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NCAA Tournament: Previewing the First Four in Dayton

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The NCAA tournament kicks off tonight, as we get a pair of interesting First Four matchups. 

Here is a look at the games to be played in Dayton.

TUESDAY

No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s vs. No. 16 New Orleans, 6:40 p.m. (truTV): New Orleans is one of the best stories heading into the NCAA tournament. The program was more or less left for dead after Hurricane Katrina, and now the Privateers have a very realistic shot at getting a win in the NCAA tournament. They are led by big man Erik Thomas, who averaged 19.0 points and 7.8 boards per game.

But they are going to get a game from The Mount, who have a pretty cool story of their own. Head coach Jamion Christian took the job at 29 years old, and is one of five current Division I head coaches — two of whom are in the NCAA tournament — to get their start at Emory & Henry. The Mount is led by a pair of talented guards, one of whom, Junior Robinson, is a 5-foot-5 dynamo that averaged 20 points in the NEC tournament.

No. 11 Wake Forest vs. No. 11 Kansas State, 9:10 p.m. (truTV): Bruce Weber may have saved his job by getting to the NCAA tournament, but that doesn’t mean that he’s going to be able to get to the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats square off with John Collins and Wake Forest, and it should be a terrific matchups and an opportunity for the world to get a glimpse at a potential first round pick.

Collins has been one of the most productive big men in the country this season. He’s averaging 19 points and 10 boards on the season, and had one stretch during the year where he scored at least 20 points in 12 straight games. He’s awesome, and I’m not sure that Kansas State will have an answer for him. The problem with Wake is that they hate playing defense. They rank 160th nationally is defensive efficiency, and Kansas State should be able to find a way to exploit that. The Wildcats have really good guard play and some size of their own up front.

WEDNESDAY

No. 16 NC-Central vs. No. 16 UC Davis, 6:40 p.m. (truTV): LeVelle Moton is headed back to the NCAA tournament. The NC Central head coach has spent the last half-decade lording over the MEAC, and it’s about time that he had a chance to win a game in the dance. UC Davis is the Big West’s tournament representative, and it marks the glorious return of Jim Les to the NCAA tournament. The Aggies want to grind it out defensively, meaning it will be an interesting contrast of styles Wednesday night.

No. 11 Providence vs. No. 11 USC, 9:10 p.m. (truTV): The last First Four game is a rematch of a game that was played in the ffirst round of the 2016 NCAA tournament. That game ended with Providence knocking off the Trojans on a buzzer-beater, and you better believe that Andy Enfield is looking for some revenge.

These are not the same Friars as last season. They lost Kris Dunn an Ben Bentil to the NBA, but there will be some familiar faces on USC. Jordan McLaughlin is back, as is Elijah Stewart and Chimezie Metu. USC hasn’t landed many quality wins this season, but they have some real talent on that roster. It should be a fun one in Dayton.

Elite Class of 2020 point guard to reclassify

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Nico Mannion, a five-star point guard from Arizona, announced on Friday that he will be reclassifying into the Class of 2019.

Mannion was a top 20 player in 2020 but, according to 247 Sports, he will be ranked No. 11 in 2019. The athletic, 6-foot-3 Mannion was long-rumored to be considering a move up a class because of his age. He’ll turn 18 in March of next year, meaning that he’ll arrive on campus the same age as a typical college freshman.

Mannion cut his list to ten schools in June — Duke, Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, USC, UCLA, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Marquette and Utah — but Duke and Arizona appear to be the favorites at this point.

Mannion plays his high school ball for Pinnacle High School in Phoenix and with West Coast Elite on the Under Armour Association circuit. He played for Team USA’s youth ranks, but his mother is Italian and, in June, he was called up to the Italian men’s senior national team, scoring nine points in 29 minutes of a FIBA World Cup Qualifier.

Nebraska to lose junior big man to transfer

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Nebraska’s frontcourt depth took a blow on Thursday as junior big man Jordy Tshimanga informed the program that he will be transferring.

“Jordy called me tonight and asked for his release,” head coach Tim Miles said in a statement that was given to the Lincoln Journal-Star. “The University of Nebraska and our program wish Jordy and his family the best.”

Tshimanga averaged 4.0 points and 4.6 boards in 13 minutes this past season, and a source close to the program told NBC Sports he wasn’t expected to play much more than that this season.

Miles’ has spent the better part of the last two seasons on the hot seat, and this certainly doesn’t make his job easier, but with the talent the Cornhuskers have on their roster, they look like an NCAA tournament team already. They bring back their top four scorers, including former five-star prospect Isaac Copeland and potential first-team all-Big Ten wing James Palmer. With or without Tshimanga, Nebraska has a shot to finish top four in the Big Ten.

North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State part of Las Vegas event

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — North Carolina, UCLA, Michigan State and Texas will play in an early season basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Invitational will include games at campus sites, then the final two rounds on Nov. 22-23 in Las Vegas. North Carolina takes on Texas in one semifinal, and Michigan State faces UCLA in the other.

UNC, UCLA and Michigan State are all top 20 teams in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

The championship is Nov. 23, and the semifinal losers also play each other that day.

NCAA to study possible effects of widespread legal wagering

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The NCAA plans to study how the expansion of legalized betting could affect college athletics and member schools.

The NCAA announced Thursday it will create a working group of “subject matter experts” to assess areas such as officiating, NCAA rules, federal and state laws, and the use of integrity services. NCAA leadership has already called for federal regulation on sports betting. NCAA rules prohibit sports wagering by athletes and athletic department employees.

The Supreme Court opened the door for states to have legal wagering on sporting events when it struck down a federal ban in May. Schools in some states such as West Virginia, Mississippi and New Jersey are already exploring the possibility of collecting integrity fees in anticipation of legal sports books opening in their states.

“While we certainly respect the Supreme Court’s decision, our position on sports wagering remains,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief legal officer. “With this new landscape, we must evolve and expand our long-standing efforts to protect both the integrity of competitions and the well-being of student-athletes.”

The NCAA Board of Governors has already suspended the association’s ban on holding championships in states with legalized sports betting, a policy that only affected Nevada.

“Legalized sports gambling across the country is rather new, but the NCAA and its members have committed significant resources over the years to policy, research and education around sports wagering,” said Joni Comstock, senior vice president of championships and alliances. “With student-athlete well-being as the centerpiece, we will continue to build upon these efforts to assist members as they adapt to legalized sports wagering in their states and regions.”

Arizona releases non-conference schedule

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A trip to Maui, a home date against Baylor and trips to UConn and Alabama highlight Arizona’s non-conference schedule, which the school released Thursday, this season.

Despite losing nearly the entirety of last year’s talented-but-troubled group, Sean Miller still scheduled aggressively. The first test will come the week of Thanksgiving in Hawaii at the Maui Invitational. It’s an extremely competitive field with Duke, Auburn, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Illinois, San Diego State and Xavier. The bracket for the event has yet to be released.

The Wildcats travel to Storrs to face UConn in Dan Hurley’s first season on Dec. 2, and then a week later visit Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

The marquee home game will be Saturday, Dec. 16, when Scott Drew and Baylor come to Tucson.

Here’s the full schedule:

Day Date Opponent Location

Sunday Nov. 11 Cal Poly Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Nov. 14 UTEP Tucson, Ariz.

Monday Nov. 19 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Tuesday Nov. 20 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Wednesday Nov. 21 vs. TBA Lahaina, Hawai’i

Wednesday Nov. 28 Texas Southern Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 2 at UConn Hartford, Conn.

Thursday Dec. 6 Utah Valley Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 9 at Alabama Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Saturday Dec. 15 Baylor Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Dec. 19 Montana Tucson, Ariz.

Saturday Dec. 22 UC Davis Tucson, Ariz.