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College Basketball Talk’s Top 25: A new No. 1, but how far does UNC fall?


Before I get into these rankings, a quick disclaimer: I don’t subscribe to the idea that you have to rank a team based strictly on their accomplishments on the court — that’s the NCAA tournament seeding — but, once the season gets rolling, I also don’t strictly base it on my opinion of a team, either.

I may think someone is great, but if they continue to lose games, it’s difficult to justify putting them in these rankings. The perfect example is Georgetown. I truly believe they are one of the top 25 basketball teams in the country and that, by the end of the season, we will see that. They’re also 1-3 on the season with a home loss to Radford, so ranking them at this point is simply not an option.

I also try to avoid hammering teams for things that happen early in the year, especially in road games. Take North Carolina, for example: They lost a road game to a good, well-coached team on the eighth day of the season while playing without their all-american guard, Marcus Paige. Is that really what’s going to make you drastically change your opinion of them?

The same goes for Virginia. They lost on the road against a George Washington team that looks like the best team in the Atlantic 10 on the fourth day of the season. They need to drop, but are we really going to drop them all that far for what could very well end up being a “good” loss when we start breaking down NCAA tournament profiles?

That’s silly to me.

[MORE: There’s a reason college hoops has so much parity this year]

And it’s also negative reinforcement for the best programs in the country, teams that only need to play road games against the likes of GW and UNI when they’re feeling particularly generous.

It’s tough to play in an opponent’s gym early in the season, especially when that opponent is an NCAA tournament-caliber team. Everyone in the media acknowledges it, just like they acknowledge their love of raucous, on-campus games in mid-November.

You want more of them to happen? Don’t hammer a team in the polls when they lose a tough road game early in the year.

Anyway, here is the top 25 …

1. Kentucky (4-0, LW: No. 2): The Wildcats are the clear-cut pick for No. 1 in the country at this point, although I will say that I think their demolition of Duke was as much a result of a beneficial matchup for Kentucky as it was a product of how good the Wildcats are. Their performances against the cupcakes on their schedule have been underwhelming.

2. Maryland (3-0, LW: No. 3): The Terps would have had a stronger argument to be No. 1 is they hadn’t dug themselves a 14-point hole against Rider. The win over Georgetown looks less impressive on paper than it was in real life.

3. North Carolina (3-1, LW: No. 1): They lost on the road to a good Northern Iowa team while playing without Marcus Paige. Paige’s loss was the most evident when UNI’s notoriously stingy defense geared-up down the stretch and a reeling Tar Heels team was left without a leader or a go-to guy. That loss shouldn’t drastically change your opinion of them.

4. Michigan State (3-0, LW: No. 9): I’m torn on the Spartans. They were outplayed for 32 minutes by Kansas and won thanks to an otherworldy performance from Denzel Valentine. Are they this good or was that a choke-job from Kansas?

5. Villanova (4-0, LW: No. 8): The Wildcats have looked terrific through four games. Josh Hart is emerging as a star, Jalen Brunson has been quite effective while Ryan Arcidiacono is averaging 13.3 points and 5.5 assists with a 22:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

6. Kansas (1-1, LW: No. 4): We’re going to learn a lot about Kansas in the Maui Invitational. Will Wayne Selden take that step forward? Is Carlton Bragg the answer? Will we see Cheick Diallo? I still think they’re a national title threat, but they have as many unanswered questions as anyone in the top ten.

7. Iowa State (2-0, LW: No. 6): The performance against Colorado was worrisome. The lack of depth in the front court is more so.

8. Oklahoma (2-0, LW: No. 10): The Sooners picked up a decent win over an improved Memphis team on the road during the Tip-Off Marathon, but Dedric Lawson exposed their lack of a four-man.

9. Miami (5-0, LW: UR): Miami is the real deal. I’m not sure they’re going to contend with North Carolina for an ACC title — mostly because I’m not sure anyone contends with North Carolina for an ACC title — but I do think they have as good of a chance as anyone to make a run at it. They looked really, really good in Puerto Rico.

10. Duke (4-1, LW: No. 7): Apparently Grayson Allen can only be stopped if he’s being guarded by Isaiah Briscoe. Duke looked the part of a top ten team now that they’ve moved Derryck Thornton into the starting lineup.

11. Virginia (4-1, LW: No. 5)
12. Cal (3-0, LW: No. 11)
13. Arizona (4-0, LW: No. 12)
14. Indiana (3-0, LW: No. 14)
15. Purdue (5-0, LW: No. 18)
16. Vanderbilt (3-0, LW: No. 13)
17. Gonzaga (2-0, LW: No. 19)
18. UConn (3-0, LW: No. 22)
19. Notre Dame (3-0, LW: No. 23)
20. Cincinnati (4-0, LW: No. 24)
21. Xavier (3-0, LW: UR)
22. Baylor (2-1, LW: No. 16)
23. Butler (3-1, LW: No. 22)
24. Wichita State (2-1, LW: No. 15)
25. Oregon (4-0, LW: UR)

TEAMS I WISH I HAD SPACE FOR: No. 26 Utah, No. 27 George Washington, No. 28 SMU

DROPPED OUT: No. 17 Michigan, No. 20 Utah, No. 25 Louisville

High school basketball player collapses, dies at AAU event

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James Hampton, a member of Team United and a senior at Liberty Heights, a private high school in Charlotte, collapsed and died during a Nike Elite Youth Basketball League game on Saturday night.

Hampton was 17 years old.

In the second half of a game against Nike Phamily, a Phoenix-based program that is run by the father of Marvin Bagley III, Hampton collapsed to the floor unresponsive. Trainers at the event began CPR on and administered chest compressions. Parademics arrived within 10 minutes, but Hampton could not be revived.

The cause of death has not yet been released, but this is not the first time that Hampton had an issue. Last spring, at an event in the Washington D.C. area, Hampton collapsed on the court and had to be given CPR.

“He just fell down on the floor,” Team United director Jacoby Davis told the Charlotte Observer. “He had seizures a year ago and I remember (one of the Team United coaches) telling me that, ‘I saw his eyes rolling back in his head.’ I ran on the court thinking he was having a seizure. A trainer came over and said he didn’t know what was wrong. Another trainer checked his pulse. He said he didn’t have a pulse. It got crazy after that.”

RIP James Hampton.

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft

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Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.

Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.

If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Dewan Huell returning to Miami for junior season

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Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.

After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”

A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.

Bruce Weber receives contract extension at Kansas State

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Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.

After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.

Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.

“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”

With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.

Northwestern loses incoming freshman point guard

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Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.

It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.

“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”

Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.

While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.