(Photo by Jon Lopez)

2016 July Live Period: 25 names to know this month

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1. DeAndre Ayton: Everyone should be pretty familiar with Ayton’s name by now, as he’s long been thought to be the best prospect in the class. He’s 7-feet tall with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, the kind of athleticism that Amare Stoudamire dreamed of having and good enough touch to hit threes. The question with Ayton, the prospect, is his his motor and whether he loves to play. The question with Ayton, the one-and-done player, is whether or not he’ll be eligible to play in college.

2. Michael Porter Jr.: An intriguing talent whose recruitment has probably already come to an end. A 6-foot-9 small forward, Porter has the physical tools that should endear him to NBA scouts that love versatile players with perimeter skill sets and the ability to defend multiple positions. His father, a former women’s assistant coach at Missouri, recently left to join Lorenzo Romar’s staff at Washington, where Michael’s brother Jontay is committed.

3. Marvin Bagley III: The Class of 2018 is generally considered to be pretty weak — our own Scott Phillips called it worse than the Class of 2015, which spawned all kinds of “Make American Basketball Great Again” narratives after the NBA Draft — but Bagley is the exception. Not only is he considered far and away the best prospect in the class, there are those that believe he is the best prospect in high school basketball. Period. The 6-foot-10 forward and Arizona native has cut his list to six: Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State.

4. Mohammed Bamba: Bamba, a 6-foot-11 forward that plays his high school ball in Pennsylvania, is probably best known for his wingspan at this point: it’s a ridiculous 7-foot-8. He’ll evoke comparisons to the likes of Kevin Garnett and Anthony Davis given his penchant for playing facing-up and the fact that he weighs all of 215 pounds. Duke and Kentucky are both hot on his trail.

5. Hamidou Diallo: Diallo is widely considered the best off-guard in this class. He’s a typical New York City wing: tough, athletic, aggressive and a joy to watch in transition and in space. He needs to develop his handle and extend the range on his jumper, but that will come with time. His upside is why he’ll be able to pick from any college in the country.

6. Kevin Knox: Knox is being targeted by every program in the country that builds around one-and-done players. A 6-foot-8 small forward, he’s the kind of smooth athlete with a developed offensive game that will have a major impact at whatever program he decides to sign with.

Kevin Knox, Jon Lopez/Nike
Kevin Knox, Jon Lopez/Nike

7. Wendell Carter: Carter, a 6-foot-10, 240 pound power forward that doubles as a top five prospect in the Class of 2017, is one of the most interesting prospects in the class. He skipped an EYBL session during a live period to take part in a class play and values academics enough that the three schools chasing him are Duke, Kentucky and Harvard.

8. Trevon Duval: Duval has slowly climbed his way up the rankings to emerge as the best guard in the Class of 2017 and the best point guard by a good margin. The problem? Duval transferred to API for his junior year, which is the same high school team that Terrance Ferguson played for and the same program that Emmanuel Mudiay was associated with. Duke, Kansas, Arizona, UCLA and Maryland are among the programs pursuing him. But will he be eligible to play for any of them?

9, 10. Quade Green and Trae Young: With Duval’s recruitment expected to be something of a roller coaster, Kentucky and Duke and set their sights on the rest of the point guards in this class. Green, from Philly, and Young, from Oklahoma, are generally considered to be the best of the rest. There’s some added intrigue with Young. A teammate of Michael Porter Jr.’s on the MoKan Elite AAU team, there has been some talk of the two playing together in college.

11-14. Kris Wilkes, Paul Scruggs, Malik Williams and Jaren Jackson
15, 16. Brian Bowen and Jeremiah Tilman: Tom Crean has reached something of a crossroads in his Indiana tenure. He turned a team that looked like it would be a disaster into one of the most popular in Hoosier history, and while he managed to bring back a pair of potential lottery picks in Thomas Bryant and O.G. Anunoby, he lost Yogi Ferrell. It’s not a secret that there is a love-hate — sometimes mostly hate — relationship between the people of Indiana and Crean, and that extends to the coaches and confidantes of some of the best high school players in the state.

There are six players in Indiana in the high school Class of 2017 that are considered elite recruits — Wilkes, Scruggs, Williams and Jackson are all Indiana natives while Bowen and Tilman play for prep powerhouse La Lumiere in Indiana. The question that matters more than anything for the long-term future of Crean’s program is whether or not it is cool for Indiana kids to go to Indiana again. We’ll likely find out with this group.

Indiana guard Yogi Ferrell gets a hug from coach Tom Crean, left, after the team's NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Iowa City, Iowa. Ferrell scored 20 points as Indiana won 81-78 and clinched the Big Ten title. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell and coach Tom Crean (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

17. M.J. Walker: Walker is a 6-foot-5 off-guard from Georgia that is probably going to star somewhere in the SEC or the ACC in college. He’ll be doing so on the hardwood, which is notable because Walker was an SEC-caliber recruit on the football field as well.

18. Billy Preston: Another API product, Preston is a powerfully built, 6-foot-8 forward with some perimeter skills and even more question marks about whether or not he’ll ever move into a college dorm room.

19. Brandon McCoy: McCoy is a 7-footer whose defense surpasses his offense at this point, but his athleticism makes his a priority target and a potential top 10 prospect in the class. Arizona, UCLA, Oregon, Kansas and Louisville, among many others, all have offered.

20. Gary Trent Jr.: The Shaq of the Mac, Jr., is one of the best scoring guards in the class. His dad was known as a bruiser while Junior is an elite shooter. A product of the same high school that produced Tyus Jones, Trent holds offers from Duke, Kentucky and Kansas.

21. Troy Brown: Brown’s an interesting prospect. He’s a 6-foot-6 small forward, but he’s at his best with the ball in his hands as a passer.

22. Jarred Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt is a versatile, 6-foot-7 player that refers to himself as a point forward. He’s a good passer, a good rebounder and can play — or guard — multiple positions. How dangerous is he as a shooter?

23. P.J. Washington: Washington is an undersized four with the standard game of an undersized four: long arms, soft touch and a developed face-up game.

24. Mitchell Robinson: A 7-footer with the length and athleticism to be an absolute nightmare defensively, Robinson decommitted from Texas A&M after Rick Stansbury left only to commit to Stansbury at Western Kentucky.

25. Collin Sexton: A new-age lead guard, Sexton is a scorer and a slasher that is put in the point guard role because he can handle the ball. He’s a borderline top 25 recruit that could end up being a top 10 prospect by the end of July.

Father Tolton Catholic's Michael Porter, Jr. (1) celebrates after sinking a basket and drawing a foul during the first half of the Missouri Class 3 boys high school championship basketball game against the Barstow Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Michael Porter, Jr. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

ACC coaches back idea of all D-I teams in 2021 NCAA tourney

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

RALEIGH, N.C. — Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball coaches are pushing the idea of having next year’s NCAA Tournament include all eligible teams in Division I.

Numerous league schools and coaches released statements Wednesday after the coaches held their weekly call to discuss the proposal, which was first reported by Stadium. There are 357 Division I programs in the country, with NCAA spokeswoman Meghan Durham saying 346 of those are eligible to play in next year’s tournament.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said the ACC coaches are “united in strongly pursuing this” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that led to the cancellation of last year’s NCAA Tournament days before the field of 68 was set to be revealed. Multiple coaches said creating an everybody-gets-in format would be an incentive for schools as they create the safest conditions possible for returning to play.

“This is not a regular season,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “It is clearly an irregular season that will require something different. Our sport needs to be agile and creative. Most importantly, an all-inclusive postseason tournament will allow a unique and unprecedented opportunity for every team and every student-athlete to compete for a national championship.”

Durham declined comment specifically on the proposal in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday. Last month, NCAA senior vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said the Division I oversight committees for men’s and women’s basketball planned to announce by mid-September plans for whether the season and preseason practice would start on time or require a delay due to the pandemic.

Louisville coach Chris Mack said the proposal would provide flexibility during the season without mandating a number of nonconference or conference games to be played. And the league has already experienced that scheduling challenge with football and other fall sports.

The ACC announced in July that it would have each football team play 10 league games – including the addition of Notre Dame as a football member this year – and one nonconference game to be played in the home state of the member school. Those schedules were released in early August, slightly more than a month before Thursday’s UAB-Miami game kicks off the season.

“This is a time to think differently,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said, adding: “After all these players have been through, what better way to reward them than the opportunity to compete in an unprecedented version of the most exciting event in sports.”

College basketball floats idea of bubbles for safe season

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The NBA bubble has held. So has the NHL’s double bubble. The WNBA and MLS, no leaks.

In this unprecedented landscape of sports in a pandemic world, one indisputable fact has emerged: bubbles work.

Thousands of tests, minimal to no positive COVID-19 test results.

So as the NCAA gets set announce its plans for the 2020-21 college basketball season, there are clear precedents and blueprints in place should it decide to go the bubble route.

“It’s certainly viable,” said Mark Starsiak, vice president of sports at Intersport, a Chicago-based sports marketing and media agency, “From a basketball standpoint, I think we can follow those models.”

The college football restart has been scattershot. The season has already started, yet 53 FBS schools have the pads and helmets hanging on hooks while waiting for better pandemic news.

A much more unified plan is in place for the college basketball season.

The NCAA is hoping to start the season in late November/early December, with a vote by the Division I council expected Sept. 16.

A partnership between the Pac-12 and Quidel Corp. to potentially do daily, rapid COVID-19 tests on athletes should help smooth a return to the court.

The question then becomes: What’s the best way to safely play basketball again?

Bubbles may be the answer.

While bubble football would be next to impossible logistically, basketball could fit nicely.

The travel parties are much smaller and college basketball already has plenty of multiple-team events, from holiday and conference tournaments to the NCAA Tournament. Add the effective safety measures of the pro leagues, find suitable sites and bubble basketball could work.

The NCAA is already looking at it, reportedly filing a trademark for the phrase “Battle in the Bubble.” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also said there have been preliminary talks for bubble basketball at the Mohegan Sun resort.

“The idea of a bubble would be a really good idea, just to isolate all the teams who want to play against each other in that bubble and keep things safe, keep away from the public and keep us in our own area where we’re able to play the game the right way and safely,” Duke sophomore forward Wendell Moore, Jr. said.

A big key will be finding the right places to bubble.

The NBA has the ideal setup at Disney World, but college basketball might be better suited to follow the NHL’s lead.

Hockey’s two bubbles – Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta – cordoned off areas enclosing the arena and several nearby hotels. All personnel entering are tested and strict protocols are in place for vendors delivering food and packages into the bubbles.

Similar bubbles for college basketball could be set up at smaller resorts, cities with arenas and hotels nearby, or Division II or III schools with arenas not being used during the pandemic.

The NCAA could set up pods of multiple nonconference teams, conference tournaments could be held in similar fashion and so could the NCAA Tournament.

In other words, basketball bubbles could pop up all over the country.

“Maybe do it for maybe a week or two at a time, playing a certain amount of games and getting retested after you come back or something like that,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. “It’s possible, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Pulling off a college basketball bubble, however, comes with a caveat.

NCAA players are considered students, so academics would have to be part of the equation.

Division I players are already accustomed to doing school work on the road and the majority take primarily online classes. To make the bubbles work, socially distant space would have to be carved out for the players to take their classes and study.

The programs may also have to rethink the size of their traveling parties.

“Discussions about the right amount of tutors or academic staff would need to take place,” said Starsiak, who has operated high-level sports and entertainment events for 15 years. ”

You have to look at, do we need three managers this time around? No, probably not. Do you take two and have a tutor or an academic come with us? Yeah, I think you could. I think there’s a way to kind of combine both things to have some live, in-person resources.”

The NCAA is going to do everything possible to have a basketball season.

The pandemic wiped out the NCAA Tournament last spring and the NCAA collected $270 million in cancellation insurance instead of the $1 billion TV payout it normally gets. A second straight year without March Madness could be devastating.

Bubbles may be the way to go.

‘Father of the Final Four’ Tom Jernestedt dies at 75

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INDIANAPOLIS — Tom Jernstedt, a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame for his contributions to college basketball and the NCAA Tournament, has died. He was 75.

The NCAA said Sunday Jernstedt died this weekend.

Nicknamed “Father of the Final Four,” Jernstedt has widely been credited with transforming the NCAA Tournament into the billion-dollar March Madness it has become today.

“A decade after his departure from the NCAA, Tom Jernstedt’s fingertips remain visible during March Madness and the Final Four,” NCAA senior vice president Dan Gavitt said in a statement. “His innovation and superb ability to develop relationships turned a basketball tournament into a three-week phenomenon that became a global event.”

A former back-up quarterback, Jernstedt worked his first Final Four in 1973 and helped push the growth of the NCAA Tournament from 25 teams to the 68, anything-can-happen bonanza held every spring.

Jernstedt helped the NCAA increase its television contract from just over $1 million to more than $10 billion when he left in 2011. He served as president of USA Basketball, was a member of the College Football Selection committee and was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2017.

“Tom Jernstedt was a humble and unsung steward of the game,” John L. Doleva, president and CEO of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “Under his direction, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament grew into a phenomenon that brings college basketball fans together on a global scale. He will forever be remembered as the Father of the Final Four and one of the most respected leaders in basketball.”

Jernstedt established himself as a team leader despite being a backup quarterback at Oregon from 1964-66 and went on to serve as the Ducks’ events manager. He joined the NCAA in 1972 and spent 38 years with the organization.

“Tom served as a friend and mentor to countless people in and around collegiate athletics, and I’m proud to be among that vast group of people,” Gavitt said. “His legacy within the NCAA and its membership, and his impact on the sport of college basketball, is eternal. We extend our deepest condolences to Tom’s family.”

Aztecs extend Brian Dutcher’s contract 3 years through 2026

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO — San Diego State basketball coach Brian Dutcher has signed a three-year contract extension through the 2025-26 season.

Dutcher signed the deal following one of the most successful seasons in school history. The Aztecs went 30-2, won the Mountain West regular-season title and were expected to be a No. 1 or 2 seed before the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. They opened the season 26-0 and were the nation’s last undefeated team.

“Having spent more than 20 years at San Diego State University I understand what a special place this is,” Dutcher said in a statement Friday. “I am humbled and honored to continue to represent SDSU and Aztec Basketball as its head coach.”

Dutcher is 73-26 in three seasons, the most victories by an Aztecs coach in his first three seasons. He spent 18 seasons as Steve Fisher’s top assistant, including six as associate head coach/head coach in waiting. He took over as head coach after Fisher retired following the 2016-17 season. The Aztecs reached the NCAA Tournament in his first season.

Before that, he spent 10 seasons with Fisher at Michigan. In Dutcher’s first season with the Wolverines, Fisher was promoted to interim head coach on the eve of the NCAA Tournament and won the national championship.

Indiana halts all voluntary workouts

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Indiana has halted all voluntary workouts indefinitely for its men’s basketball, field hockey, men’s soccer and wrestling teams after 14 participants tested positive for the coronavirus this week.

The Hoosiers did not identify which teams recorded the positive tests. The football team, like other Big Ten programs, is not playing this fall. Indiana said 63 positives have been reported from more than 1,400 tests of athletes, coaches and staff since June 8.

“Our athletic program is following strict protocols during these unprecedented times and we strongly support our medical staff as we try and mitigate this issue,” men’s basketball coach Archie Miller said.