What if USA Basketball’s World Cup team was only college players?

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Since none of the best American pros seems all that interested in playing in the FIBA World Cup, we decided that it would be fun to take a swing at putting together a World Cup team built with nothing but college players. 

This is that team.

(Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

COACH: Matt Painter, Purdue

This was a tough decision, but I’m going with Painter over the rest of the field because of the way that he can change what he wants to do and how his teams play. Purdue has been one of the best programs in all of college hoops the past four seasons, finishing in the top ten on KenPom three times – and no lower than 19th – while playing three very different styles. They went from using two bigs with Caleb Swanigan at the four to playing four shooters about Isaac Haas to basing an entire offense on running Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline off of pin-downs and DHOs.

Put another, he relies less on playing a specific brand of basketball and thrives on finding a way to make the pieces on his roster fit together, and in this situation, that makes the most sense to me.

And he has experience in the international ranks, having taken his Purdue team overseas for the 2017 World University Games. The Boilermakers did not win that event largely because his team was not overwhelmingly more talented than everyone they came across, like the rest of the coaches with experience running Team USA at youth levels.

ASSISTANTS: Mark Adams, Texas Tech, and Ed Cooley, Providence

I want Adams on this staff for his defensive mind. He was the brainchild behind what Texas Tech has done the last two seasons, and I personally love the way that his defenses force offenses to the baseline and takes away any and all sets they want to run. I have Cooley here because of the way his teams run through point guards and the prevalence of ball-screens on offense, and with a team that is more or less built around Cassius Winston, that is important.

Jarron Cumberland (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

STARTERS

CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

This is the easy and obvious pick. Winston is the very obvious pick for Preseason National Player of the Year, and I’m honestly not sure if there is anyone else that can be in this discussion. He’s coming off of a year where he averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 assists while leading an injury ravaged Michigan State team to a Big Ten regular season title, a Big Ten tournament title and a trip to the Final Four. He’s a senior point guard that thrives in ball-screens, that is unselfish and that is an efficient shooter and scorer. He is the guy that we need to build this team around.

TYRESE HALIBURTON, Iowa State

No player has risen more in the minds of basketball people than Haliburton has in the last 18 months. From a complete afterthought as a recruit to a potential top 20 pick, Haliburton is coming off of a terrific showing in the U19 World Cup. He’s a 6-foot-5 guard that can play the point, defend multiple positions and shoots threes at a 43.4 percent clip. He’s the perfect wing in the modern era of basketball.

JARRON CUMBERLAND, Cincinnati

Cumberland is one of the most underappreciated talents in college hoops, as he is coming off of a season where he posted 18.8 points, 4.4 boards and 3.6 assists for Cincinnati while shooting 38.8 percent from three. He’s 6-foot-5 but a physical 205 pounds can will be able to guard bigger wings. He’s also a veteran presence, a scorer that can create for himself and a guy that spent the last three years playing for Mick Cronin. You know the toughness is there.

KERRY BLACKSHEAR, Florida

Blackshear might be better suited to playing on a team where he is the starting five, but I think he fits as the four in this situation. He can score in and around the paint, but he’s also a capable three-point shooter with the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. He’s also one of the few veteran bigs in college hoops right now that has the chance to play in the NBA one day. Getting a 23-year old to pair with a roster full of freshmen and sophomore posts matters.

JAMES WISEMAN, Memphis

Wiseman is one of just three freshmen on this team and the only one that I have slotted as a starter. The favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Wiseman is a 7-foot center with a 7-foot-6 wingspan and all the athleticism in the world. He has decent touch and a perimeter stroke that is developing, meaning that there is a world where he is one day a floor-spacer in addition to being the kind of rim-runner I envision him being on this team. Part of the reason I have him starting here is that I think he’ll thrive as the roll man on a team with Winston and three shooters around him. I also think that, if motivated, he has the ability to do the kind of things that Mark Adams will ask a five-man to do defensively.

Wiseman’s status as a No. 1 pick as more to do with his potential longterm than what he is at this very moment, but I do think that the current version of Wiseman is the best fit at the five on this team.

Myles Powell (Elsa/Getty Images)

BENCH

MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall: There are two talented, undersized scoring guards in the Big East heading into next season and I was only going to take one of them. I went with Powell, who is more athletic, a better defender and less ball-dominant than Marquette guard Markus Howard. Put another way, I think that Powell would fit better on a team where the offense isn’t built entirely around him than Howard is.

COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina: Anthony is a bit of a weird fit on this team, but I think that he is a pretty good change-of-pace for Winston in the backcourt. He will more or less operate as the backup point guard on this roster, and while he plays the position a totally different way than Winston does, an aggressive, score-first guard with athleticism and the stones to take and make tough shots is needed on this roster.

TRE JONES, Duke: Jones is here for one reason and one reason only: perimeter defense. We have yet to see him be anything other than a liability on the offensive end of the floor, but assuming that he spent the offseason working on improving his perimeter stroke, the hope is that will not be the case anymore. Either way, one thing this roster lacked was a lockdown on-ball defender, and Jones will provide it without needing a certain number of shots to be kept happy.

ISAIAH JOE, Arkansas: I wanted shooting. Isaiah Joe is a shooter, knocking down 41.4 percent of his threes with more than eight attempted per game as a freshman. He is also about 6-foot-5 and averaged 1.5 steals at Arkansas, which means he should be able to contribute defensively as well.

AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois: Dosunmu had flashes of brilliance as a freshmen but ultimately returned to school for his sophomore season to prove he’s more of a lead guard than a combo and to continue to develop his jumper. His presence as a secondary ball-handler and what he can bring defensively makes him a nice fit in this roster build.

TRES TINKLE, Oregon State: Tinkle is not a name that many people are going to know, but he is an absolute baller and a big-time scorer. He is coming off of a season where he averaged 20.8 points, 8.1 boards and 3.8 assists, and at 6-foot-8, he has the kind of size that will allow him to play the four in smaller lineups while keeping the floor spaced.

ISAIAH STEWART, Washington: Stewart make end up being the most productive freshman in college hoops this season. He’s 6-foot-9, 250 pounds and a terrific rebounder and finisher in the lane. He’s not all that switchable or much of a rim-protector, but he’ll allow this group to matchup with teams that still play big-bodied posts.

REGGIE PERRY, Mississippi State: Perry is going to be one of the breakout stars of college basketball this season. He’s coming off of an MVP run through the U19 World Cup, and the former McDonald’s All-American really came on strong down the stretch of last season.

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

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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

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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.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.