’t going to get hit with any NCAA issues from this, it’s the kind of thing that critics come to question about the NCAA’s rulebook.

Former lacrosse star Pat Spencer commits to Northwestern for basketball

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Northwestern landed a unique graduate transfer on Thursday as Loyola lacrosse star Pat Spencer will spend his final year of college eligibility hooping for the Wildcats, according to Stadium’s Jeff Goodman.

A former high school basketball standout at Boys’ Latin (MD), Spencer was one of the best lacrosse players in the country for the Greyhounds the past four years in college. He was selected in two drafts during the Spring. Spencer was taken first overall in the inaugural PLL College Draft while getting taken seventh overall in the MLL’s Collegiate Draft. Loyola remains in the NCAA tournament as Spencer is playing out his senior season of college.

Spencer is passing up multiple professional lacrosse opportunities to play Big Ten basketball for Northwestern. For a stud athlete in a sport to pass up money to pursue another athletic dream is one of the college basketball’s best things to follow next season.

As if Spencer’s background wasn’t unique enough, he’ll be at a Northwestern team starving for an identity since making the NCAA tournament a few seasons ago. By playing in the Big Ten, Spencer will be thrown against Final Four contenders and potential draft picks, which makes this transition particularly intriguing. It’s a cool story to follow this season as college hoops doesn’t often get athletes from other sports playing in such prominent conferences.

Greg Paulus famously went from Duke point guard to Syracuse quarterback as a graduate transfer, but he was leaving the sport to pursue an opportunity to play football. Spencer choosing basketball over a sure pro shot in lacrosse is an interesting opportunity for him this season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can still contribute anything on the hardwood.

(Ht: Jeff Goodman, Stadium)