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No. 15 Tennessee shows off toughness in win over No. 24 Kentucky

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The lone matchup of ranked teams on Tuesday’s schedule, a matchup between No. 15 Tennessee and No. 24 Kentucky, was not pretty by any stretch of the imagination. In the end the outcome came down to late-game execution, with Rick Barnes’ Volunteers making the plays that needed to be made on both ends of the floor.

Lamonte Turner buried a three to give Tennessee the lead with 26 seconds remaining. That was followed by a forced turnover and an Admiral Schofield dunk, and the Volunteers won by a 61-59 final score.

It’s Tennessee’s first season sweep of Kentucky since the 1998-99 season, and after ripping off three straight blowout victories the visitors called upon their toughness to pick up a critical road win.

Picked to finish 13th in the SEC’s preseason poll, Tennessee has emerged as the league’s second-best team behind No. 8 Auburn. And in a year that has seen the conference as a whole put forth an improved product on the court, the rise of the Volunteers and Tigers is the biggest development.

Auburn was picked to finish ninth, and with the FBI scandal that saw the team lose an assistant coach and two expected starters even less was expected of the Tigers in the aftermath. But here they are, sitting atop the SEC with a 21-2 record and in the top ten of the national polls for the first time in over a decade.

So what would Auburn’s success have in common with that of Tennessee? Simply put, both teams have an incredibly firm grasp of who they are. The Volunteers aren’t a team that will beat opponents with finesse; they do it with a talented, experienced rotation that can get key contributions from both starters and reserves alike.

Against Kentucky, leading scorer Grant Williams finished with ten points but tallied just three official field goal attempts (making one). A player who enters a game averaging 16.2 points per game having that few field goal attempts would be a major issue for many teams to overcome. For Tennessee, not so much thanks to the likes of Turner and Jordan Bowden.

Turner came off the bench to score a team-high 16 points, and Bowden added 13 points to go along with eight rebounds and two steals. Admiral Schofield shot just 6-for-16 from the field, but in addition to scoring 12 points he chipped in on the glass with six rebounds. Kentucky’s front court length certainly impacted Williams’ shot opportunities around the basket, but Tennessee was able to receive contributions in other areas.

It wasn’t pretty offensively, but the Volunteers managed to do enough to supplement its work on the other end of the floor.

After shooting poorly early Kentucky’s issues with ball and player movement proved to be the biggest issue late. While Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s key turnover led to the aforementioned Schofield dunk, the freshman was responsible for six of Kentucky’s seven assists.

Also, on the play in question none of Gilgeous-Alexander’s teammates did much to get into a position where a passing lane could come open for the point guard. The end result was his over-penetrating and getting caught up in multiple Tennessee defenders.

Will Kentucky be able to properly address its issues on the offensive end of the floor ahead of postseason play? That remains to be seen, and the team’s inconsistency is in large part a product of the lack of influential veterans. Sure Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones are both sophomores, but neither played a major role last season. With that being the case, there’s only so much those two can call upon when looking to help get the freshmen all headed in the same direction.

Tennessee doesn’t have that problem, and it’s a big reason why the Volunteers managed to leave Rupp Arena with the win.

And it’s also a big reason why this team is capable of doing even more as college basketball’s biggest month approaches.

Elite Class of 2020 point guard to reclassify

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

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

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

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

Nebraska to lose junior big man to transfer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NCAA to study possible effects of widespread legal wagering

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arizona releases non-conference schedule

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

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

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

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

Here’s the full schedule:

Day Date Opponent Location

Sunday Nov. 11 Cal Poly Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Nov. 14 UTEP Tucson, Ariz.

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

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

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

Wednesday Nov. 28 Texas Southern Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 2 at UConn Hartford, Conn.

Thursday Dec. 6 Utah Valley Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 9 at Alabama Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Saturday Dec. 15 Baylor Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Dec. 19 Montana Tucson, Ariz.

Saturday Dec. 22 UC Davis Tucson, Ariz.