NBC Sports College Basketball Preseason Top 25

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It’s officially time for the NBC Sports College Basketball Preseason Top 25 to be revealed.

A couple of quick notes about how these rankings were put together: Travis Hines, Scott Phillips, Raphielle Johnson and myself all filled out our own individual top 25 poll.

Those polls were combined and voila, the NBC Sports top 25 came to be.

The five teams that received votes but didn’t make their way into the actual top 25 were Providence, Oregon, Rhode Island, Michigan and Virginia Tech.

Drop us a line in the comments or @CBTonNBC if you disagree with any of the rankings.

So let’s get into it.

Here is the top 25:


1. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS

  • Who’s gone: Eron Harris, Alvin Ellis III
  • Who do they add: Jaren Jackson, Xavier Tillman
  • Projected starting lineup: Cassius Winston, Josh Langford, Miles Bridges, Jaren Jackson, Nick Ward
MOREThe Enigma of Miles Bridges | Contender Series: Michigan State | Big Ten Preview

WHAT WE LIKE: We can’t talk about Michigan State without first mentioning Miles Bridges, who was named the NBC Sports Preseason National Player of the Year after making the decision to put the NBA Draft off for a year and return to school. A freak athlete with perimeter skill and positional versatility, he is the most valuable player in college basketball this season when you factor in his skill on the offensive end of the floor and the versatility he provides defensively.

But he’s far from the only weapon that Tom Izzo will have at his disposal. There is Nick Ward, who averaged 13.9 points and 6.5 boards in just under 20 minutes last season. There is Jaren Jackson, a five-star prospect and the perfect fit at the four alongside Ward and Bridges. But perhaps more than anything, the best thing you can say about Michigan State is that last year’s promising freshmen class are all now sophomores.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: Michigan State’s guards concern me. Cassius Winston is a slick passer that was awful turnover prone last year, Tum Tum Nairn is a speedster that doesn’t really do much else and Josh Langford is talented and made perimeter jumpers last year but he must improve on his consistency. Throw in Matt McQuaid and this group is far from bad, but if there is a weakness that can be attacked on my pick to win the national title, this is it.

I’m also curious about how Bridges is going to be used this season. He played as a small-ball four a year ago. This year, he’ll be at the three full-time. He’s good enough that it shouldn’t make much of a difference, but, as we touched on in this story, it’s something to monitor.


2. DUKE BLUE DEVILS

  • Who’s gone: Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles III, Luke Kennard, Frank Jackson
  • Who do they add: Marvin Bagley III, Gary Trent Jr., Wendell Carter, Alex O’Connell, Trevon Duval, Jordan Tucker
  • Projected starting lineup: Trevon Duval, Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr., Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter
RELATED: ACC Season Preview | Contender Series: Duke

Grayson Allen (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: Coach K has the most talented starting five in college basketball at his disposal. Think about it: Duke has the Class of 2017’s top power forward who doubles as the best player in the class and a potential No. 1 pick in 2018 in Marvin Bagley III. They have 2017’s top point guard recruit in Trevon Duval, the second-best center in Wendell Carter and a fourth five-star in Gary Trent Jr. that some rank as 2017’s best shooting guard.

All of that is before you factor in senior and a former second team all-american and last year’s Preseason National Player of the Year Grayson Allen. Coach K has told us that Allen is finally healthy after getting surgery on a bum ankle. They’re still flawed — we’ll get to that — but to me they’re the most talented team in the country.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: I am not convinced that Duval is the point guard that this group needs. He’s a terrific talent, but he’s not necessarily a guy that makes teammates better and he’s yet to spend any time as a facilitator at any level. Think about it like this: Duval could end up being the fifth-best offensive weapon that the Blue Devils will have at their disposal. His job will be to run the offense and distribute the ball, not to shoot 15 times a night.

And speaking of shooting, Duval has yet to prove that he is the kind of floor-spacer Duke will need. Ever since Tyus Jones left, Duke has had issues at that spot, and I’m far from convinced that won’t continue this season.


3. ARIZONA WILDCATS

  • Who’s gone: Lauri Markkanen, Kadeem Allen, Kobi Simmons, Chance Comanche
  • Who do they add: Deandre Ayton, Emmanuel Akot, Brandon Randolph, Ira Lee, Alex Barcello, Dylan Smith
  • Projected starting lineup: Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins, Deandre Ayton, Dusan Ristic
RELATED: Pac 12 Preview | Contender Series: Arizona

Allonzo Trier (Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: The amount of talent that Arizona has on their roster is impressive. The Wildcats will not only roster a preseason first-team all-american and a guy that could potentially lead all of high-major basketball in scoring in Allonzo Trier, they will pair him with freshman big man Deandre Ayton, who just so happens to be the potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Rawle Alkins is back – battling a foot injury, but still back – and Emmanuel Akot, Brandon Randolph, Ira Lee and Alex Barcello round out a very good recruiting class.

But there’s more than just talent here. Arizona will likely be starting a senior at the point in Parker Jackson-Cartwright and a senior at center in Dusan Ristic. More than any other team near the top of the polls, Arizona can blend elite talent, experience, depth and coaching.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: There are three major concerns with this group. The first is Alkins’ foot injury. He’s a scorer and a high-volume shooter, meaning that implementing him into the team isn’t going to be easy once rotations and roles have been defined. Then there is the question about whether or not Jackson-Cartwright is the answer at the point. Sean Miller has had two tough-minded, defense-oriented leaders running his program the last four years, and PJC has yet to prove that he falls into that category.

The biggest issue, however, is the looming FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Assistant coach Book Richardson has already been fired, another former assistant appears to be implicated as well as two current players on the roster, although they are unnamed. Keep an eye on that.


4. KANSAS JAYHAWKS

  • Who’s gone: Frank Mason II, Josh Jackson, Landen Lucas, Carlton Bragg
  • Who do they add: Malik Newman, Billy Preston, Marcus Garrett, Sam Cunliffe
  • Projected starting lineup: Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Billy Preston, Udoka Azuibuike
RELATED: Big 12 Preview | Contender SeriesKansas 

Devonte’ Graham (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: I don’t just like, I love the Kansas backcourt. Devonte’ Graham is finally going to have a chance to handle the point guard role full-time, and it should come as no shock to anyone if he ends up being an all-american come season’s end. He’ll be joined by a former five-star recruit in Malik Newman, who looks like the odds-on favorite to end up as the leading scorer for the Jayhawks this year. Svi Mykhailiuk and LaGerald Vick are both back while Marcus Garrett and Sam Cunliffe, who will be eligible in December, join the fray.

This group is deep and talented and, if Kansas is going to go as far as the Final Four this year, will need to be the backbone that anchors this team.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: This is a weird roster construction. I’m not sure how else to put it. For a program that has thrived using two-big lineups and running a high-low offense, the Jayhawks, just like last season, has a total lack of depth on the front court. Udoka Azubuike is healthy after breaking his wrist last season, Billy Preston is a five-star freshman that should have an immediate impact on the front line and Mitch Lightfoot is a four-year guy that will be asked to play a role he may or may not be suited for.

That’s it.

The problem is that unlike last year, Kansas doesn’t have a Josh Jackson, a guy they can plug-and-play as a small-ball four. I’m not sure what, exactly, Bill Self is going to do with this group, but he’s going to have to find a way to fill that hole at the four-spot.


5. VILLANOVA WILDCATS

  • Who’s gone: Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Darryl Reynolds
  • Who do they add: Jermaine Samuels, Collin Gillispie, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, Omari Spellman
  • Projected starting lineup: Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo, Mikal Bridges, Omari Spellman
MORENBC Sports Preseason All-American Team | Contender Series: Villanova

Jalen Brunson (Eric Francis/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: Everything about the program? At this point, I’m not sure what else there is to say about Villanova. Their point guard, Jalen Brunson, turned into one of the nation’s best by the end of last season, and there’s no reason to think that he can’t build off of a strong finish to Big East play. There isn’t anyone in the country better to lead a team than Brunson, particularly a program like Villanova.

What I mean by that is that egos are prevalent on this roster. Recruits know that they may not play the second they arrive on campus, but as long as they put in the work and keep getting better, they will be able to fill a role when their time comes. That’s why, despite the loss of Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, no one is predicting a drop-off. Because Donte DiVincenzo is ready for a bigger role and Omari Spellman is improved after a redshirt year. Phil Booth is back, as is Mikal Bridges and Eric Paschall.

As long as Jay Wright is on the sidelines, Villanova’s name will show up at or near the top of every preseason top 25.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: The biggest concern with Villanova is probably a lack of high-end talent and playmakers outside of Brunson. We know they’re going to be tough to defend. We know they’re gong to execute offensively. We know Brunson is going to be awesome. But on the nights where Brunson is taken away and the Wildcats are struggling to find a rhythm offensively, who can step up and get 18-22 points? Put another way, rare will be the night where Villanova’s Plan A gets slowed down, but when it does, who do they go to?


6. WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS

  • Who’s gone: No one
  • Who do they add: Samajae Haynes-Jones, Asbjorn Midtgaard
  • Projected starting lineup: Landry Shamet, Connor Frankamp, Zach Brown, Markis McDuffie, Shaq Morris
RELATED: American Preview | Contender Series:  Wichita State

WHAT WE LIKE: The thinking with Wichita State is pretty simple, really.

This is a program coming off of a 31-win season that earned them the No. 8 spot in the final KenPom rankings, the kind of advanced metrics that spawned dozens of columns about how, as a No. 10 seed, Wichita State was the most mis-seeded team in NCAA tournament history. And that team is, with the exception of a back-up point guard that averaged less than 15 minutes last season, entirely intact.

Landry Shamet is back. Markis McDuffie is back. Darral Willis and Shaq Morris and Conner Frankamp are back. Perhaps most importantly, Gregg Marshall is back.

The only difference …

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: … is that the Shockers are now a member of the American instead of the Missouri Valley. And frankly, I’m not all that worried about the bump-up in league – the Valley is never easy – but I am worried about the difference in travel. Instead of having to go from Wichita to Missouri or Iowa or Illinois for league games, the Shockers will now be traveling to places like Storrs, CT, and Florida. It’s not just the distance, either. Now, instead of getting 3-4 days in between league games, Wichita State will be at the mercy of the American’s TV deals. A Thursday road trip leading into a Saturday afternoon game is not ideal.

But that’s the second-biggest issue currently facing this team.

As it stands, the two best players on Wichita State are still recovering from foot injuries. Shamet should be ready to go by the time the season start, but McDuffie could be out for a month of the season. Maybe more. Put another way, Wichita State is ranked where they are based on the idea that they’ll be back to full strength when it matters.


7. FLORIDA GATORS

  • Who’s gone: Kasey Hill, Canyon Barry, Justin Leon, Devin Robinson
  • Who do they add: Isaiah Stokes, Egor Koulechov, Chase Johnson, DeAundre Ballard, Michael Okauru, Jalen Hudson, Dontay Bassett
  • Projected starting lineup: Chris Chiozza, KeVaughn Allen, Egor Koulechov, Kevarrius Hayes, John Egbunu
Top 100 Players | Top Backcourts | Top Frontcourts 

KeVaughn Allen (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: Coming off of a trip to last year’s Elite 8, the Gators lost three of their top four scorers. Their starting center, John Egbunu, is still dealing with the recovery from a torn ACL. The good news is that the guy they did bring back is KeVaughn Allen, last year’s leading scorer and one of the most dangerous and explosive scorers in the country.

The Gators also add some quality newcomers to the mix. Egor Koulechov and Jalen Hudson are talented transfers that will be eligible this season and provide some perimeter depth, and Mike White did bring in a solid recruiting class.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: Mike White has always been a guy that has played smaller lineups that pressure the ball, force turnovers and just make life an all-around nightmare for opponents. He did that with this group last season, and much of the cause of that success was due to the ability of Justin Leon and Devon Robinson on that end. They were long, lanky, athletic defenders that were switchable and could make plays on that end. They’re gone, and I’m not quite sure who is ready to fill that role.

I’m also concerned about Chris Chiozza at the point. He’s not the defender that Kasey Hill was, and if Florida’s defense, which was second in the country last season, according to KenPom, is going to take a step back this season, that means they are going to need to make strides on the offensive end of the floor. Can Chiozza lead the way offensively?


8. KENTUCKY WILDCATS

  • Who’s gone: De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo, Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, Mychal Mulder, Dominique Hawkins
  • Who do they add: Hamidou Diallo, Quade Green, Kevin Knox, Nick Richards, P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jemarl Baker
  • Projected starting lineup: Quade Green, Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt, Nick Richards
CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky 

John Calipari (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: There’s not denying the talent on Kentucky’s roster. They have eight former five-star recruits on their roster, three of whom spent last season with the program. They have size, they have length and they have athleticism. Even without Jarred Vanderbilt, who is dealing with an injury that could keep him out until January, there is enough potential on the defensive end of the floor to consider this group an SEC title contender and a threat to get to the Final Four.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: Defense isn’t going to be Kentucky’s issue.

Scoring the ball is.

Part of it is going to be perimeter shooting. Simply put, Kentucky just does not have that many guys that can consistently knock down threes. If you’re team cannot consistently knock down threes, you cannot space the floor. It’s that simple.

But beyond that, the Wildcats don’t exactly have a go-to guy. There is no one on this roster that is going to scare opposing coaches offensively. They don’t have a Malik Monk or a De’Aaron Fox or a Karl Towns. They don’t have anyone that is going to be impossible to stop 1-on-1, and it’s going to make them easier to guard. The bigger issue is that they don’t exactly have someone that makes offense easy in critical possessions. When there are 12 seconds left and Kentucky is down by one, who do you actually want getting a shot? That’s something Coach Cal is going to have to figure out. If you’re interested, we went deep on the Wildcats earlier this month.


9. CINCINNATI BEARCATS

  • Who’s gone: Troy Caupain, Kevin Johnson
  • Who do they add: Keith Williams, Trevor Moore, Eliel Nsoseme, Cane Broome
  • Projected starting lineup: Cane Broome, Jarron Cumberland, Jacob Evans, Gary Clark, Kyle Washington
RELATED: American Preview | Contender Series:  Wichita State

Jacob Evans (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: Cincinnati’s front court is absolutely loaded. Gary Clark is one of the nation’s most underrated bigs while Kyle Washington developed into a nice complimentary piece alongside him. Throw in last year’s leading scorer Jacob Evans, and that is going to be tough for anyone opponent to matchup with.

And that’s before you factor in the talent on the perimeter. Jarron Cumberland was super-productive in limited minutes as a freshman, and Cane Broome averaged 23 points in the NEC before transferring to Cincinnati. It’s a step up, and he won’t put up those same numbers, but Broome can clearly play at that level.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: The big question I have is at the point guard spot. Losing Troy Caupain is going to hurt. He was a veteran, he was a leader and he was a point guard. Broome might be able to play that role, but he was a scorer first and foremost at his previous stop. Justin Jenifer hasn’t proven to be a guy that can play major minutes yet, so who steps up for Mick Cronin?

Beyond that, there isn’t much I don’t like here. They don’t have the higher-end talent and that caps their ceiling somewhat, but overall this is just a good, tough, veteran basketball team that is going to be a tough out for anyone.


10. USC TROJANS

  • Who’s gone: Charles Buggs
  • Who do they add: Derryck Thornton, Charles O’Bannon, Jordan Usher
  • Projected starting lineup: Jordan McLaughlin, De’Anthony Melton, Elijah Stewart, Bennie Boatwright, Chimezie Metu
  • There is a lot of talent on the USC roster for now, especially now that Metu, Stewart and Boatwright are all returning. The Trojans will push Arizona for the Pac-12 title if they decide to defend.
RELATED: Pac 12 Preview | Contender Series: USC

Chimezie Metu (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: There is a ton of talent on this USC roster, so much so that their second five might be able to go .500 in the Pac-12 this season. They’re deep, they’re long, they’re athletic and they’re built precisely the way you would expect an Andy Enfield team to be built. The star is … well, I’m not really sure. It might be Jordan McLaughlin, the senior point guard that is criminally underrated nationally. It might be Chimezie Metu, although he might not actually be USC’s best big man. That title may belong to Bennie Boatwright.

Then there is De’Anthony Melton, a potential NBA Draft pick, and Elijah Stewart, a double-figure scorer that could end up in the league himself, and all of that ignores that there just so happens to be a former five-star point guard that is eligible to play this season in Derryck Thornton.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: The biggest issue on the court for USC is going to be on the defensive end of the floor. They have yet to finish in the top 80 in defensive efficiency under Andy Enfield, and I’m not sure that changes this season. But perhaps more concerning is their part in the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. Tony Bland, an assistant coach on Enfield’s staff for four years, has been arrested and two unnamed players currently on the roster were linked to payments made by a financial advisor. Keep an eye out there.


11. MIAMI HURRICANES

  • Who’s gone: Davon Reed, Kamari Murphy
  • Who do they add: Lonnie Walker, Chris Lykes, Deng Gak, Sam Waardenburg
  • Projected starting lineup: Ja’Quan Newton, Bruce Brown, Lonnie Walker, Anthony Lawrence, Dewan Huell
RELATED: ACC Season Preview | Contender Series: Miami

Bruce Brown (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: The guards on this roster are just so talented. Everyone in the ACC should know Ja’Quan Newton by now. He may not end up being an all-american, but he is a very good college player. Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker, however, could end up being all-americans as well as lottery picks. Brown is the more intriguing of the two, as we’ve already seen him have success at the college level and we know that he can play on-the-ball and operate in ball-screens. If Miami wins the ACC – which I believe they can do – he’ll play a major role.

Walker is, by some accounts, the best shooting guard in the 2017 recruiting class, a big-time athlete and scorer that ended up picking Miami over programs like Villanova and Arizona. He could end up being a 15-point scorer. Dewan Huell is the name to watch here, as he is a former five-star recruit and the most likely player to take over a starring role in Miami’s front court.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: The loss of Davon Reed cannot be understated. He was a 6-foot-6 wing with a 7-foot wingspan that was strong enough to hold his own in the paint, athletic enough to defender guards, shot 40 percent from three and could pop off for 20 points on any given night. He was a floor-spacer, Miami’s best perimeter defender and the player that gave them lineup versatility. He let them play big or small. Can Anthony Lawrence – or anyone? – fill that role?


12. LOUISVILLE CARDINALS

  • Who’s gone: Rick Pitino, Brian Bowen, Mangok Mathiang, David Levitch, Tony Hicks, Jaylen Johnson, Donovan Mitchell
  • Who do they add: Malik Williams, Darius Perry, Jordan Nwora, Lance Thomas
  • Projected starting lineup: Quentin Snider, V.J. King, Deng Adel, Ray Spalding, Anas Mahmoud
RELATED: ACC Season Preview | Contender Series: Louisville


WHAT WE LIKE: Rick Pitino was fired. David Padgett is the interim. Brian Bowen will not play for this team.

We’ve known that for more than a month now. So let’s talk about what this group actually has at their disposal, and there are a lot of quality pieces available. Deng Adel, Quentin Snider, V.J. King, Ray Spalding, Malik Williams, Anas Mahmoud. These are all good ACC players, many of then veterans, that fit in well with the way that Louisville teams have played in recent years. On paper, the Cardinals should be near the top of the ACC.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: Well, for starters they have a head coach that has never been a head coach before. So that’s concerning, as is the fact that this is a group that has to be utterly exhausted with playing through scandal at this point in their career. And that’s before we get to the fact that someone is going to have to take a major step forward this season. Louisville needs a star. Will it be Snider? King? Adel? Someone needs to fill that role.


13. WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS

  • Who’s gone: Tarik Phillip, Nathan Adrian, Teyvon Myers, Brandon Watkins
  • Who do they add: Derek Culver, Brandon Knapper, D’Angelo Hunter, Teddy Allen, Wesley Harris
  • Projected starting lineup: Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles Jr., Esa Ahmad, Lamont West, Sagaba Konate
RELATED: Big 12 Preview | Contender SeriesKansas 

Jevon Carter (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: At this point, I’m just going to assume that Bobby Huggins is going to put a good team on the floor regardless of the situation. The names don’t even matter. It’s the system and the coach, and Huggs is going to get the players he needs onto his roster and figure it out from there. That said, Jevon Carter is back for what feels like his 17th season in college hoops and he just may be the best all-around player in the Big 12. Esa Ahmad seems primed for a monster year, but he’ll miss the first half of the season as he tries to get eligible again.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: I’m not convinced that a pressing team has all that high of a ceiling. They rely on forcing opponents to make mistakes, and the one thing that good teams all have in common is that they have good guards and good guards tend to make fewer mistakes than bad guards.


14. NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH

  • Who’s gone: Steve Vasturia, VJ Beachem
  • Who do they add: DJ Harvey, Nikola Djogo
  • Projected starting lineup: Matt Farrell, Temple Gibbs, Rex Pflueger, Bonzie Colson, Martinas Geben
RELATED: ACC Season Preview | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team


WHAT WE LIKE: At this point, I’m fine thinking of Notre Dame as the new Wisconsin. It doesn’t really matter who is on the roster, we can just assume that the two or three years they’ve spent in the Notre Dame program has allowed them to develop enough that they will be able to carry the torch when it is their time. Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson proved as much last season, and now it is time for Temple Gibbs and Rex Pflueger to do the same.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: The biggest issue with this team is size up front. There are going to be times where Colson plays the five for the Irish, and he is all of 6-foot-5, although his 7-foot-2 wingspan and lack of a neck mean that he plays much, much bigger than that. But someone is going to have to be able to provide minutes, toughness, fouls and simply just eat some space in the paint for them. Is Martinas Geben ready to be the guy?


15. XAVIER MUSKETEERS

  • Who’s gone: Edmond Sumner, Malcolm Bernard, RaShid Gaston
  • Who do they add: Kerem Kanter, Paul Scruggs, Naji Marshall, Elias Harden
  • Projected starting lineup: Quentin Goodin, J.P. Macura, Trevon Bluiett, Kaiser Gates, Sean O’Mara
CONTENDER SERIES: Kentucky | Kansas | Arizona | Michigan State | Duke

Trevon Bluiett (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: Trevon Bluiett is back! A potential first-team all-american and Jalen Brunson’s biggest contender for Big East Player of the Year honors, Bluiett was the best player in the NCAA tournament for three weeks last season. Hell, if he hadn’t sprained his ankle midway through league play, he might have won the Big East’s top honor last season. There are other pieces on this roster to be excited about – J.P. Macura, Quentin Goodin, Kerem Kanter, Xavier’s freshmen – but if Bluiett had not returned, the narrative about this group would be much different. Right now, they have Final Four upside.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: The point guard spot is going to be a concern for this team. Quentin Goodin is coming off of a foot injury and is still learning how to play the position at the college level. He was pretty good in replacing Edmond Sumner last season, but he looked like a freshman that was thrust into the starting lineup unexpectedly midway through the season. Eventually, I do think that he will thrive in that role, but will that happen by league play or by his junior season?


16. SETON HALL PIRATES

  • Who’s gone: Madison Jones
  • Who do they add: Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Jordan Walker
  • Projected starting lineup: Khadeen Carrington, Myles Powell, Desi Rodriguez, Ishmael Sanogo, Angel Delgado
Top Lead GuardsTop Off Guards | Top Wings | Top Big Men

Angel Delgado (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: I love the combination of youth and experience on this roster. The core of this team is a group of four seniors that have been building to this for three years. Angel Delgado is so much better than people realize – as in first-team all-american good – while Khadeen Carrington is a potential first-team all-Big East player. Desi Rodriguez can be inconsistent, but when he’s on he’s as dangerous as anyone in the league. That trio with high-level role players like Ishmael Sanogo, Myles Cale and Myles Powell makes for a really dangerous basketball team.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I am somewhat concerned about Khadeen Carrington’s transition to the point guard spot. He’s spent his college career as a guy that is going to attack and try to score, and now he is being asked to change his mindset to be a facilitator, to be the guy that sets the rest of this team up. That’s not easy to do. Carrington is talented, but being a point guard is a mindset as much as it is a skill. His adjustment will be critical to whether or not the Pirates will actually push Villanova in the Big East race.


17. NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS

  • Who’s gone: Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Nate Britt
  • Who do they add: Jaleek Felton, Cameron Johnson, Sterling Manley, Brandon Huffman, Andrew Platek, Garrison Brooks
  • Projected starting lineup: Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams, Theo Pinson, Luke Maye, Garrison Brooks
RELATED: ACC Season Preview | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team


WHAT WE LIKE: The Tar Heels are coming off of back-to-back national title game appearances, but they lose three key seniors from that team as well as Justin Jackson and Tony Bradley. Berry will be a National Player of the Year contender when he gets healthy, and I could make the argument that the experience the rest of this roster gets while he’s out with a broken hand will make UNC better in the long run. Jalek Felton and Seventh Woods will be an interesting battle for playing time.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: This front line is not going to look like the front line of a typical North Carolina team. The best, most experienced player on the front line is Luke Maye, who had a couple of explosive performances last season but who is nothing like a typical, bully-on-the-block big that we’re used to seeing from Roy Williams.

As much as any coach in the country, Williams wants to play with two big men. Will he actually be able to do that this year? His front line consists of Maye and a handful of freshmen that aren’t exactly one-and-done candidates. That said, Cam Johnson and Theo Pinson are, in theory, good forwards for a small-ball lineup. Can this old dog learn a new trick?


18. UCLA BRUINS

  • Who’s gone: Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton
  • Who do they add: Jaylen Hands, Kris Wilkes, LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, Jalen Hill, Chris Smith
  • Projected starting lineup: Jaylen Hands, Aaron Holiday, Kris Wilkes, Cody Riley, Thomas Welsh
RELATED: Pac 12 Preview 


WHAT WE LIKE: Even after losing Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton, the Bruins have a loaded back court, one as talented as any out west. Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes are the prized freshman in that group – and deservedly so, they’re both quite talented – but the star of this show appears to be Aaron Holiday. The sixth-man last season, Holiday is a talented playmaker and the kind of defender that UCLA desperately needs more of. He has a chance to be an all-american this season.

That’s not it, either. Thomas Welsh is a veteran presence up front. Cody Riley and Chris Smith are both four-star recruits that should have an impact immediately, and Prince Ali is a former five-star prospect that is now healthy. There is no talent deficit in Westwood. That said …

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: … the issue that Steve Alford has had since he arrived at UCLA has been on the defensive side of the ball, and I’m not convinced those issues are going to be solved this season. It really is that simply. If UCLA guards, they have a chance to be really, really good.


19. TEXAS A&M AGGIES

  • Who’s gone: J.C. Hampton, Javario Miller
  • Who do they add: Duane Wilson, J.J. Caldwell, Jay Jay Chandler, T.J. Starks
  • Projected starting lineup: Duane Wilson, Admon Gilder, D.J. Hogg, Robert Williams, Tyler Davis
RELATED: Robert Williams on his decision to return to school

Tyler Davis (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: This Texas A&M front line is so much better than you probably realize. It starts with Robert Williams, who would have been a top ten pick in the 2017 NBA Draft had he wanted to be a one-and-done player. Williams may not actually be the best player on that Aggie front line, either, as the newly-slimmed down Tyler Davis might be the strongest player in college basketball. Throw in Tony Trocha-Morelos and D.J. Hogg as floor-spacers, and suddenly you have a group that an compete with anyone.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: I’m still not convinced that Billy Kennedy has found an answer at the point guard spot. He currently has two on his roster – freshman Jay Jay Chandler and redshirt freshman J.J. Caldwell – and neither of them started when the Aggies played Texas in an exhibition; Duane Wilson, a graduate transfer from Marquette, did. As good as that front line is, how much of an impact will they have if there aren’t any guards on the floor that can get them the ball?


20. MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS

  • Who’s gone: Akeem Springs
  • Who do they add: Isaiah Washington, Jamir Harris, Davonte Fitzgerald
  • Projected starting lineup: Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer, Amir Coffey, Jordan Murphy, Reggie Lynch
MOREBig Ten Preview | Contender Series: Minnesota

Amir Coffey (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: Minnesota was the most surprising team in college basketball last season, as Richard Pitino went from the hottest hot seat to putting together a team that earn a No. 5 seed. This group is built around terrific guard play, specifically Nate Mason, a tough and talented lead guard that has been perennially underrated nationally. Dupree McBrayer is more than capable, and Reggie Lynch is one of the nation’s premier rim protectors, but the guy to watch here is Amir Coffey. He’s that versatile, do-it-all big wing that is en vogue in basketball right now. He’s a potential first round pick if he can boost that three-point percentage.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: How is Minnesota going to handle being the hunted this year? It’s one thing to put together a tournament season that no one expected. It’s an entirely different story to do so when everyone in the conference knows that you’re a top three team and a major résumé-boosting win.


21. NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS

  • Who’s gone: Sanjay Lumpkin, Nathan Taphorn
  • Who do they add: Anthony Gaines, Aaron Falzon, Rapolas Ivanauskas
  • Projected starting lineup: Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law, Aaron Falzon, Dererk Pardon
MOREBig Ten Preview

Bryant McIntosh (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: The Wildcats, a year removed from their first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament, bring back essentially everyone from last season. Bryant McIntosh will contend for Big Ten Player of the Year, while the pairing of Scottie Lindsey and Vic Law alongside him is an underrated perimeter. On paper, the Wildcats look like Michigan State’s biggest threat in the Big Ten.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: I’m not completely sold on Northwestern’s front line. Dererk Pardon is good at what he does – getting some boards, blocking some shots, finishing around the rim – but beyond that, there isn’t all that much to discuss. The key may end up being the health of Aaron Falzon, who started 32 games as a freshman and who can space the floor with his shooting, but replacing Sanjay Lumpkin will not be that easy.


22. SAINT MARY’S GAELS

  • Who’s gone: Joe Rahon, Dane Pineau
  • Who do they add: Kristers Zoriks, Malik Fitts, Cullen Neal
  • Projected starting lineup: Cullen Neal, Emmett Naar, Calvin Hermanson, Evan Fitzner, Jock Landale
RELATED: WCC Preview

Jock Landale (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: The Gaels are just so efficient on the offensive end of the floor. They’ve had a top 20 offensive with a top three effective field goal percentage in each of the last two years, years in which this core has been together. They have shooters everywhere on the floor, one of the best big men in the country in Jock Landale and a point guard – and coach – who make ball-screens look simple. They should be the best team in the WCC this season.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: There is a lack of athleticism on the roster, which is part of the reason they have been up-and-down on the defensive end of the floor. There is also something of a concern with the addition of Cullen Neal, who has a reputation for being something of a gunner. But that concerns me less than this: I need to see this Saint Mary’s group prove it before I buy into them as something more than a first weekend tournament team.


23. ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE

  • Who’s gone: Nick King, Jimmie Taylor, Shannon Hale, Corban Collins
  • Who do they add: Collin Sexton, John Petty, Daniel Giddens
  • Projected starting lineup: Collin Sexton, John Petty, Dazon Ingram, Braxton Key, Daniel Giddens
Making A Five-Star: How Collin Sexton went from unheralded to unstoppable

Collin Sexton (David Banks/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: Alabama was the No. 10 defense in all of college basketball last season, according to KenPom, and they not only return the majority of that team, but they add Collin Sexton, who is the best scorer in the freshman class. Sexton isn’t the only newcomer, either, as Avery Johnson brought in a loaded crop of newbies. John Petty should contribute major minutes, as should Ohio State transfer Daniel Giddens, but it’s also worth noting that Braxton Key returned for his sophomore season.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: There are a lot of way that I can see this Alabama season going off the rails, and they all seem to involve Collin Sexton. He is a terrific scorer, but what if he doesn’t perform on the defensive end of the floor the way that Alabama did last year? What if, as Alabama’s point guard, he becomes just a little bit too shot happy? And what happens if a shot-happy Sexton doesn’t get the calls that he got at the high school level?

Perhaps the biggest question mark is in regards to his eligibility. A man that appears to be Sexton’s father attended a dinner with a financial advisor and a member of the Alabama staff, who was paid $10,000 to set the meeting and has since been fired.


24. GONZAGA BULLDOGS

  • Who’s gone: Nigel Williams-Goss, Przemek Karnowski, Jordan Mathews, Zach Collins
  • Who do they add: Jacob Larsen, Zach Norvell, Corey Kispert, Jesse Wade
  • Projected starting lineup: Josh Perkins, Silas Melson, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams III, Killian Tillie
RELATED: WCC Preview

Johnathan Williams (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: There is actually a fair amount of talent on this Gonzaga roster. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Johnathan Williams III are all veteran that have played, and won, a lot of games. Killian Tillie and Rui Hachimura are young bigs with NBA upside. Zach Norvell, Jesse Wade and Corey Kispert look like they’re the core for Gonzaga’s next generation.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: The problem is that we don’t really know if any of these guys are up for the roles they’re going to be asked to play. Melson has never been the starting two-guard. Perkins has been a starting point guard before, but he’s never been the guy. Williams has, but that was on a bad Missouri team. Tillie and Hachimura are prospects more than products and the three freshmen are, well, freshmen.

The future is bright for Gonzaga. There’s a lot of unknown in the present.


25. PURDUE BOILERMAKERS

  • Who’s gone: Caleb Swanigan, Basil Smotherman, Spike Albrecht
  • Who do they add: Nojel Eastern, Sasha Stefanovic, Aaron Wheeler, Matt Haarms
  • Projected starting lineup: P.J. Thompson, Carsen Edwards, Dakota Mathis, Vince Edwards, Isaac Hass
Big Ten Preview | ACC Preview | Big 12 Preview | Pac 12 Preview

Carsen Edwards ( Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

WHAT WE LIKE: Losing Caleb Swanigan would be a major blow for anyone, but the reigning Big Ten regular season champs should have enough left over to weather the storm. It starts with Vince Edwards, who was everything we wanted O.G. Anunoby to be last season. He’s an underrated talent that provides valuable lineup versatility.

Isaac Hass will hopefully be capable of playing more minutes this season, but the guy to be excited about is Carsen Edwards. He was a double-figure scorer as a freshman and played well for Team USA in the U-19 World Cup as well as for Purdue in the World University Games.

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: The depth up front is going to be a real issue for Purdue, as the only bigs on the roster are a pair of slow-footed 7-foot-2 players and a redshirt junior that has played in all of 18 games in his career. But what you may not have realized about this group is that they were far less reliant on post play than you may realize last year. They were seventh nationally in three-point percentage and second in assist rate. Some of that was because defenses had to swarm Swanigan, but this wasn’t just a one-man show.

No. 8 Kansas avenges earlier loss to No. 7 K-State, 90-78

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Jalen Wilson had 20 points, Kevin McCullar Jr. added 16 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 8 Kansas avenged a loss to Kansas State just a couple of weeks ago with a 90-78 victory over the seventh-ranked Wildcats on Tuesday night.

Dajuan Harris Jr. scored 18 for the Jayhawks (18-4, 6-3 Big 12), who built a 12-point halftime lead before coasting to their 17th straight home win over the Wildcats in the 10th matchup of top-10 teams in series history.

Kansas has rebounded nicely from a rare three-game skid that included the overtime loss to Kansas State, and made sure to avoid taking back-to-back losses in its storied home for the first time since the 1988-89 season.

Markquis Nowell scored 23 points and Keyontae Johnson had 22 to lead the Wildcats (18-4, 6-3), who were trying for their first regular-season sweep of their biggest rival in four decades. Nae’Qwan Tomlin added 11 points and David N’Guessan had 10.

In their first meeting on Jan. 17, the Wildcats raced to a big early lead and controlled the game until late in the second half, when the Jayhawks forced overtime — only for Kansas State to win on Johnson’s alley-oop dunk.

It was the Jayhawks who controlled the rematch.

They used a 16-7 run in the first half that included a technical foul on Kansas State coach Jerome Tang to build a 32-19 lead. And when Johnson answered with eight straight points for the Wildcats, and the lead was eventually trimmed to four, the reigning national champs pulled away again down the stretch.

It was 37-32 when Wilson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Zach Clemence added one of his own. And by the time Wilson made two foul shots with about 10 seconds left, Kansas had built a 49-37 lead that it took to the break.

The Wildcats briefly got within six in the second half before the Jayhawks stretched their lead to as many as 16.

OFFICIATING OOPS

Johnson had to sit with two fouls just 2 1/2 minutes into the game. Only problem? The crew of John Higgins, Kip Kissinger and Marques Pettigrew gave one to the wrong player. By the time they corrected their mistake, the Wildcats’ leading scorer had unnecessarily ridden the bench for several minutes.

SELLOUT … AND THEN SOME

For the first time in more than 15 years, more Kansas students redeemed tickets than there was space available inside Allen Fieldhouse. The overflow had to watch the game on screens in the adjacent Horejsi Family Athletics Center, where the Jayhawks play volleyball games. Those students also got refunds and concessions vouchers.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State’s three losses in league play have been to ranked teams on the road: TCU, Iowa State and Kansas. And with a more forgiving second half to the Big 12 schedule, the Wildcats remain firmly in the conference title hunt.

Kansas got its mojo back with its win over Kentucky last weekend. This victory over another bunch of Wildcats was crucial because the road doesn’t get any easier for the Jayhawks, who are in the midst of three straight games against teams ranked 13th or better.

UP NEXT

Kansas State returns home for another top-10 showdown Saturday against No. 10 Texas.

Kansas hits the road for the third time in four games against No. 13 Iowa State on Saturday.

BC beats No. 20 Clemson 62-54; Tigers fall into ACC tie

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
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BOSTON — Makai Ashton-Langford had two key driving baskets in the closing two minutes and finished with 15 points to help Boston College beat No. 20 Clemson 62-54 on Tuesday night.

Jaeden Zackery added 13 points for the Eagles (11-12, 5-7 Atlantic Coast Conference). BC held Clemson to one field goal — and that came with 18 seconds left — in the final 13:16.

Hunter Tyson led Clemson (18-5, 10-2) with 22 points and Chase Hunter had 12. The Tigers fell into a first-place tie atop the ACC with No. 6 Virginia.

The Eagles used a 5-0 spurt — with T.J. Bickerstaff hitting a free throw and getting a driving layup — to pull ahead 50-45 with just over five minutes to play.

Clemson sliced it to 50-47 before Aston-Langford made his two big baskets. He followed that by making two free throws with 32 seconds left.

Trailing by 10 midway into the second half, the Tigers went on a 10-0 spree, tying it at 45 when RJ Godfrey hit both ends of a 1-and-1.

The Eagles had opened a double-digit lead twice in the opening six minutes of the second half, the later 45-35 on Prince Aligbe’s foul-line jumper with 14:12 to play.

BIG PICTURE

Clemson: Off to a solid start in conference play, the Tigers were tested on the road for the second straight game after edging Florida State by a point on Saturday. It hasn’t been easy for them away from home with a 4-3 record and with three away matchups against North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia to go, they’ll need to get it straightened out of they’re going to won the ACC regular-season title.

Boston College: The Eagles proved when they play defense that they’re a tough out in coach Earl Grant’s second season. A little more offense could make them very dangerous for top ACC teams to play.

ARRIVING LATE

In the first half, Clemson’s man-to-man defense smothered the Eagles’ offense for the opening 10 minutes, holding them in single digits in scoring until just about the same time the student section finished filling up late, bringing some energy to a very quiet building.

BC’s players then responded, closing the half with a 22-4 spree that turned an 11-point deficit to a 30-23 halftime edge.

SIDELINED

Both teams were missing key players. Guard Brevin Galloway, Clemson’s fourth leading scorer at 10.6 points per game, was sidelined with an abdominal injury. For BC, guard DeMarr Langford Jr., who logs big minutes at the point, was out with a knee injury.

UP NEXT

Clemson: Hosts No. 23 Miami on Saturday.

Boston College: Hosts Syracuse on Saturday.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Ohio State tumbles

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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It was a rough week for Ohio State, which lost all three of its games and tumbled down the AP Top 25 as a result.

The previously unbeaten Buckeyes fell from second to 10th in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll released Monday after losing to Iowa and Indiana, two top 10 teams, as well as Purdue. Ohio State fell two games back in the Big Ten Conference standings.

South Carolina remained No. 1 for the 32nd consecutive week. The Gamecocks, who were again a unanimous choice from the 28-member national media panel, have the fourth-longest streak ever atop the poll. Only UConn (51 and 34 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

Stanford moved back up to No. 2 in the poll and the Cardinal were followed by LSU, Indiana and UConn in the top five. LSU is the only other undefeated team in women’s basketball besides South Carolina, which visits UConn for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

Iowa jumped out four spots to sixth with Utah, Maryland and Notre Dame coming in ahead of Ohio State. The Hawkeyes started the season No. 4 in the poll.

The Fighting Irish split a pair of games last week against ranked opponents, routing Florida State before falling to N.C. State.

“There’s a lot of parity right now, which is great, great for the game,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “The game is growing, which is what you want. But yeah, I mean, every night, especially the ACC, the ACC is the strongest league and, you know, we have just a tough stretch every night.”

One week after falling out of the rankings, Texas re-entered the poll at No. 24. The Longhorns routed then-No. 14 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State last week. South Florida also came in at No. 25. Colorado and Illinois fell out of the poll.

RISING BULLS

No. 25 South Florida continued its streak of being ranked for at least one week every season since the Bulls entered the poll for the first time in 2015.

“For us not being in a so-called football five conference, that’s a huge accomplishment,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. His team has won 10 consecutive games and has 20 victories this season. The team’s four losses have all come against ranked opponents (Michigan, Villanova, Ohio State and N.C. State).

“This group has been fun to coach. We always play a great non(equals)conference schedule,” Fernandez said. “We won on the road at Texas, beat Alabama, beat Arkansas. We challenged ourselves in November and December.”

RECORD PERFORMANCES

Cameron Brink carried Stanford to a win over Oregon with a triple-double that included 10 blocks. It was the first triple-double in NCAA Division I women’s basketball featuring double-digit blocks since Tamari Key did it for Tennessee in an overtime win against Texas on Nov. 21, 2021.

No. 20 Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson set the all-time NCAA women’s career record for 3-pointers when she hit her 498th in a loss to Iowa State on Saturday. Robertson has 503 entering this week. The all-time NCAA record, men or women, is held by Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy, who has 534 and counting.

Purdue a unanimous No. 1 in AP Top 25; Vols up to No. 2

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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Purdue became this season’s first unanimous No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 men’s college basketball poll Monday after wins over Michigan and Michigan State last week as chaos ensued behind the Boilermakers among other ranked teams.

More than half of Top 25 teams lost, including second-ranked Alabama, which was routed by Oklahoma in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. That allowed Purdue to grab the remaining No. 1 votes and tighten its grip atop the poll, while Tennessee jumped two spots to second and Houston held onto third in voting by 62 national media members.

The Boilermakers (21-1) have won eight straight since a one-point loss to Rutgers on Jan. 2.

“We’re the No. 1 team in the country because of how unselfish we are as a team,” Purdue guard David Jenkins Jr. said. “We had a lot of people doubting us in the beginning because, you know, we may not be the most talented team or whatever, but we’re close on the court and off the court and it’s really translating to how we’re winning.”

The Volunteers climbed to their highest perch since reaching No. 1 for four weeks during the 2018-19 season. They routed Georgia before becoming one of three SEC teams to beat Big 12 opponents on Saturday, knocking off No. 10 Texas 82-71 for their fifth consecutive win over a top-10 team.

Perhaps this is the year Rick Barnes finally gets the Vols through the Sweet 16 for the first time as their coach.

“We have a chance to be as good as we want to be,” he said. “It’s up to one thing: Are we tough enough to embrace the daily grind? And not worry about going to the Final Four or worry about going to the NCAA Tournament, but can we build a team that can be successful that time of year? It starts with truly embracing the grind.”

The Crimson Tide dropped to fourth after the blowout loss to the Sooners, when Alabama fell behind by 17 at halftime in an eventual 93-69 defeat. The Tide edged fifth-ranked Arizona by just two points in this week’s poll.

“It doesn’t have any effect on SEC standings, which is the only good thing to come out of this,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said of the lopsided loss. “Hopefully we’ll recover from a loss out of conference, but you know, it’s not good.”

Virginia was sixth and Kansas State, which rebounded from a narrow loss at No. 13 Iowa State by pummeling Florida on Saturday, fell two spots to seventh; the Wildcats face eighth-ranked Kansas in a top-10 showdown Tuesday night.

UCLA dropped to ninth after losing to Southern California and Texas rounded out the top 10.

Baylor continued its climb from unranked to No. 11 following wins over the Jayhawks and Arkansas. The Bears were followed by Gonzaga, Iowa State, Marquette and league rival TCU – the sixth Big 12 team in the top 15.

Xavier, Providence, Saint Mary’s, Florida Atlantic and Clemson completed the top 20, while poll returners Indiana and San Diego State joined Miami, UConn and Auburn in rounding out the Top 25.

RISING AND FALLING

The No. 11 Bears and No. 17 Providence made the biggest leaps, each climbing six spots from last week.

“I think our defense is better. Our turnovers are better. When you don’t give people easy transition baskets, now its five-on-five in the half court,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team had a date with the Longhorns on Monday night.

“We execute at a pretty high rate,” Drew said. “It really comes down to taking care of the ball, making sure we get shots up and when you don’t make them, you’ve got to get rebounds. And our guys are buying into that.”

Auburn took the biggest hit of those still in the poll, dropping 10 places after losses to unranked Texas A&M and West Virginia.

IN AND OUT

The Hoosiers returned to the poll at No. 21 and the Aztecs rejoined it right behind them. They took the place of Charleston, which fell out from No. 18 after losing to Hofstra, and New Mexico, which lost to Nevada in double overtime last week.

CONFERENCE CALL

The Big 12’s dominance of the SEC in the final year of their head-to-head challenge was rewarded in the poll, where the league led the way with six ranked teams and all of them in the top 15. The Big East has four teams in the poll but none higher than No. 14 Marquette, while the SEC and ACC have three teams apiece.

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.