UPDATED: 2015-2016 College Basketball Way-Too-Early Preseason Rankings

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PLEASE NOTE: Fred Hoiberg is off to the NBA, his replacement is on campus, Jamal Murray has committed to Kentucky and Thon Maker is officially staying in high school for another year. I think — I hope? — we’ve reached a point where we can say we know what next season’s rosters will look like.

And with that comes our latest — and final? — installment of the Preseason Top 25. There aren’t a ton of changes, but the top five looks different now than it did before.

1. North Carolina

  • Who’s back: Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Joel Berry, Nate Britt
  • Who’s gone: J.P. Tokoto, Desmond Hubert.
  • Who they’re getting: Luke Maye
  • Why they’re here: Marcus Paige is going to be healthy, the Tar Heels return their entire front line and Joel Berry and Justin Jackson will have a full offseason to turn into the complimentary players they showed flashes of being at the end of the season.

2. Maryland

  • Who’s back: Melo Trimble, Jake Layman, Jared Nickens, Michal Cevosky
  • Who’s gone: Dez Wells, Richaud Pack
  • Who they’re getting: Robert Carter, Diamond Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon, Jaylen Brantley
  • Why they’re here: Getting Trimble to announce that he will be coming back to school is huge, as is the return of Layman, because the Terps are going to have plenty of firepower up front. Georgia Tech transfer Carter and top ten recruit Stone will headline one of the better front lines in the Big Ten, and adding Sulaimon gives the Terps talent at every position.

3. Kentucky

  • Who’s back: Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress
  • Who’s gone: Karl Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, Dakari Johnson
  • Who they’re getting: Skal Labissiere*, Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe, Charles Matthews, Mychal Mulder
  • Why they’re here: The Wildcats get bumped up to No. 3 in our updated rankings. I still have some questions about how this group will end up coming together, but there’s no questioning the talent level. If Lee develops the way many expect him too and if the back court of Ulis, Briscoe and Murray can find a way to coexist, you’re looking at a group that is capable of winning the national title. Not bad for a “down year” on the recruiting trail.

4. Kansas

  • Who’s back: Perry Ellis, Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene, Svi Mykhailiuk, Landen Lucas
  • Who’s gone: Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander
  • Who they’re getting: Carlton Bragg, Cheick Diallo, LeGerald Vick
  • Why they’re here: Kansas has gotten quite a bit of good news this spring. In addition to finding out Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden are returning to school, the Jayhawks will be adding top five big man Diallo to the mix. He’ll had some much-needed toughness and energy to the Jayhawk front line. The x-factor for this team now becomes whether or not Mykhailiuk can live up to the hype he had when he signed with Kansas last summer.

5. Iowa State

  • Who’s back: Georges Niang, Monte’ Morris, Naz Long, Jameel McKay, Matt Thomas
  • Who’s gone: Fred Hoiberg, Bryce Dejean-Jones
  • Who they’re getting: Steve Prohm, Hallice Cooke, Deonte Burton
  • Why they’re here: The talent is still there — Niang and Morris are potential all-americans, and the Cyclones will have plenty of veteran role players available — but the man that brought them all together is not. The Cyclones were never really a good defensive team under former coach Fred Hoiberg, but they were an offensive juggernaut. Can Steve Prohm continue the program’s winning ways, or was Iowa State’s success a result of Hoiberg’s brilliance?

6. Virginia

  • Who’s back: Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, London Perrantes, Marial Shayok
  • Who’s gone: Darion Atkins, Justin Anderson
  • Who they’re getting: Jarred Reuter
  • Why they’re here: The Cavs return essentially their entire roster from the 2015-2016 team with the notable exception of Anderson. Without him, they really struggled to score at times. The key for this group will be the development of Shayok as a potential replacement for Anderson.
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7. Duke

  • Who’s back: Matt Jones, Grayson Allen, Marshall Plumlee, Amile Jefferson
  • Who’s gone: Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow
  • Who they’re getting: Brandon Ingram, Derryck Thornton, Luke Kennard, Chase Jeter, Sean Obi
  • Why they’re here: We’re assuming they get Ingram, which would be a major addition, but the bigger news is that Duke has now landed their point guard for 2015-16: Derryck Thornton. He’s not Tyus Jones, and he’s not going to replace Quinn Cook’s leadership, but he is a five-star point guard recruit.

8. Villanova

  • Who’s back: Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Daniel Ochefu, Kris Jenkins, Phil Booth
  • Who’s gone: JayVaughn Pinkston, Darrun Hilliard
  • Who they’re getting: Jalen Brunson, Tim Delaney, Donte Divincenczo
  • Why they’re here: Losing Hilliard and Pinkston is really going to hurt, but there are two things that make be feel really good about this Villanova team: Hart is going to be an all-Big East player this season, and Brunson is the real deal.

9. Baylor

  • Who’s back: Rico Gathers, Taurean Prince, Jonathan Motley, Lester Medford
  • Who’s gone: Kenny Chery, Royce O’Neale
  • Who they’re getting: King McClure, Jake Lindsey, Wendell Mitchell, Joseph Acuil
  • Why they’re here: With Gathers and Prince returning, the Bears will have one of the best front lines in the country. The big issue for them is going to be their ball-handling. Can Lester Medford handle full time point guard duties?

10. Arizona

  • Who’s back: Kaleb Tarczewski, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Elliott Pitts, Dusan Ristic, Gabe York
  • Who’s gone: Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley, T.J. McConnell
  • Who they’re getting: Justin Simon, Ray Smith, Chance Comanche, Allonzo Trier, Ryan Anderson, Kadeem Allen
  • Why they’re here: Sean Miller is once again bringing in a loaded class, which he’ll need as the Wildcats will likely lose four of their five starters from last season. That said, Anderson was a nightly double-double threat at Boston College and the trio of Simon, Smith and Trier will all be instant impact guys on the perimeter.

11. Cal

  • Who’s back: Ty Wallace, Jabari Bird, Jordan Mathews, Kameron Rooks
  • Who’s gone: David Kravish
  • Who they’re getting: Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Stephen Domingo, Tyson Jolly, Davon Dillard
  • Why they’re here: It was important for Cuonzo Martin to get Wallace and Bird back for another year, as his perimeter attack with Rabb in the middle has the chance to be really dangerous. Adding Brown late only sweetens the deal for the serious Pac-12 contenders.

12. Michigan State

  • Who’s back: Denzel Valentine, Lourawls Nairn, Bryn Forbes, Matt Costello, Gavin Schilling
  • Who’s gone: Travis Trice, Branden Dawson
  • Who they’re getting: Eron Harris, Deyonta Davis, Matt McQuaid
  • Why they’re here: West Virginia transfer Harris is going to have a chance to be a very, very good player in this back court. They need Nairn to take a significant step forward, particularly offensively, but Valentine may end up being the Big Ten Player of the Year. Adding Davis will help inside, but this group would be even more potent had they managed to hang onto Caleb Swanigan.

13. Wichita State

  • Who’s back: Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet, Gregg Marshall, Evan Wessel, Rashard Kelly, Shaquille Morris
  • Who’s gone: Darius Carter, Tekele Cotton, Ria’n Holland, Tevin Glass
  • Who they’re getting: Conner Frankamp, Markus McDuffie, Landry Shamet, Eric Hamilton, Tyrone Taylor, Anton Grady
  • Why they’re here: Losing Cotton and Carter is going to hurt, but with the Big Three — VanVleet, Baker and Marshall — all back, the Shockers will once again be in good shape. Also key for the Shockers is the addition of graduate transfer Anton Grady, who’s just the player they needed with Darius Carter out of eligibility.

14. Georgetown

  • Who’s back: Isaac Copeland, L.J. Peak, Tre Campbell, Paul White, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera
  • Who’s gone: Josh Smith, Mikael Hopkins, Jabril Trawick
  • Who they’re getting: Marcus Derrickson, Jessie Govan, Kaleb Johnson
  • Why they’re here: Getting Smith-Rivera back is huge, as he’ll be the senior leader for a team that had a terrific 2014 recruiting class. Will the Hoyas have enough talent and size on the interior?

15. Oklahoma

  • Who’s back: Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield, Ryan Spangler, Jordan Woodard
  • Who’s gone: Frank Booker, TaShawn Thomas
  • Who they’re getting: Christian James, Akolda Manyang, Rashard Odomes
  • Why they’re here: The return of Hield (and four starters overall) makes the Sooners a threat in the Big 12 along with Kansas and Iowa State. But there is the depth question, and how they account for the loss of Thomas is the biggest key for OU.

16. Indiana

  • Who’s back: Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., Troy Williams, Robert Johnson, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Nick Zeisloft
  • Who’s gone: Max Hoetzel, Stanford Robinson
  • Who they’re getting: Thomas Bryant, Juwan Morgan
  • Why they’re here: The four things that Tom Crean needed to have happen did: He landed a commitment from Bryant, a shot-blocking and rebounding presence around the rim, while getting Ferrell, Blackmon and Williams back for another year.
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17. Michigan

  • Who’s back: Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, Kameron Chatman, Ricky Doyle, Spike Albrecht, Aubrey Dawkins
  • Who’s gone: Max Biefieldt
  • Who they’re getting: Moritz Wagner, Duncan Robinson
  • Why they’re here: The Wolverines struggled last season while dealing with injuries, but they return everyone that matters from last season, have a front line with a year of experience under their belt and John Beilein. I’ll bet on that.

18. Xavier

  • Who’s back: Trevon Bluiett, Jalen Reynolds, Myles Davis, Remy Abell, J.P. Macura, James Farr
  • Who’s gone: Dee Davis, Matt Stainbrook
  • Who they’re getting: Kaiser Gates, Edmund Sumner
  • Why they’re here: We’re expecting Bluiett, Reynolds and Macura to take big steps forward.

19. Wisconsin

  • Who’s back: Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig
  • Who’s gone: Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson, Duje Dukan
  • Who they’re getting: Brevin Pritzl, Charlie Thomas, Alex Illikainen, Jahlil Iverson
  • Why they’re here: You’re going to be the guy to bet against Bo Ryan turning this into a top 25 team? We’re not.

20. Louisville

  • Who’s back: Quentin Snider, Mangok Mathiang, Anas Mahmoud
  • Who’s gone: Terry Rozier, Montrezl Harrell, Wayne Blackshear, Shaqquan Aaron
  • Who they’re getting: Damion Lee, Trey Lewis, Donovan Mitchell, Ray Spalding, Deng Adel
  • Why they’re here: Part of it is loving their freshmen class and part of it is faith in Rick Pitino.

21. Gonzaga

  • Who’s back: Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski, Domas Sabonis, Josh Perkins, Silas Melson, Kyle Draginis
  • Who’s gone: Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, Byron Wesley
  • Who they’re getting: None as of right now (Jesse Wade will be on his LDS mission)
  • Why they’re here: Their front line will be awesome once again. But how will they overcome losing Pangos and Bell in the back court?

22. UCLA

  • Who’s back: Bryce Alford, Tony Parker, Isaac Hamilton, Thomas Welsh
  • Who’s gone: Kevon Looney, Norman Powell
  • Who they’re getting: Jonah Bolden, Prince Ali, Aaron Holiday, Alex Olesinki
  • Why they’re here: There’s a ton of talent on this roster, the question is what Steve Alford is going to be able to get out of it.

23. Marquette

  • Who’s back: Duane Wilson, Sandy Cohen, Jajuan Johnson, Luke Fischer
  • Who’s gone: Juan Anderson, Matt Carlino, Derrick Wilson
  • Who they’re getting: Henry Ellenson, Matt Heldt, Traci Carter, Haanif Cheatham, Sacar Anim
  • Why they’re here: The combination of Luke Fischer and Henry Ellenson with all those talented guards around them is quite promising.

24. Notre Dame

  • Who’s back: Zach Auguste, Demetrius Jackson, Steve Vasturia, Bonzie Colson
  • Who’s gone: Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton
  • Who they’re getting: Rex Pflueger, Elijah Burns, Matt Ryan
  • Why they’re here: Demetrius Jackson has a chance to be an all-american next season.

25. Vanderbilt

  • Who’s back: Damian Jones, Riley LaChance, Wade Baldwin
  • Who’s gone: James Siakam
  • Who they’re getting: Camron Justice, D’jery Baptiste, Samir Sehic, Joseph Toye
  • Why they’re here: One of the hottest teams in the country down the stretch, the Commodores bring back nearly every key piece and add a solid recruiting class to the mix. Damian Jones will be a first team all-SEC caliber player.

THE NEXT FIVE: Utah, SMU, Purdue, LSU, Texas A&M

ALSO CONSIDERED: Butler, Cincinnati, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, N.C. State, Oregon, San Diego State, UConn

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.