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ACC Preview: Duke’s back, but what do we make of Miami, Louisville and UNC?

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Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the ACC.

The ACC is not as loaded this season as it has been in past seasons.

Part of that is just the simple, cyclical nature of these things. North Carolina, coming off of a national title, lost five of their top seven players. Virginia lost London Perrantes and enters something of a rebuilding year. Syracuse is in full-blown rebuilding mode after six of their seven leading scorers departed. Hell, even a team like N.C. State likes the kind of elite talent that always gave us hope, and left Wolfpack nation bitterly disappointed, under Mark Gottfried.

But there won’t be a lack of intrigue this season, not with Duke finding themselves right back in the same position they were in last season or with Louisville in a position to make a run at the league title. Throw Miami and Notre Dame in mix, along with reigning champs UNC, and what the ACC may lack in star power in should make up for with drama.


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FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. Louisville should be fine this season, they just need to find their new Donovan Mitchell: In case you were living under a rock for the last week and haven’t heard by now, the entirety of the college basketball world is imploding and Rick Pitino, along with his prized freshman Brian Bowen, was the first casualty of a scandal that could rock the sport to its core.

OK, maybe there is some hyperbole in there, but the truth is this: The Hall of Fame head coach Louisville had employed for the last 16 seasons was fired three days before the start of practice when it became clear that, at the very least, a member of his staff – and likely Pitino himself – orchestrated a $100,000 payment from Adidas to Bowen to get Bowen to Louisville.

What that means is that the Cardinals will be coached by David Padgett this season while playing under the cloud of more potential NCAA sanctions.

Not good.

RELATED: Scandal is business as usual | Proof players have value | Death Penalty?

But that doesn’t change the fact that the Cardinals do have top 15 talent on this roster. Assuming they find a way to maintain Pitino’s principles, this group is going to be very, very good defensively again this season. It seems like they have plus length, plus athleticism and depth at every single position … expect the point. As well as Quentin Snider played for stretches last season, I have yet to be convinced that he is a true Pitino point guard. He’ll have a chance to prove that this season, as Louisville’s success may ultimately hinge on it.

But the real x-factor this year is going to be finding a player to make ‘the leap’. Donovan Mitchell did it last year, going from prospect to producer to lottery pick in the span of what felt like two months. Will that be Deng Adel this season? He finished last year strong. What about V.J. King? Athletic and positionally-versatile wings are something Pitino is excellent at taking advantage, and reports out of Louisville have been bullish on King’s sophomore year. Maybe this is the year that Anas Mahmoud or Ray Spalding finally takes the leap.

In all likelihood, someone is going to for the Cardinals. I’m just not sure who it is yet.

And I’m not sure that they’ll get to February without self-imposing another postseason ban, or if the team will fully gel under an interim coach.

It’s a nightmare scenario, for sure. But Louisville has the talent to make this ending a happy one, at least in the short term.

RELATED: WCC Preview | Perry Ellis All-Stars | Contender Series
Marvin Bagley III (Reagan Lunn/Duke Athletics)

2. Duke is back: I’ll be taking a much deeper dive on Duke later on this fall, but suffice to say, the Blue Devils are going to be the most fascinating team to watch this season. They are the most talented team in college basketball – seriously, their starting lineup will include the No. 1 point guard in the 2017 recruiting class (Trevon Duval), the No. 2 shooting guard (Gary Trent Jr.), the Nos. 1 and 2 power forwards (Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter) and the 2016-17 Preseason National Player of the Year (Grayson Allen). Allen, himself, is must-watch TV, as his talent has been completely overshadowed by the off-the-court issues that have plagued him the last two years.

Then there are the point guard question marks. And the issues with depth. And the concern about trying to shoe-horn elite talents into smaller roles, and whether or not Marques Bolden will be happy coming off the bench for the second straight season.

And that’s before we get into the bigger picture: this is the exact same thing Duke went through last season.

It may be a soap opera, but just like Gossip Girl and the first two seasons of The O.C., I just can’t stop watching it.

MOREThe Enigma of Miles Bridges | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team

3. Miami can win the league: I may be higher on Miami than anyone else in the country, but I think that it is justified. Let’s start with the obvious – the Hurricanes are going to have arguably the best back court in the country. Sophomore Bruce Brown is the name to know (more on him below), and he’ll be flanked by veteran JaQuan Newton and five-star freshman and projected lottery pick Lonnie Walker; Walker is dealing with a knee issue but should be healthy by the time the season starts. Those are three big, athletic and talented guards, and if we’ve learned anything about the Larrañaga era in Coral Gables, it is that he thrives with players like that.

The front court will be a bit of a question mark, but Dewan Huell is a former five-star recruit that should have a big year after playing behind Kamari Murphy last season. If the Hurricanes can find a way to adequately replace Davon Reed, we might be looking at the best team in the ACC this season. Even if they don’t, they can win the league.

4. North Carolina is going to have a hard time defending their titles: I love Joel Berry II.

I don’t see any way that he is going to have anything other than a frustrating senior season.

The Tar Heels have had a terrific amount of success the last two years. They’ve gone 66-14, won back-to-back regular season titles, an ACC tournament title and came one Kris Jenkins buzzer-beater away from winning back-to-back national titles. But that came with a typical Roy Williams team, one built around a big, powerful, veteran front line. With Tony Bradley going one-and-done, UNC’s lone veteran presence up front is Luke Maye, who is more of a stretch four than anything, and their freshmen aren’t exactly considered to be game-changing talents this season. Berry is a winner. He’ll keep them competitive, just not at the top of the league.

5. Notre Dame is the most underrated program in college basketball: No one has a better recent track record of developing talent than Mike Brey. He keeps kids in his program, lets them ride the bench for a year or two as they develop and then unleashes them on an unsuspecting ACC that thought it was finally the year the Irish were rebuilding. With Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson already proven, and Temple Gibbs and Rex Pflueger chomping at the bit to get more minutes, we’re not yet at the Notre Dame rebuild.


Bonzie Colson (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

MORE: 2017-18 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PRESEASON ACC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Grayson Allen, Duke

I can hear you scoffing at this pick from here, but facts are facts. As a sophomore, Allen was a second-team NBC Sports All-American, and we were far from the only outlet to have him slotted there. Prior to last season, he was the NBC Sports Preseason National Player of the Year, and again, we were far from the only outlet that made that prediction. After battling through injuries and the off-the-court distractions he created for himself, Allen had offseason surgery and, according to Mike Krzyzewski, is finally back to being healthy. That should mean that, this season, we’ll see the Grayson Allen we all expected to see last season.

THE REST OF THE ACC FIRST TEAM

  • Joel Berry II, North Carolina: Coming off of a national title, Berry is going to have to shoulder much of the load for the Tar Heels this year.
  • Bruce Brown, Miami: I am the conductor of the Bruce Brown hype train. Get aboard now while there are still seats available.
  • Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame: Colson averaged 18 points and 10 boards for the Irish last season as a junior. Expect that, at minimum, to be repeated this season.
  • Marvin Bagley III, Duke: I’m not convinced he’ll be the best player in college basketball off the bat, but he is a big time talent that fills a role Duke badly needed filled.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • Matt Farrell, Notre Dame
  • Tyus Battle, Syracuse
  • V.J. King, Louisville
  • Deng Adel, Louisville
  • Ben Lammers, Georgia Tech

Bruce Brown (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

BREAKOUT STAR: Bruce Brown, Miami

There are a couple of other names to like in this league – namely Notre Dame’s Temple Gibbs and Brown’s teammate Dewan Huell – but Brown is the clear-cut favorite for me to be the ACC’s breakout star. The 6-foot-3 combo-guard showed flashes of his potential down the stretch of last season, but he may be the best two-way guard in the country and he plays for a coach that has thrived with lead guards that operate well in ball-screen actions. He’ll have to share the limelight in the back court with JaQuan Newton and Lonnie Walker, but there should be more than enough shine to go around for a team that has a real shot of winning the league.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Brad Brownell, Clemson

It’s not often that you see a coach at the high-major level go six seasons without getting to the NCAA tournament and keep his job, but that is exactly what has happened with Brownell. He reached the Big Dance in his first season with the program and, since then, has managed just a pair of NIT appearances. The good news for Brownell is that the success of Clemson’s football team might mean that no one has noticed … yet. Seven years without an NCAA tournament would likely be the nail in the coffin.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING …

The only No. 1 seed from the ACC this season is the Miami Hurricanes?

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT

Watching Duke try to figure it all out. There is an absurd amount of talent on that roster, and while the rest of the country will likely end up with Duke fatigue, the drama that inevitably creates is always going to be interesting.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR

  • 11/14, Michigan State vs. Duke, Champions Classic (Chicago)
  • 11/29, Miami at Minnesota, ACC-Big Ten Challenge
  • 11/30, Notre Dame at Michigan State, ACC-Big Ten Challenge
  • 12/3, Seton Hall at Louisville
  • 12/29, Louisville at Kentucky

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

POWER RANKINGS

1. Duke: The Blue Devils are the most talented team in the conference. Does that mean it will translate to the being the best team in the conference? It did in 2015. It didn’t in 2017. However it does turn out, the presence of Grayson Allen and Marvin Bagley III on this roster will mean that Duke is one of the most talked about teams in the country. So get used to it.
2. Miami: I’m very, very in on Miami this year. I love their back court, I think they have a ton of young talent on the roster, and when you give Jim Larrañaga talented guards and athletic big men, good things usually happen. Remember the name Bruce Brown. He’ll be an all-american and a first round pick by the time April rolls around.
3. Louisville: There are so many question marks surrounding this team, not the least of which is the potential for a self-imposed postseason ban. Given the amount of turmoil this group of kids has gone through in the last two years, I can’t begin to predict what this season will hold.
4. Notre Dame: At this point, we might as well just look at Notre Dame as the new Wisconsin. Regardless of who is on the roster or what the program has lost, just slot them into the top 25 somewhere. The good news for Irish fans is that, this year, both Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson are back, meaning that the Irish look like they will once again be in the mix for the top four in the league. The big question? Will Temple Gibbs, Rex Pflueger, Martinas Geben and D.J. Harvey be enough of a supporting cast?
5. North Carolina: Joel Berry II might end up being the ACC Player of the Year this year, but if the Tar Heels are going to have a shot at winning the league title, they’re going to need that kind of season out of him. With three of their top four players gone, this wasn’t unexpected, but the real killer was losing Tony Bradley. For a program that thrives on pounding the ball inside, UNC will have a real lack of experience – and, frankly, talent – up front.
6. Virginia: This will probably come back to bite me, but I think this is the year Virginia takes something of a step back. The Wahoos lost London Perrantes, and while there is quite a bit of promising young talent in the program, those players – Kyle Guy, Ty Jermoe, Jay Huff, De’Andre hunter – seem like they’re a year away.
7. Virginia Tech: Despite losing Zach LeDay and Seth Allen, I still think the Hokies are an NCAA tournament team. They bring back an impressive supporting cast, get Chris Clarke healthy and add a pair of talented and promising freshmen in Wabissa Bede and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
8. N.C. State: I’m actually bullish on this N.C. State team this season. Just like last year, there is enough talent on the roster – Abdul-Malik Abu, Omer Yurtseven, Allerik Freeman, Torin Dorn, Markell Johnson, Lavar Batts – to make some noise in the league. It’s almost as if the coaching staff put the talent on the roster to waste. We’ll see if new head coach Kevin Keatts can make a difference.
9. Florida State: The Seminoles are a tough team to project. They lose their three best players off of last year’s team, but they bring in five-star freshman M.J. Walker and return a handful of talented pieces. There is also a ton of size up front, as we’ve come to expect of FSU.
10. Georgia Tech: Somehow, the Yellow Jackets went 8-10 in the ACC last season. Josh Pastner returns a pair of talented pieces in Ben Lammers and Josh Okogie, meaning that, for the first time in a few years, there should actually be some expectation for success for Georgia Tech.
11. Boston College: I think BC is going to sneak up on some people. Between Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman, they have one of the best back courts in the league. Throw in Illinois State transfer Deontae Hawkins, and that’s not a bad top three. Depth, clearly, is the issue, but when you’ve won two ACC games in the last two years, almost anything is an improvement.
12. Syracuse: I’m very curious to see how this season plays out for the Orange. After finishing last year 19-15, the Orange lost six of their top seven scorers. Tyus Battle is back and is going to be asked to carry a massive load. There are pieces here – Geno Thorpe is a fifth-year senior at the point, Paschal Chukwu was once a promising prospect, Matthew Moyer has the tools to be good in a 2-3 zone and Jim Boeheim did bring in a promising recruiting class – but this roster looks a lot different than the rosters you expect to see from the Orange.
13. Wake Forest: Danny Manning has been getting things done on the recruiting trail, but to date that has earned the Demon Deacons a trip to last year’s play-in game thanks to the unexpected emergence of John Collins. He’s gone, as is Dinos Mitoglou. This year’s group will have some back court talent – Bryant Crawford, Brandon Childress, Chaundree Brown – and a four-guard group was how Manning had his most success as a head coach, when at Tulsa.
14. Clemson: The Tigers were better last season than their 6-12 ACC record would indicate. The lost six games by a single possession and three more by less than five points. That would normally be a good sign, except that the Tigers lost Jaron Blossomgame, the best player on their roster the last few years. I’m not sure who on this roster would worry me as an opposing coach, but I also think there are enough quality pieces that, say, finishing eighth would not be an insane prediction.
15. Pitt: The Panthers went 4-14 in the ACC last season then lost their top five scorers, including all-ACC talents like Jamel Artis and Michael Young. They were the easiest team to pick in these power rankings, easier even than picking Duke to win the league.

The American Preview Podcast: A team-by-team breakdown of the league

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Rob Dauster is joined by Travis Hines to breakdown every team, angle and story line in the American this season. Is Memphis really good enough to win a national title? How is Houston going to replace everything that they lost? Is Jarron Cumberland healthy? Will Wichita State, Temple, UConn or South Florida make the leap to tournament team this year?

OPEN: More Kansas vs. the NCAA talk.

12:20: Cincinnati

18:22: UConn

23:00 East Carolina

25:00 Houston

31:15: Memphis

44:00: SMU

47:10: USF

50:10: Temple

53:10: Tulane

56:15: Tulsa

58:10: UCF

1:02:05: Wichita State

Jay Wright: Redshirting ‘a possibility’ for Villanova freshman Bryan Antoine

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NEW YORK — Villanova freshman Bryan Antoine is expected to miss at least the first few weeks of the season after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

The surgery took place in early June, and according to head coach Jay Wright, Antoine has been out of action ever since.

“He hasn’t touched a basketball since his last high school game,” Wright said. “He still hasn’t practiced. It’s going to be tough for him to make an impact early.”

Antoine is a top 20 prospect in the Class of 2019 and the crown jewel of Villanova’s recruiting class. The 6-foot-4 combo-guard was expected to compete for a starting spot this season.

Wright added that redshirting Antoine is “a possibility” due to the injury, but that it is still too early to know how long the recovery process is going to be.

“It all going to depend on his rehab. We have to get through his rehab first,” Wright said. “People don’t know, this kid, he knew he had a shoulder problem coming out of high school, but he didn’t get diagnosed with a torn labrum until he got to Villanova. He played with it last year, and then didn’t play all spring.

“It’s reconstructive shoulder surgery. We have to see how the rehab goes, then get him back on the court and see how much this layoff has affected him.”

Antoine is not expected back onto the practice floor until “mid or late November,” Wright said. “Then we’re going to have to see how he does, get him in shape, see how he picks things up. Our other freshmen have been there all summer. He’s been there too, but he hasn’t been able to do anything.”

AAC Season Preview: Power rankings, preseason awards, and is Memphis the best team in the league?

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Beginning in October and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2019-20 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the American.


The American is in an interesting spot this season.

On the one hand, there may not have been a more hyped or visible program this offseason than Memphis. On the other hand, it feels like every good team in the league is in something of a rebuilding year while this will be the last season that UConn is a member of the conference.

The basketball gods don’t give with both hands, I guess.

Here is your American Athletic Conference season preview.

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. PENNY HAS THAT THING ROLLING IN MEMPHIS

For my money, Memphis is the most interesting story in college basketball this season.

Penny Hardaway, who would have gone down as one of the sport’s all-time greats had he stayed healthy, returns home to the city he grew up in and the school he played for to bring in the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class and turn the Tigers into a recruiting destination on par with Duke, Kentucky and Kansas. Now, with a potential No. 1 pick in James Wiseman starting at center, he will be coaching a team that is the southern version of the Fab Five. He’s reinvigorated a maniacal fanbase that was left dormant thanks to the stewardship of Josh Pastner and Tubby Smith and, in the process, proclaimed that Memphis will win a national title while picking fights with in-state rival Rick Barnes.

The Tigers are a circus is the best kind of way, and I cannot wait to see the fireworks that come this season.

In terms of the actual product on the court, I’m a little bit more worried than most.

Starting five freshmen is never easy, and while the Tigers do have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, it’s different than the typical No. 1 recruiting class. Memphis landed Wiseman and fellow five-star Precious Achiuwa, but the other five guys in the class project more as two or three year players in college. This isn’t like they are bringing in four top 15 prospects, like Duke has done each of the last two years. And while Memphis does have three players returning from last season, one of those three plays essentially the same position as Wiseman and the other two are 5-foot-9 point guards that are going to be fighting for the minutes that Damian Baugh and Boogie Ellis don’t play.

Put another way, the talent and potential is there for Memphis to be a top five team that makes a deep run in March.

But as we have seen with teams that are as young as this Memphis team, trusting 18 and 19-year olds in their first season of college hoops is never a sure thing.

2. CINCINNATI ENTERS A NEW ERA UNDER JOHN BRANNEN

There are six teams in college basketball that have been to the last nine NCAA tournaments – Duke, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Kansas, Michigan State …

And Cincinnati.

That’s what John Brannen is walking into. That’s what Mick Cronin built at Cincinnati, and remember, when he took over, it wasn’t a smooth transition from Bobby Huggins. He got the job after Huggins had his falling out, and when Cronin took the job, there was one player there. He had to recruit football players just to field a team.

I have respect for what Brannen has been able to do as a coach. He went to two NCAA tournaments in four years with a program that has been Division I for seven seasons. That’s amazing. But replacing Cronin at Cincinnati is not going to be easy, especially when Cronin had built a culture within the program that Brannen may or may not be able to replicate. Cincinnati ran itself, in a sense, under Cronin, and with just five players coming back after a series of transfers in the offseason, it’s not going to be easy.

The good news is that a (hopefully healthy) Jarron Cumberland returns to lead the way, and he is the best player in the conference. Throw in his cousin, Jaevin, and guys like Keith Williams and Tre Scott, and there are pieces for Brannen to work with.

It’s a new era, but it should once again be a successful era for Bearcat basketball.

Jarron Cumberland (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

3. WICHITA STATE AND HOUSTON HAVE NOT ENTERED NEW ERAS, AND THAT IS A GOOD THING

At this point, I’ll bet on Wichita State and Houston because Gregg Marshall and Kelvin Sampson have never given me a reason to do anything else.

We thought the Shockers were going to be dreadful last season. After a slow start with a young team, they won nine of their last 11 and 14 of their last 18 games, including road trips to Furman, Clemson and Indiana in the NIT. Houston lost Rob Gray and then went out and fielded a top 12 team in college basketball. Both lose some incredibly important pieces this offseason, but what matters more than anything is that they kept the guys in charge. Marshall still hasn’t gotten a job offer he’s willing to leave for, and Sampson was given a massive deal by the Cougars to keep him from heading to Arkansas.

Yes, there are players I think are in line for big seasons at both schools. Dexter Dennis, Erik Stevenson and Jaime Echenique are going to make a lot of noise, while DeJon Jarreau is going to be this year’s breakout star in the league.

But none of that would be relevant if the guys calling the plays had left.

4. USF IS GOING TO BE REALLY GOOD, AND THAT IS NOT A JOKE

I am in on the Bulls this season.

After winning 24 games last season, they return eight of their top nine players. There’s an argument to be made that USF has the best backcourt in the conference with LaQuincy Rideau and David Collins. There’s an argument to be made that Alexis Yetna will have a breakout sophomore season. Hell, I can make a pretty strong argument that USF can will the AAC this season.

I don’t think they are going to be quite that good, but I do think they have a very real chance to finish top four, especially if Cincinnati can’t get healthy.

5. THIS IS UCONN’S SWAN SONG IN THE AMERICAN

The Huskies are headed back to the Big East.

Starting with the 2020-21 season, UConn will be back in the conference that it helped launch. That is a good thing for the UConn program – playing Villanova, Georgetown and Providence every year is certainly going to be more appealing to the Husky fan base than playing Tulsa, Tulane and East Carolina – but it is not necessarily a good thing for the AAC.

Say what you will about what UConn has become since Jim Calhoun retired, but this is still a basketball program that has national appeal, a coach that has proven he can have success coaching in the Northeast and two national titles to their name in the last eight seasons. That’s a big loss for a league that seems to constantly be fighting for relevance in the national landscape of the sport.

Dan Hurley (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

PRESEASON AAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: JARRON CUMBERLAND, Cincinnati

This pick had something of a wrench thrown in it when Cincinnati head coach John Brannen came out last week and told reporters that Cumberland has yet to practice this season as he is dealing with a foot injury. He gave no timetable for a return and did not provide any specifics as to what the injury is.

If Cumberland is healthy, he will be the best player in the conference. His ability to score and create on a roster that is going to have a number of new faces this season is going to be incredibly valuable. He will be the rock that Brannen uses to anchor everything that he wants to run offensively.

If he’s healthy.

Here’s to hoping that he’ll be back on the court sooner rather than later.

THE REST OF THE ALL-AAC FIRST TEAM

  • LAQUINCY RIDEAU, USF: Rideau was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year a season ago, and he’ll be back as the anchor of a Bulls team that is a sneaky bet to finish the year in the top 25.
  • QUINTON ROSE, Temple: With Shizz Alston gone, Rose is going to step into a much larger role for the Owls in their first season under new head coach Aaron McKie.
  • DEJON JARREAU, Houston: Jarreau is going to be this year’s breakout star in the AAC. More on him in a minute.
  • JAMES WISEMAN, Memphis: Wiseman is the No. 1 recruit in the country and the kind of talent that should thrive while playing in Penny Hardaway’s uptempo offense.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • ALTERIQUE GILBERT, UConn
  • DAVID COLLINS, USF
  • NATE PIERRE-LOUIS, Temple
  • PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, Memphis
  • JAIME ECHENIQUE, Wichita State
DeJon Jarreau (Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

BREAKOUT STAR: DeJon Jarreau, Houston

Jarreau is going to be a name that a lot of people know by come February. One time a top 75 prospect, Jarreau originally enrolled at UMass before transferring to Houston. Last season was his first year as a member of the Cougars, and while he only managed 18 minutes a game while playing in Houston’s loaded backcourt, he was really productive in those limited minutes. Jarreau finished second on the team at 19.3 points-per-40 minutes and led the Cougars with 7.4 assists-per-40 minutes.

This year, he’s going to be stepping into a much bigger role. Corey Davis, Armoni Brooks and Galen Robinson all graduate. Those are the three guards that were above him in the program’s pecking order. He has the talent, he’s shown he can produce and now he will get the opportunity to have things run through him. Even with Quentin Grimes eligible, I think Jarreau will be the guy that we are all talking about with this team.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Tim Jankovich, SMU

When Jankovich got the SMU job, they were coming off of three straight seasons where the program had won more than 25 games under Larry Brown. In his first season as the head coach, the Mustangs went 30-5 with three NBA players on the roster and won the AAC regular season and tournament titles.

This year, SMU is projected to finish 10th in the league. They lost their two best players from a team that went 14-16 overall and lost nine of their last ten in AAC play. It’s doesn’t seem that long ago that SMU was the trendy team in Texas. Now, they aren’t even the trendy team in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING …

We should have listened to Rob when he said Memphis was going to be a No. 6 seed in the tournament.

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT …

Seeing how Kelvin Sampson can work his magic and make Houston the best team in the American.

Again.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR

  • 11/6, Cincinnati at No. 25 Ohio State
  • 11/12, No. 21 Memphis at No. 12 Oregon
  • 11/28, No. 21 Memphis vs. N.C. State
  • 12/7, Cincinnati at No. 18 Xavier
  • 12/14, No. 21 Memphis at No. 23 Tennessee

PREDICTED FINISH

1. HOUSTON: The Cougars lose their three best perimeter players this offseason, but I’m still in on Kelvin Sampson’s group as the favorite to win the conference. Remember, we had these same questions about the Cougars after they lost Rob Gray, and all that happened was that Sampson put together a top 15 team this past season. The key, other than getting Quentin Grimes eligible, will be how much DeJon Jarreau improves. I’m expecting a big season out of him, so I have Houston winning the conference.

2. MEMPHIS: As I wrote earlier, Memphis has the upside to be a top five team this year. They also have the floor of a team that finishes the year as a No. 6 or 7 seed in the NCAA tournament. Freshmen are freshmen.

3. WICHITA STATE: The Shockers lost their top two scorers to graduation, and the guy that we thought was going to be their top scorer this season – Teddy Allen – was given the boot. I still think that the Shockers are going to be a tournament team this year. I am expecting an impressive year out of backcourt Dexter Dennis and Erik Stevenson, and I think Jaime Echenique is in line for a big senior year after an efficient junior campaign playing somewhat limited minutes.

4. USF: The Bulls are going to be this year’s version of UCF. They bring back everyone from a team that won 24 games and took down the CBI title, and while I know it’s silly to celebrate something like the CBI, I do think that it matters that this group got that many more practices in together. I love their backcourt – LaQuincy Rideau and David Collins are going to be trouble – and Alexis Yetna is the kind of player that will have a big sophomore season. I’m in on the Bulls as a tournament team this year, which is not something that I ever thought I’d say.

5. CINCINNATI: I had the Bearcats sitting at third in these rankings up until the moment that John Brannen told us that roughly everyone in the Bearcat program is dealing with some kind of injury. Cumberland is the big blow, but Trevor Moore – one of just five players coming back from last season – missing time will hurt as well. Assuming all of these health issues get cleared up by the time the season kicks off, Cincinnati is a top three team in the league. But when the best player in the conference and 40 percent of the returning players on a team with a new head coach are injured four weeks before the first game, it’s a concern.

6. TEMPLE: Outside of USF, Temple brings back more than anyone else in the league. Losing Shizz Alston will hurt, but Quinton Rose and Nate Pierre-Louis can pick up the slack. It will be very interesting to see how the Owls respond to a change in leadership, as Aaron McKie takes over for Fran Dunphy.

7. UCONN: The Huskies are, at the very least, interesting this season. They lose Jalen Adams, but Christian Vital is back, Akok Akok is eligible and they bring in a pair of talented freshmen in Jalen Gaffney and James Bouknight. With some veterans back in the frontcourt, namely Josh Carlton, there are some things to like about this group. The key, however, is going to be Alterique Gilbert. The former McDonald’s All-American point guard has shown quite a bit of promise during his three seasons at UConn, but a series of shoulder injuries has limited his playing time. If he stays healthy, he’s a difference-maker.

8. UCF: The Knights lose more than anyone else in the conference lost, and when you have to replace the amount of production that Aubrey Dawkins, B.J. Taylor and Tacko Fall provided, it’s never going to be easy. That said, there are some talented transfers getting eligible in Orlando, most notably grad transfers Dazon Ingram (Alabama) and Matt Milon (William & Mary). Throw in Collin Smith and his surefire breakout junior season, and you have a team that is going to be competitive.

9. TULSA: Frank Haith had a tough year in 2019, and that was with Sterling Taplin, Curran Scott and second round NBA draft pick DaQuan Jeffries on the roster. I’m not sure how that production gets replaced this season.

10. SMU: Three years ago, when Tim Jankovich took over for Larry Brown, he went 30-5 and won dual-AAC titles with a roster than had a number of future pros on it – Semi Ojeleye, Sterling Brown, Jarrey Foster, Shake Milton. They’ve won just six conference games in each of the last two seasons, and I have a hard time seeing where they are going to improve this year.

11. TULANE: At the very least, Tulane is going to be more fun this season. That’s because Ron Hunter is as entertaining as any coach in the college basketball ranks. He’s also had quite a bit of success at Georgia State, and while I think he will eventually make Tulane relevant in the AAC, I don’t think it’s happening this year. I will note, however, that the 2017-18 Tulane Green Wave had two NBA players on the roster and a third potential pro transfer to Villanova this offseason. Talent can be had in New Orleans.

12. EAST CAROLINA: The Pirates won three AAC games last season. Two of them came against Tulane, who won zero AAC games last season. Joe Dooley does return two of his top three scorers, but eight players transferred out of the program since the start of the 2018-19 season. There are 11 newcomers on the roster.

Snoop on his controversial Kansas performance: ‘When you pay for Snoop Dogg, you gonna get Snoop Dogg’

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Snoop Dogg pushed back against the idea that Kansas officials were surprised by what happened during his controversial performance at Late Night at the Phog on Friday.

The performance, which lasted more than half an hour, featured pole dancers on stripper poles, money guns that fired fake $100 bills into the crowd and the unfiltered lyrics that you would come to expect from Snoop.

“When you pay for Snoop Dogg, you gonna get Snoop Dogg,” the rapper said on ‘The Howard Stern Show’ on Tuesday.

Snoop also insisted that the school’s response, a formal apology from Athletic Director Jeff Long, only happened because of the backlash that the performance received online, adding that it was a “lie” that he was asked to leave the building after the performance.

“I had the time of my life,” he said. “I hung out with the basketball teams. I just think it was more the publicity of what I did. They had to cover it up. And I respect them. And I wasn’t gonna put no smut on their name and say that they did anything wrong, because they invited me to come do what I do.

“The audience enjoyed that s—,” Snoop said. “I don’t know what the f— they talkin’ about.”

The Hot Seat: Which college basketball coaches are in danger of losing their job?

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The wrench that has been thrown into this year’s Hot Seat list is that the fallout from the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball has not been fully realized just yet.

There are a number of guys at major programs that are stuck waiting to see what kind of punishment the NCAA is going to hand down and whether or not their employers will stick by them when they do.

There are also a handful of coaches that have entered a year where they need to start winning, which puts them on a much more traditional Hot Seat.

So without further ado, your 2019-20 College Basketball Coaching Hot Seat:

WAITING ON THE NCAA

WILL WADE, LSU: Wade is the guy that is in the most trouble here, as he was caught on a wiretap discussing, among other things, “a strong-ass offer” that was made during the recruitment process of current Tiger Javonte Smart. After that wiretap became public, Wade was suspended for a month – including LSU’s NCAA tournament run – before being reinstated a week after the Final Four when he finally met with LSU administrators. At the time, it felt more like a stay of execution rather than a show of faith. Joe Alleva, the LSU AD at the time, said Wade was going to be reinstated “absent actual evidence of wrongdoing.”

BILL SELF, Kansas: Kansas is going to fight tooth and nail against the allegations levied by the NCAA in the Notice of Allegations that was served last month, but that doesn’t change the fact that Self and company were hit with multiple Level I violations. It’s tough for me to envision a scenario where Self is actually fired, but there’s a chance that the two parties could end up parting ways one way or another by the end of the season.

SEAN MILLER, Arizona: Miller was in more trouble last year, when it was unclear what was actually on FBI wiretaps and what would get played in open court. But now that he’s made it through all of the trials, and now that the perceived stability in the program has led five-star prospects back to Tucson, Miller seems relatively safe. If Arizona has stood by him for this long, would they really cut bait when the Notice of Allegations arrives?

BRUCE PEARL, Auburn: This one is tricky. Pearl has a history with the NCAA, we all know this, and that may end up being relevant when the NCAA decides to hand down punishments for what happened in his program. Violations were committed by Chuck Person in Pearl’s program, which means he can be hit with a head coach responsibility charge. The bigger concern, and the weirdest part of this story, is that Auburn may or may not have self-imposed recruiting sanctions that they may or may not have actually adhered to.

ANDY ENFIELD, USC: Enfield has mostly managed to remain out of the headlines during this scandal, and the fact that he is recruiting as well as he ever has at USC should tell you all you need to know about the perceived stability there. That said, there are going to be violations coming because of what former assistant coach Tony Bland plead guilty to, and USC does have a history with the NCAA.

THE OTHER GUYS: Frank Martin of South Carolina and Brad Underwood, currently at Illinois and formerly the head coach at Oklahoma State, both could find themselves dealing with a head coach responsibility charge based on the actions of Lamont Evans. He was on staff at both South Carolina and Oklahoma State during the time that the FBI was investigating. Creighton’s Greg McDermott is also going to have to deal with the NCAA as a result of former assistant Preston Murphy’s association with ex-runner Christian Dawkins.

(Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

THE TRADITIONAL HOT SEAT

DANNY MANNING, Wake Forest: It was less than two years ago, after Manning made his first NCAA tournament as the head coach at Wake Forest, that he was given a contract extension through the 2024-25 season. Since then, he’s posted back-to-back seasons with 11 wins and a 4-14 record in the ACC. Overall, he is 65-93 in five seasons in Winston-Salem with a 24-66 record in the league. It’s bad. The problem? Manning’s contract is reportedly fully-guaranteed through 2025, which means that Wake Forest will be on the hook for the roughly $15 million buyout at end of season.

Yeah.

It’s bad.

JOSH PASTNER, Georgia Tech: Pastner is heading into his fourth season at Georgia Tech, and he has yet to make an NCAA tournament, posting a 48-53 record. He’s won between six and eight league games each year at the school. He won’t be making the tournament this year either, as his program was banned from postseason play due to violations that were committed on his watch.

Back in 2017, Pastner signed a contract extension through 2022-23. The deal is fully guaranteed if he is fired before the end of the 2020-21 season, meaning that Georgia Tech would be on the hook for almost $7 million if they were to part ways with Pastner.

JIM CHRISTIAN, Boston College: Jim Christian missed his window. After a dreadful start to his BC tenure, Christian entered the 2017-18 season with some promise. But despite the fact that he had Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman on the roster, BC went just 19-16 on the season and 7-11 in the league. After another sub-.500 season this past year, Christian is now 62-100 in five seasons. He signed an extension in 2018 that runs through 2022, and he was retained this offseason when AD Martin Jarmond told reporters that he will look to invest in the basketball program and support his head coach.

SHAKA SMART, Texas: Shaka is the most interesting name on this list because he is the biggest name and Texas is easily the best job. His tenure in Austin has not exactly been great. The Longhorns have been to two NCAA tournaments in four seasons – they also won the 2019 NIT – but his record through those four years is 71-66 over and 31-41 in the Big 12. Some of that Shaka needs to take the blame for. Some of it is bad luck. He lost Isaiah Taylor a year earlier than expected. Jaxson Hayes and Jarrett Allen both ended up being one-and-done. Andrew Jones’ battle with leukemia is something no one could have predicted.

Shaka’s contract runs through 2023, and it is fully guaranteed. If he’s fired by the University, he’ll be owed somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 million. That’s a lot of money, especially if they are going to have to pony up another $6 million to buyout that guy down in Lubbock. That does, however, set up a scenario where Shaka could end up leaving for a soft landing, getting out while there’s a chance for him to land a power conference gig before they run him out of the Erwin Center.

Put another way, I think Shaka ends up being the flash point for this year’s carousel. If he leaves – or if he is asked to leave – then things can get really interesting.

(Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

PAT CHAMBERS, Penn State: Chambers is heading into his ninth season as the head coach at Penn State, and he has yet to reach an NCAA tournament. He came close in 2017-18, when his team was one of the last cuts on the bubble and finished the year ranked 19th on KenPom after winning the NIT. His contract runs through 2021-22, but the school has not released the details of his contract. Last season, after losing their first ten Big Ten games, the Nittany Lions finished the season winning seven of their last ten.

TIM JANKOVICH, SMU: When Jankovich signed a five-year deal in 2016 to replace Larry Brown, the Mustangs were the trendy team in Texas. In his first season as the head coach, Jankovich went 30-5 and won the American regular season and tournament titles. But that team had four NBA players on it, guys that were brought in by Brown. The talent level has dropped significantly, SMU has gone 6-12 in the AAC each of the last two years and at this point, the Mustangs aren’t even the trendiest team in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

FRANK HAITH, Tulsa: Haith has been unable to build on the NCAA tournament that he reached in 2015-16 with Tulsa. Last season, the Golden Hurricane finished 18-14 overall and 8-10 in the AAC. He did sign a two-year extension in March through 2022, but it is at a lower salary. Haith needs a big year.

JEROD HAASE, Stanford: This may be a year early on Haase, but this is his fourth season in Palo Alto, and the Caridnal have not really improved despite the fact that he has had improved talent coming through the ranks. He has finished under-.500 in two of his first three season, has a 25-29 record in a weak era for Pac-12 basketball and has yet to finish a season with fewer than 16 losses.

DAVE LEITAO, DePaul: Leitao is coming off of by far his most successful season during this four-year run as the head coach at DePaul. They went 19-17 overall and 7-11 in the Big East, good for a three-way tie for last in the league standings. Things probably won’t get better this season, not with the amount of talent they lost, and the program was put on probation in July. So obviously, DePaul had to … sign him to an extension?