COLLEGE BASKETBALL TALK TOP 25: Oklahoma or North Carolina at No. 1?

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

There are a number of fascinating conversations to have about the Top 25 this week, not the least of which is who should be ranked No. 1 in the country.

If you subscribe to the idea that losing should automatically drop you down, than it would make sense to move Oklahoma out of the top spot. But consider that A) The Sooners at Iowa State in a building called Hilton Magic because of how difficult it is for opponents to win, and B) Followed that up by going into Waco and totally dismantling the team that had been in sole possession of first place in the conference.

That’s not to say that it’s wrong to rank North Carolina No. 1. They’re still my pick to win the national title. They’re the only team that was ranked in the top eight last week that didn’t lose. They’re all alone in first place in the ACC with their only two losses this season coming by a combined six points, both of which were on the road.

[MORE: The latest NBC Sports College Basketball Talk Podcast]

But that’s just the beginning.

Where do we rank Iowa? They’re the hottest team in college basketball — I don’t even think that’s arguable — but are we really ready to rank the Hawkeyes as high as the top three? What about Texas A&M? Are they truly a top ten team? What should we make of the top two (Villanova and Xavier) in the Big East losing at home this week? Kansas and SMU got pounded on the road. Maryland lost but played their best basketball in weeks at Michigan State who snapped their own three-game losing streak with the win. West Virginia played their worst game of the season against Texas.

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And then there are the likes of Providence, and Virginia, and Louisville.

Don’t even get me started on the back end of the top 25.

My point is that the various rankings that you’ll see for teams this week are going to be all over the pace.

That’s what happens in a year where no one seems to be all that good. Here’s the NBC Sports Top 25:

1. Oklahoma (16-2, LW: No. 1): We’re sticking with Oklahoma as the No. 1 team in the country this week. There’s not shame in losing at Iowa State, even if Iowa State hasn’t been quite as good as we expected this season, and what the Sooners did to Baylor on Saturday afternoon is illegal in 37 states. Here’s the most impressive part: Oklahoma has the inside track to the Big 12 regular season title.

2. North Carolina (18-2, LW: No. 2): The Tar Heels are cruising along in the ACC, although they have yet to play one of the other contenders in the conference. The big question now: Getting Marcus Paige’s shooting stroke figured out. Since he went for 30 points at Florida State two weeks ago, he’s scored 15 points in the last four games while shooting 5-for-35 from the floor. That’s not good.

3. Iowa (16-3, LW: No. 8): Yeah.

I’m doing it.

I’m now all-in on the Hawkeyes, who have started out Big Ten play with a sweep of Michigan State and a sweep of Purdue. Jarrod Uthoff is playing like a first-team all-american, Peter Jok is on a roll right now and Mike Gesell looks like the kid we’ve been waiting to see for three years. They’re tough, they actually defend and they’re not blowing leads this season. Can it last?

4. Kansas (16-3, LW: No. 3): The Jayhawks lost by 19 at Oklahoma State during the week, but they regrouped and came back from an early 12-point deficit in a fairly convincing win over Texas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Something to watch going forward: Bill Self cut his rotation after the loss in Stillwater.

Who got benched?

Cheick Diallo.

5. Villanova (17-3, LW: No. 4): When Kris Dunn is playing well, Providence’s supporting cast is hitting threes and Ben Bentil is playing like he’s Dwight Howard, the Friars can beat anyone in any gym in America. They did all of that to the Wildcats on Sunday. For my money, Villanova is still the best team in the Big East.

6. Xavier (17-2, LW: No. 5): Getting pushed around by Georgetown at home was not exactly a good look, but A) It was just Xavier’s second loss of the season and B) It came on a night where a sophomore point guard with 15 make field goals on the season popped off for 21 points and five threes. I’m not backing off the Musketeers yet.

7. Maryland (17-3, LW: No. 6): The trend of the Terps playing up — or down — to the level of their competition continued as Mark Turgeon’s team was taken to overtime at home by Northwestern and followed that up by giving Michigan State one helluva fight in East Lansing. Consistency out of Diamond Stone and Rasheed Sulaimon will be a key moving forward.

8. Texas A&M (17-2, LW: No. 11): The Aggies are probably the most underrated team in the country right now. Not in the sense that they should be ranked higher than this but in the fact that no one seems to be talking about them. This is a balanced, veteran group that is currently the favorite to win the SEC. Stay woke, fam.

9. West Virginia (16-3, LW: No. 7): The Mountaineers were awful in their loss to Texas at home on Wednesday, but they got eight points in 56 seconds from Tarik Phillip to avoid losing to Texas Tech on the road.

10. SMU (18-1, LW: No. 9): Here’s the question about SMU moving forward: Will they still have something to play for? Their motivation, without an NCAA tournament to look forward to, was a perfect season. That’s over, thanks to Temple.

11. Michigan State (17-4, LW: No. 10)
12. Providence (17-3, LW: No. 16)
13. Miami (15-3, LW: No. 14)
14. Virginia (15-4, LW: No. 15)
15. Baylor (15-4, LW: No. 13)
16. Iowa State (15-4, LW: No. 21)
17. Louisville (16-3, LW: No. 17)
18. Arizona (17-3, LW: No. 19)
19. Purdue (16-4, LW: No. 20)
20. Indiana (17-3, LW: No. 25)
21. Kentucky (15-4, LW: No. 23)
22. Oregon (16-4, LW: UR)
23. Wichita State (14-5, LW: UR)
24. USC (15-5, LW: No. 18)
25. Duke (15-5, LW: No. 25)

DROPPED OUT: No. 12 Butler, No. 22 South Carolina
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Oregon, No. 23 Wichita State

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.

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

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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.”