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This season’s top 20 non-conference games

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Beginning in September and running up until November 6th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2018-2019 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we take a look at the best non-conference games this season.

Who’s excited?

I’m excited.



1. KANSAS at KENTUCKY, January 26 (SEC/Big 12 Challenge)

While the season opener between Kentucky and Duke received a lot of the summertime attention, it isn’t the best non-conference game of the 2018-19 season. That label goes to the Wildcats’ home game against Kansas for three reasons. One, Kentucky and Kansas are considered by many to be top two teams in college basketball entering this season. The second reason: by late January both teams should have a much better idea of who they are. And lastly, nothing beats a true home environment.

2. DUKE vs. KENTUCKY, November 6 (Champions Classic)

This matchup in Indianapolis is the crown jewel of college basketball’s opening night, and it has something for everyone. Two Hall of Fame head coaches, two storied programs and two rosters that don’t lack for high-end talent. Given the players involved, most notably Duke boasting the top three recruits in the Class of 2018 (R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish), there won’t be a lack of NBA eyeballs on this game either. While these teams will have a better idea of who they are later in non-conference play, it’s good to have a game of this caliber to use as a measuring stick right out of the gate.

3. MICHIGAN STATE vs. KANSAS, November 6 (Champions Classic)

The other half of the Champions Classic doubleheader isn’t anything to scoff at either, as Kansas takes on preseason Big Ten favorite Michigan State. While both teams managed to win their respective regular season conference titles last season the postseason brought about different fortunes. Kansas managed to reach the Final Four, but Michigan State saw its season end in the second round. Both teams have some key personnel losses to address, but Kansas has reloaded thanks to the combination of transfers and highly-regarded freshman and there’s optimism regarding Michigan State’s freshman class as well.

Roy Williams and Mark Few (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

4. GONZAGA at NORTH CAROLINA, December 15

Two teams with Final Four aspirations will meet in Chapel Hill in mid-December, and the game will feature a couple of the nation’s best front court players in Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura and North Carolina’s Luke Maye. Both teams are deep, and in addition to the many veterans on display viewers will also get a look at two newcomers expected to have significant impacts on their respective squads in Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke (San Jose State transfer) and North Carolina freshman Nassir Little.

5. KENTUCKY at LOUISVILLE, November 29

One of college basketball’s premier rivalries, the Wildcats and Cardinals renew acquaintances a week after Thanksgiving in Louisville. What also makes this season’s edition important is the fact that this will be Chris Mack’s first as Louisville head coach. And even though it’s Kentucky that’s receiving the preseason praise — and rightfully so — Louisville has to account for the loss of four of its top five scorers from a season ago. Kentucky will likely be favored, but don’t sell the Cardinals short even with the roster turnover.

6. VILLANOVA at KANSAS, December 15

A rematch of last year’s Final Four meeting, which Villanova won handily, it shouldn’t take much to fire up the home folks for their team’s shot at payback. Villanova bid farewell to four talented players after winning the program’s second national title in three years, with all four being taken within the first 33 picks of the NBA draft, but the cupboard is nowhere near bare. As for Kansas, the Jayhawks are ranked either first or second depending upon which preseason poll you look at. This should be a good litmus test for two programs that are expected to reign supreme in their respective conferences.

7. GONZAGA vs. TENNESSEE, December 9 (in Phoenix)

Gonzaga has a tough four-game stretch between December 1 and December 15, with three being away from Spokane. While Mark Few’s team has made a habit of landing in the Top 10 of the national polls the same cannot be said for Tennessee, which enters this season with high hopes after winning a share of the SEC regular season title in 2017-18. This should be a fun matchup, and for Tennessee it’s an opportunity for Rick Barnes’ veteran-laden squad to make a statement nationally.

8. NEVADA at LOYOLA-CHICAGO, November 27 (Missouri Valley/Mountain West Challenge Series)

The Wolf Pack and Ramblers produced one of the best games in last season’s NCAA tournament, with Loyola winning the Sweet 16 matchup 69-68 on the way to the program’s first Final Four appearance since 1963. The rematch will be staged in Chicago, and Nevada begins the season as not only the favorite to win the Mountain West but a trendy Final Four pick as well. As for Loyola, Clayton Custer and company are once again the favorites in the Missouri Valley, but the struggles in putting together their non-conference schedule makes this matchup a critical one should the Ramblers not win the automatic bid.

9. MICHIGAN at VILLANOVA, November 14 (Gavitt Games)

The Wolverines visit Villanova in a rematch of last season’s national title game, and the environment at the newly renovated Finneran Pavilion should be frenzied. Jay Wright’s program has made a habit of selling out (or coming very close to selling out) big games at Wells Fargo Arena in south Philadelphia, but the on-campus environment is something special. Both teams return key contributors from their last meeting, including Villanova’s Eric Paschall and Phil Booth and Michigan’s Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson, and they’ve also got a lot of young talent to work into the mix as well. That should make for an entertaining early season matchup.

John Beilein and Jay Wright (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

10. WASHINGTON at AUBURN, November 9

The second official game of Mike Hopkins’ second season at Washington will be a tough one, as the Huskies invade The Plains to take on Auburn. Bruce Pearl’s squad is coming off of a season in which it won a share of the SEC regular season title, and the Tigers should be really good again in 2018-19. Washington, which just missed out on the NCAA tournament, can say the same since it returns everyone including wing Jaylen Nowell and one of the nation’s best defenders in Mathysse Thybulle. And Washington also boasts a talented big man in senior Noah Dickerson.

11. WEST VIRGINIA at TENNESSEE, January 26 (SEC/Big 12 Challenge)

Yes, the Mountaineers did lose two critical pieces in guards Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles. But much of the front court, led by Sagaba Konate, is back and the “Press Virginia” mindset remains in place as well. With Tennessee also being a tough squad, this late-January matchup in Knoxville should be a lot of fun. And Konate matching up with Grant Williams? Sign me up for that.

12. PURDUE at FLORIDA STATE, November 28 (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)

While Purdue has, in the eyes of many, the nation’s best point guard in Carsen Edwards that position was a bit of a question mark for Florida State heading into the summer. Leonard Hamilton and company addressed that by landing Albany graduate transfer David Nichols, and the 2017 first team All-America East point guard is more than capable of leading the Seminoles. While Purdue has some major personnel losses to address the Boilermakers should still be a factor in the Big Ten, and Florida State is expected to be one of the better teams in the ACC.

13. MICHIGAN STATE vs. UCLA, November 22 (in Las Vegas)

This matchup is part of the Continental Tires Las Vegas Invitational, with North Carolina and Texas meeting in the other semifinal contest Thanksgiving night. And it’s a game between two programs that are expected to, at minimum, be contenders in their respective conferences as Michigan State’s favored to win the Big Ten and UCLA should be in the mix in the Pac-12. Both teams add quality recruiting classes, but the headliners will likely be returnees Cassius Winston and Nick Ward for Michigan State and Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes for UCLA.

14. VIRGINIA TECH vs. WASHINGTON, December 15 (in Atlantic City)

Both the Hokies and Huskies begin the 2018-19 season with expectations of, at the very least, reaching the NCAA tournament. Both teams could prove capable of doing even more than that, especially Washington in what appears to be a wide-open Pac-12, and this neutral site matchup is one to check out on what will be a busy day in college basketball.

15. NORTH CAROLINA at MICHIGAN, November 28 (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)

The Tar Heels and Wolverines met last season in Chapel Hill, with North Carolina picking up the 15-point victory. Michigan will look for revenge in Ann Arbor, and a win will also be the program’s first over North Carolina since the 1992 Rainbow Classic (UNC leads the all-time series 4-2). This game will match two freshman wings that have been on the receiving end of praise this offseason, North Carolina’s Nassir Little and Michigan’s Ignas Brazdeikis.

Mike Krzyzewski (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

16. INDIANA at DUKE, November 27 (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)

While Duke is viewed as a consensus national title contender ahead of the 2018-19 season, Indiana is still working its way back to that level under second year head coach Archie Miller. With an outstanding forward in Juwan Morgan back for his senior season, and a talented freshman class led by five-star wing Romeo Langford, there’s plenty of optimism in Bloomington. This matchup with the Blue Devils at Cameron sets up to be a really good test for the Hoosiers, a game that will show where the program is and how much work there is to be done.

17. AUBURN at NC STATE, December 19

Given the guards in this game, even with Auburn losing Mustapha Heron, the battle between the Tigers and Wolfpack should be fun to watch. Jared Harper and Bryce Brown return for Auburn, and that combo will be joined by VCU transfer Samir Doughty, JUCO transfer J’Von McCormick and Danjel Purifoy on the perimeter. They’ll need to be at their best when it comes to taking care of the basketball, given the pressure that Kevin Keatts likes to throw at opponents. NC State doesn’t lack for options on the perimeter either, with Markell Johnson, Torin Dorn and Braxton Beverly returning and three transfers (including C.J. Bryce) eligible, and they’ll need to ramp things up pace-wise in order to limit the impact of Auburn’s big men.

18. KANSAS at ARIZONA STATE, December 22

Three days before Christmas the Jayhawks head west for a rematch of one of last season’s most surprising results. Arizona State went into Allen Fieldhouse and handed Kansas a 95-85 defeat, and the following day Bobby Hurley’s team was ranked fifth in the nation. The trio of senior guards who led Arizona State to that win have all moved on to the professional ranks, leaving Remy Martin to run the show, but the Sun Devils don’t lack for talent in the front court with Romello White, De’Quon Lake and San Diego State transfer Zylan Cheatham being three of the key contributors. Not much is expected of Arizona State, but this game offers the Sun Devils an opportunity to once again make a statement at Kansas’ expense.

19. WISCONSIN at MARQUETTE, December 8

This season’s edition should be an intriguing one, as Wisconsin looks to bounce back from an injury-riddled 2017-18 and Marquette is viewed by many as the team best equipped to challenge Villanova in the Big East. While that may be the case for a team led by guard Markus Howard and forward Sam Hauser, Marquette will need to make strides defensively in order to live up to the hype. Wisconsin’s healthy, and with Ethan Happ leading the way Greg Gard’s squad should be a factor in the Big Ten.

20. GEORGETOWN at SYRACUSE, December 8

The former Big East rivals meet at the Carrier Dome, with this being Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing’s first trip north since his days as a player. The rivalry angle is what brings the heat in this matchup, because while Syracuse enters this season with designs on a deep NCAA tournament run Georgetown hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2015.

TEN MORE TO MARK ON YOUR CALENDAR

Louisville vs. Tennessee, November 21 (in Brooklyn)
Nebraska at Clemson, November 26 (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
Virginia at Maryland, November 28 (ACC/Big Ten Challenge)
Nevada at USC, December 1
UCF at Missouri, December 2
Xavier at Cincinnati, December 8
Arizona at Alabama, December 9
Oregon at Baylor, December 21
Saint Louis vs. Florida State, December 22 (in Sunrise, Florida)
Davidson at North Carolina, December 29

Report: Michigan to ‘host’ Rutgers at Madison Square Garden

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The Big Ten has long coveted New York and Madison Square Garden. The league brought in Rutgers in expansion largely to access the New York market, and it rearranged its entire schedule to get its conference tournament at MSG in 2018.

Now Michigan is apparently willing to give up a home date to play that “New York” school in order to return to one of the crown jewels of the sport.

The Wolverines are expected to be the home team this winter at Madison Square Garden when they play Rutgers, according to a report from NJ Advance Media, which cited four unnamed sources with knowledge of the situation.

The game will be part of a doubleheader with a Michigan-Rutgers wrestling dual, according to the report.

Aside from however this effects the bottom line for Michigan – which certainly isn’t hurting in the revenue department – this would appear to be a great move for both schools and the Big Ten at large. Normally, I’m against moving games off-campus to sterile and identity-less NBA arenas, but obviously Madison Square Garden is a unique venue and opportunity for all parties.

If you can get a conference game at MSG, you do it, even if you’ve got to give up a date at Crisler Center. It’s weird that it’s not just a Rutgers home date, but with the B1G’s wonky scheduling with 20-league games in a 14-team league, weird stuff is going to happen, especially when outside-the-box opportunities like this arise.

American Athletic Conference Offseason Reset: What does all the turnover mean for the league?

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The grad transfer market is still in full swing, but for the most part, we know what the meaningful parts for the majority of the teams around the country will be.

That means that it is time to start talking about what is coming instead of what was.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at key personnel changes, the impact of the coaching carousel and the most important storylines heading into the 2019-20 season for each of college basketball’s top seven conferences.

Today, we are talking the American.

KEY OFFSEASON STORYLINES

SO UCONN IS LEAVING. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR THE CONFERENCE?: This is not only the biggest storyline in the American, it is one of the biggest and most intriguing storylines in all of college basketball. UConn is a storied program. It has won four of the last 20 national titles. It is a national brand that has churned out as many pros as any school in the country. It has fallen on hard times as Kevin Ollie drove the program straight into the ground. They are leaving the American and returning to the Big East, the conference that they helped launch 40 years ago.

This is a great thing for UConn, but this isn’t really about UConn. It’s about the American and what it means for a league that has been trying to prove they belong in the same conversation as the rest of the high-majors since it split from the Big East six years ago. And the truth is that they’ll be just fine. The Huskies have finished under .500 the last three years. They’ve missed four of the last five NCAA tournaments. The year they did go dancing, it was as the American’s automatic bid, a run that required a four-OT win over Cincinnati – which included this miracle 60-footer – in the quarters of the AAC tournament to avoid spending Selection Sunday on the bubble.

UConn is thought to be a borderline NCAA tournament team this season, which means that the Huskies will leave the league next summer having been more or less irrelevant for the better part of a decade. The American has still sent at least two teams to the Big Dance in each of their six seasons, with four teams earning a bid in three of those six years. Penny Hardaway has Memphis rolling. Kelvin Sampson has Houston rolling. Mick Cronin left Cincinnati, but John Brannen is a good coach and the Bearcats have talent. Wichita State will, eventually, be back in the thick of the NCAA tournament race.

Losing UConn is a blow for what the American’s ceiling can be. But with UCF, Temple, Tulsa and SMU all having proven capable of playing their way into an at-large bid, the conference will effectively be what it was with UConn there – a safe-bet to get three bids with four programs at the top that are annually in the at-large mix.

It’s not the ACC and it will never be, but it’s not the Mountain West, either.

(Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

CAN PENNY WIN WITH ALL THE TALENT HE HAS IN MEMPHIS?: When it comes to the conversation on the court, just how good Memphis will be is the most interesting question that we are going to have answered this year. There is no question that they are talented. James Wiseman is the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2019 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft. Precious Achiuwa is top ten and top ten. The Memphis recruiting class is ranked as the No. 1 recruiting class in college basketball, higher than Duke and Kentucky and Kansas and everyone else.

But there is also plenty of reason to be skeptical of them. For starters, we’ve seen Penny coach one season of college basketball. They probably exceeded expectations during that one season, but one year is not exactly a large sample size. I actually think Penny is going to be a good college coach. My biggest concern with this group is that they are going to be very young. Seven of their top ten players are going to be freshmen, and only two of those seven freshmen are five-star, instant impact, potential first round picks. And two of their returnees are tiny lead guards that are going to be playing behind one of those freshman – Boogie Ellis – at the point.

I understand why Memphis fans are going to go nuts and why Memphis will be a preseason top ten team. Personally, I have them ranked at No. 20 entering the season.

WHAT WILL CINCINNATI BE POST-CRONIN?: Mick Cronin spent 13 seasons as the head coach fo the Bearcats, and in each of the last nine seasons that he was in Cincinnati, he led the program to the NCAA tournament. There are only five other schools that can make that claim – Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, Gonzaga and North Carolina – and only three other programs that can say they’ve been to six straight NCAA tournaments – Villanova, Kentucky and Virginia.

Think about that for a second.

Those are massive shoes for John Brannen to be stepping in. He’s had success at Northern Kentucky, he’s a local guy with local ties and the return of Jarron Cumberland should make his life just that much easier. But don’t gloss over what Cronin did at Cincinnati. The level of consistency that he reached at that school was remarkable.

CAN HOUSTON FIND A WAY TO GET QUENTIN GRIMES ELIGIBLE?: Houston got hit with a dagger on the last day that underclassmen could return to school without losing eligibility – Armoni Brooks opted to stay in the draft instead of coming back for his senior year. The Cougars were already losing Galen Robinson and Corey Davis. They needed Brooks back to offset that loss, particularly once Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes committed to the program. Now, Houston has to try to find a way to get Grimes, a Houston native, eligible for this season. The former five-star prospect would likely be the most talented guard in the American – and the difference between being a borderline top 25 team and a borderline tournament team – if he’s eligible to play.

HOW LONG WILL IT BE BEFORE WICHITA STATE IS BACK?: Gregg Marshall is one of the best coaches in all of college basketball, and the fact that he took last year’s roster and got them to 10-8 in the AAC and into the NIT should be proof of that. But the Shockers are losing Markis McDuffie and Samajae Haynes-Jones, their two leading scorers from last season, and dismissed Teddy Allen, who was supposed to be the leading scorer this year, last month.

Wichita State went 14-4 in the final two months of the 2018-19 season, including a stretch where they won 11 of 13 games against AAC opponents. They’ll win because Marshall is really good at his job. But as more time passes, it gets harder and harder to ignore the fact that in his last five years in the Missouri Valley, Marshall coached four NBA players – Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet.

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

WHO’S GONE

  • MICK CRONIN, Cincinnati: This is a massive blow to the Cincinnati program, as Cronin had become one of the most consistently successful coaches in college basketball.
  • COREY DAVIS, ARMONI BROOKS and GALEN ROBINSON, Houston: The Cougars are going to have to totally rebuild their perimeter attack, and while there are some pieces there – DeJon Jarreau, Nate Hinton, Quentin Grimes – it is not going to be easy to replicate what they lost.
  • TEDDY ALLEN, Wichita State: For my money, Allen getting dismissed is a bigger loss either McDuffie or Haynes-Jones. Marshall planned to lose his seniors, and part of that plan was having Allen’s scoring pop to replace them.
  • EVERYONE, UCF: The Knights came within one bucket of beating Duke to get to the Sweet 16 last season, but they are going to have their work cut out for them this season with Tacko Fall, B.J. Taylor and Aubrey Dawkins all gone.
  • SHIZZ ALSTON, Temple: Alston was one of the best guards in the conference, and he will be following Fran Dunphy out the door.

WHO’S BACK

  • JARRON CUMBERLAND, Cincinnati: James Wiseman is the best prospect in the conference, but for my money, Cumberland is going to be the best player in the AAC this season. There is a new coaching regime, and Cumberland’s presence should help ease the transition period.
  • EVERYONE, South Florida: South Florida is South Florida, so I’m hardly the only one that is going to need to see it to fully believe it, but the Bulls bring back everyone from a team that won 24 games last year. They have a really, really good backcourt. We’ll see.
  • KELVIN SAMPSON, Houston: Keeping Sampson despite overtures coming from a handful of schools, namely Arkansas, was the most important thing Houston could do this offseason. I fully believe that he is one of the 10-15 best pure basketball coaches in college hoops right now.
  • ALTERIQUE GILBERT, UConn: UConn loses Jalen Adams, but it shouldn’t matter if Gilbert can find a way to be healthy for four months this winter. That, however, is never a guarantee.

WHO’S COMING

  • JAMES WISEMAN and PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, Memphis: These two are the reason that the Tigers are going to enter the season in the top ten of both polls. We more or less know what they are going to be. The big question with Memphis, the key to the Tigers reaching their ceiling, centers on the rest of their newcomers.
  • QUENTIN GRIMES, Houston?: If Grimes, a former top ten recruit and Kansas transfer, can find a way to get eligible for this season the Cougars won’t have to worry all that much about losing Armoni Brooks.
  • AKOK AKOK, UConn: Everyone knows about the guards that UConn is bringing in, but the key to the Huskies getting to the NCAA tournament this season is going to be Akok’s impact in his first season as a Husky. Once considered a five-star prospect, Akok enrolled at UConn at the semester break and will play the 2019-20 season as a redshirt freshman.

WAY-TOO-EARLY ALL-AAC TEAM

JARRON CUMBERLAND, Cincinnati (Preseason Player of the Year)
DEJON JARREAU, Houston
QUINTON ROSE, Temple
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA, Memphis
JAMES WISEMAN, Memphis

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

WAY-TOO-EARLY POWER RANKINGS

1. MEMPHIS: We talked more in-depth about the Tigers earlier, but I will say this: They are far and away the most talented team in the league, and they are also far and away the youngest relevant team in the league. How that translates into wins in a conference where the rest of their title competition have more experience and/or are built on toughness and physicality is going to be interesting to watch.

2. HOUSTON: I trust Kelvin Sampson as much as I trust any coach in college basketball to be able to find a way to make his pieces work. Losing Armoni Brooks hurts, but with Nate Hinton and DeJon Jarreau in the backcourt, there is some talent. There’s a possibility Quentin Grimes may find his way into playing this season, too. Throw in some size and depth in the frontcourt, and the Cougars look like they are going to be heading back to the tournament.

3. CINCINNATI: The Bearcats have the guy that very well could end up being the best player in the league on their roster in Jarron Cumberland. He looks like a linebacker, but he managed to put up 18.8 points, 4.4 boards and 3.6 assists while shooting 39 percent from three last season. He can hoop. Cincinnati also returns Keith Williams and Tre Scott while adding Jaevin Cumberland, Jarron’s cousin, a grad transfer from Oakland. The big question with this group is going to be how the adjust to new head coach John Brannen. With Mick Cronin back, I would probably slot Cincinnati second.

4. WICHITA STATE: For my money, the Shockers are the most interesting team in this conference. Yes, they lost their top two scorers from last season – not to mention the guy they thought was going to be their top scorer this season – but this was a deep team last season that really came on strong down the stretch. They won 11 out of 13 down the stretch of the AAC season, and then proceeded to beat Furman, Clemson and Indiana on the road in the NIT to get to that tournament’s Final Four. Jaime Echenique is one of the best bigs in the league while Dexter Dennis and Erik Stevenson look ready for big sophomore seasons. They’re tough, they’re battle-tested and they have arguably the best coach in the league. We’ll see.

5. TEMPLE: The Aaron McKie era at Temple will begin with a team capable of getting back to the NCAA tournament if things break right. Shizz Alston is gone, and that hurts, but the Owls will bring back both Quinton Rose and Nate Pierre-Louis. That will be enough to keep them in the top half of the league.

6. UCONN: Losing Jalen Adams is going to hurt, but beyond that, the Huskies bring back a lot of important pieces from last season. They should have plenty of perimeter depth even if Alterique Gilbert’s health struggles continue, as they add James Bouknight and Jalen Gaffney to a rotation that already includes Christian Vital. Josh Carlton and Tyler Polley will provide some continuity in the frontcourt, but I think Danny Hurley’s second season in Storrs is going to come down to how well Sidney Wilson and Akok Akok perform in their second year on campus.

7. UCF: The Knights are a tough team to project this season. On the one hand, they lost all of their dudes – B.J. Taylor and Tacko Fall graduated while Aubrey Dawkins turned pro. On the other hand, they have a number of really good transfers getting eligible this year (Dazon Ingram, Matt Milon, Yuat Alok, Ibrahim Doumbia) while Collin Smith looks like he’ll be ready for a big year. They’ve got a chance to sneak up on some people.

8. SOUTH FLORIDA: The Bulls are the sleeper in the American, and they have a chance to be really, really good. David Collins and LaQuincy Rideau give them one of the best backcourts in the league, and they return basically everyone from last season, when they finished 24-14 overall and 8-10 in the league. I’m not sure they have the ceiling to crack the top three in the league, but if you were to tell me that they can finish above Wichita State, Temple, UConn and UCF, I wouldn’t call you crazy.

9. TULSA: Losing DaQuan Jeffries, Sterling Taplin and Curran Scott will hurt, but Frank Haith will have some bodies coming back. Martins Igabnu and Jeriah Horne. The young Tulsa guards are going to need to step up.

10. SMU: The Larry Brown era seems so long ago. The Mustangs are now losing their two best guards off of a team that went just 3-15 in the AAC last season.

11. EAST CAROLINA: The good news is that ECU brings back Jayden Gardner, who averaged 16.3 points and 8.5 boards as a freshman. The bad news is that he is the only one of their top seven scorers to return.

12. TULANE: Tulane won four games last season and lost their top three players. new head coach Ron Hunter has some talent and transfers coming into the program, but they have a long way to go.

Auburn lands 2019 commitment from three-star wing

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Auburn landed a late commitment for the 2019-20 season on Wednesday night as three-star athletic wing Devan Cambridge pledged to the Tigers.

A 6-foot-6, 215-pound wing, Cambridge had a very strong showing at the Nike Peach Jam last week as he averaged 16.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game during pool play at the event. A big-time athlete who easily gets off the floor, Cambridge fits Auburn’s athletic, up-and-down style as he’s accustomed to playing fast and making plays with his game-changing athleticism.

Cambridge joins a seven-man mega class for the Tigers as he’s a versatile athlete who should play a number of different spots. Cambridge is still working to become more of a consistent perimeter shooting presence, but Auburn has landed a solid late commitment because there aren’t many better pure athletes in the class. If the Tigers can develop Cambridge and take their time with his development then he could turn into a very useful player.

Person avoids prison in college bribery sentencing

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NEW YORK — Former Auburn assistant basketball coach Chuck Person has avoided prison in a bribery scandal that has touched some of the biggest schools in college basketball.

Person was sentenced on Wednesday to 200 hours of community service during the two years the Probation Department will supervise him. Judge Loretta A. Preska said “no purpose would be served by incarceration.”

Sentencing guidelines called for two years in prison, though three other coaches who pleaded guilty to the same charge also received lenient sentences.

Person, who was in financial trouble at the time, accepted $91,500 in bribes to parlay his relationships with top players to steer them to a financial adviser, federal prosecutors said. The adviser, however, was working as a government cooperator.

Preska defended her decision by saying she disagreed “vehemently” with the prosecution’s claim that Person was motivated by “insatiable greed.”

“He is charitable literally to a fault,” the judge said.

She noted that after signing his first NBA contract, he sent most of the money to family members and bought his mother a house. She described how he bought homes and cars for family and friends and made continuous donations. Then, he turned down lucrative jobs in the NBA to make less money as a college coach.

Person wiped tears from his face several times during the sentencing.

Of his crime, he said: “I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway.”

Person’s guilty plea in March to a bribery conspiracy charge came nearly two decades after he was a regular presence on NBA courts, where he played for five NBA teams over 13 seasons after being drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 1986. In 2010, he earned a championship ring as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Lawyers wrote that Person’s previous financial troubles intensified almost as soon as his NBA career ended, when he was paying $30,000 monthly to his ex-wife while he was earning $18,000 annually in his first non-playing role with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Chuck’s singular focus on basketball, his failure to plan for his financial future, and his unbounded generosity ultimately had catastrophic consequences,” they wrote.

The lawyers said he knew he was violating NCAA rules and was betraying his players and their families and Auburn University.

By 2016, when he was an assistant coach at Auburn, where he had set a record as the school’s all-time leading scorer in the 1980s, he was deeply in debt with bank loans, including one to finance a community center in his hometown, and several private loans, the lawyers wrote. One financial institution had obtained a default judgment that garnished 25% of his wages at Auburn, they added.

“Creditors were growing impatient, and Chuck was becoming desperate. Chuck could have turned to his many friends for help, but he was embarrassed and ashamed,” they wrote.

Instead, the man who overcame racism and extreme poverty growing up in rural Alabama got swept up in the college basketball scandal when his search for a new loan earned him an introduction to the government cooperator, the lawyers said.

His lawyers’ submission included letters from Charles Sonny Smith, who coached at Auburn for 11 seasons through the 1980s, and Sam Perkins, another former NBA player who met Person when both competed to be on the U.S. Olympic team in 1984.

Smith called Person “my favorite player ever.” Perkins said Person was “still a good friend.”

Kansas lands 2019 guard Dajuan Harris

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Kansas landed another piece for the upcoming season on Tuesday night as guard Dajuan Harris pledged to the Jayhawks on Twitter.

Previously a member of the Class of 2020, Harris will reclassify and join Kansas for next season. The 6-foot-1 point guard is coming off of a strong Nike Peach Jam in which he helped MoKan Elite to the event’s title with a big week. A recent Kansas offer right before the July Live Evaluation Period, Harris averaged 7.1 assists per game while playing great defense throughout the event.

The Jayhawks adding Harris to the Class of 2019 means they have five members in the group — headlined by four-star prospects Jalen Wilson and Tristan Enaruna while three-star recruits Christian Braun and Isaac McBride are also involved. While Kansas struggled to land its usual five-star talents in this recruiting class, they’ve rebounded nicely with three commitments this spring to help fill out a veteran roster that is hoping to recapture Big 12 glory.

Kansas has plenty young players to build with the next few seasons as it’ll be interesting to see how this new five-man class shapes up. Wilson and Enaruna are expected to contribute, but the rest of the group, including Harris, is a bit of a wild card in terms of producing right away.