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

(AP Photo/James Crisp)

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.

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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

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.