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ACC Season Preview: Power rankings, Preseason Awards and why Louisville will win the league

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

Today, we are previewing the ACC.



We are kicking off our conference previews with the ACC.

Duke, North Carolina and Virginia all figure to finish in the top four once again.

But it’s the Atlantic Coast’s Kentucky resident that looks, on paper, like the favorite to win the league.

And there’s a team out in Indiana that you’ll want to keep an eye on as well.

Let’s dive into the ACC.

RELATEDVirginia’s road to redemption | The evolution of Matt Painter 

FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. JORDAN NWORA IS BACK SO LOUISVILLE IS AWESOME

The single most important thing that happened during the early entry period this past May was that Jordan Nwora made the decision to withdraw from the 2019 NBA Draft and return to Louisville. The 6-foot-7 junior is coming off of a season where he averaged 17.0 points and 7.6 boards and shot 37.6 percent from three. After spending some time during the offseason playing with the Nigerian national team, he is in line for a blow-up season.

Nwora plays a role that has proven to be very productive for Chris Mack in the past. When Trevon Bluiett was at Xavier, he scored 2,261 points in four seasons, the latter of which culminated in Xavier winning the Big East regular season title and entering the NCAA tournament as a No. 1 seed. And like Bluiett, Nwora is a shot-making small forward that has the size to defend at the four spot while needing to add some athleticism and explosiveness to reach his ceiling.

Getting him back is huge, and it means that now the most important spot on the floor for the Cardinals is going to be at the point. In theory, St. Joe’s grad transfer Fresh Kimble should step into the starting role, but during the summer, freshman David Johnson really impressed. The problem? Johnson has a shoulder injury and looks like he is going to end up being out for a while.

There’s no doubting anything else on this roster. They are talented, they are deep, they have a terrific blend of exciting young talent and quality veteran players. As long as the point guard situation sorts itself out by March, there is going to be a very real chance Louisville gets to a Final Four.

MORE: NBC Sports Preseason Top 25 | All-Americans

Mamadi Diakite (Getty Images)

2. THE REIGNING CHAMPS ARE GOING TO HAVE A VERY VILLANOVA FEEL

Virginia is going to be dealing with the same things that Villanova dealt with last season. After making a memorable run to a national title, the Wahoos lost some pieces they didn’t necessarily expect to lose. For a program that doesn’t reload with grad transfers and freshmen every year, this is a concern.

Tony Bennett knew that he was going to have to find a way to build without De’Andre Hunter – that’s why Braxton Key was brought in last summer – but he did not expect to lose both Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy as well. Jay Wright found himself in the same boat last season, when the departure of Omari Spellman and Donte DiVincenzo a year earlier than expected meant that freshmen were going to be asked to play a much bigger role.

I’m not too worried about Virginia’s frontcourt. In fact, I think the trio of Key, Mamadi Diakite and Jay Huff will be the best part about Virginia’s team this season. Where the concern is lays with Kihei Clark, who is going to be asked to carry a much bigger load this year, and the players that will be asked to fill the minutes vacated by Guy and Jerome.

In the big picture, Virginia is going to be fine. But fine probably means we’re talking about a team that is destined to end up somewhere around a No. 4 or No. 5 seed on Selection Sunday as opposed to a favorite to win the national title.

3. IT’S COLE ANTHONY SZN

You’d be hard-pressed to find a freshman that is a better fit with the way that a program wants to play than Cole Anthony’s fit at North Carolina. For the most part, North Carolina’s best teams have all featured a fast point guard that can put up points in a hurry. Ray Felton, Ty Lawson, Marcus Paige, Joel Berry, Coby White. Anthony fits that mold better than anyone, and it seems like a certified lock that he will end up averaging something along the lines of 20 points and six assists.

He’s going to be terrific, and I think that the rest of the new pieces that Roy Williams will have at his disposal – Armando Bacot, Christian Keeling, Justin Pierce, etc. – will be impact players as well.

My concern, however, is that it has been a long time since a high-volume one-and-done lead guard has had a lot of success winning games in the college ranks. Trae Young, Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith Jr., Malik Newman, D’angelo Russell, Austin Rivers. Anthony might end up being better than the rest of those guys, and playing the point at North Carolina is different than playing for Washington, Oklahoma or Mississippi State, but that is still a trend that can be a bit worrying.

4. DUKE RELOADED AGAIN

I know, this is shocking news, but Duke once again has one of the best recruiting classes in the country. They lost their big three, but Tre Jones opted to return to school to play with the likes of Vernon Carey, Matthew Hurt, Wendell Moore and Cassius Stanley.

I have a lot of thoughts on this Duke team. They can be found in this column.

MOREThe 33 best non-con games | Who is the next Texas Tech?

5. NOTRE DAME IS THE BEST OF THE REST

I am all the way in on the Irish as the sleeper in the ACC this year. First and foremost, this is as old as they have been in a long time. John Mooney and Temple Gibbs are seniors, Juwan Durham and Nikola Drogo are redshirt juniors and Rex Pfleuger will be back for his fifth-year after getting a medical redshirt for last season.

More importantly, last year’s freshmen class all returns for their sophomore season. Prentiss Hubb, Dane Goodwin and Nate Laszewski all had promising first years, while Robby Carmody should be healthy this year. Mike Brey is at his best when he can get old, and he has a team that is old and talented this season.

PRESEASON ACC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: JORDAN NWORA, Louisville

I think Louisville is going to end up being the best team in the ACC this season, and the biggest reason for that was Nwora’s decision to return to school after declaring for the the NBA draft. At 6-foot-7, he is precisely the kind of big wing that will thrive playing under Chris Mack – he can handle himself playing the four defensively while being the kind of shooter and scorer that gives opposing head coaches ulcers when they think about how to slow him down with a bigger defender.

Nwora was certainly helped this offseason when he was awarded the chance to play with the Nigerian national team, and if he shows improvement in his explosiveness and mobility on the perimeter, we’ll be talking about him as a first round pick come June.

THE REST OF THE ALL-ACC FIRST TEAM

  • TRE JONES, Duke: Jones is going to be the leader for this Duke team, and he’s going to be able to provide the kind of defensive intensity that will set a tone for this roster. Can he be a shooter this season?
  • COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina: Anthony is going to end up being the most productive freshman in the country this season. His efficiency is going to determine just how good the Tar Heels are as a team.
  • MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia: I think Diakite will have a chance to be one of the most improved players in the country this season. He was terrific during last year’s run to the national title, and he’s not only a defensive anchor but a guy who has more offensive versatility than you might realize.
  • VERNON CAREY, Duke: The odds-on favorite to lead the Blue Devils in both scoring and rebounding this season. He’s a low-post bruiser that will dominate opponents on the block.

FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • CHRIS LYKES, Miami
  • MARKELL JOHNSON, N.C. State
  • DWAYNE SUTTON, Louisville
  • VERNON CAREY, Duke
  • JAY HUFF, Virginia

BREAKOUT STAR: Jay Huff, Virginia

There are a number of guys on this Virginia roster that are going to be in line for more minutes, more shots and, yes, more production after the Wahoos lost De’Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome to the NBA this offseason. I think Mamadi Diakite has a big year and I think Braxton Key has a big year, but for my money it’s Jay Huff that is going to be the name that everyone starts talking about by the time ACC play gets into full swing.

Here’s the thing about Huff. He’s a solid defensive presence, good enough that he’ll be just fine in Virginia’s defense alongside Diakite, but it’s what he can provide on the offensive end of the floor that is so intriguing. He shot 45.2% from three last season, which makes him a pick-and-pop nightmare, but his length and athleticism at 7-foot-1 means he is as good as anyone in the country when it comes to rolling to the rim. I think he’ll be a first round pick in June.

COACH UNDER PRESSURE: Josh Pastner, Georgia Tech

Pastner is not winning with Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have not made an NCAA tournament in three seasons with him at the helm, and their best finish in ACC play came in Pastner’s first year, when they went 8-10 in the league. That’s problematic, but not as problematic as the fact that the program is banned from 2020 NCAA Tournaments and is curently facing recruiting sanctions that are harsh enough that it will be difficult for them to find a way into the event any time in the near future.

ON SELECTION SUNDAY WE’LL BE SAYING …

It’s incredible that it only took two seasons for Chris Mack to make Louisville the best team in the ACC.

I’M MOST EXCITED ABOUT …

The nerdy side of me is the most excited about seeing how Virginia opts to run their offense this season now that they have lost three NBA players, while the normal side of me cannot wait to see who Cole Anthony dunks on this year.

FIVE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES TO CIRCLE ON YOUR CALENDAR

  • 11/5, No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 6 Duke (Champions Classic)
  • 12/3, No. 6 Duke at No. 1 Michigan State
  • 12/10, No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 11 Texas Tech (MSG)
  • 12/18, No. 14 North Carolina at No. 8 Gonzaga
  • 12/28, No. 4 Louisville at no. 2 Kentucky
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PREDICTED FINISH

1. LOUISVILLE: Getting Jordan Nwora back from the NBA draft was the single most impactful decision that happened during the early entry period. He’ll be an All-American on a team with a really nice balance of talent, youth, size and and perimeter play. If Fresh Kimble can make the point guard spot his, or if David Johnson can get healthy and take over the position, Louisville is looking like the best national title contender in the conference.

2. DUKE: I’ve talked about this ad nauseum at this point, but I am very concerned about Duke’s roster makeup. I have a hard time seeing how the Blue Devils are going to field lineups that can both space the floor and defend. They have the talent to win a lot of games regardless of what happens, and their ceiling is high if someone like Tre Jones puts it all together, but I’m not as sold on them as I am Louisville.

3. VIRGINIA: Virginia’s bigs are going to be awesome. We have talked about this plenty during the offseason. Where I am concerned is with their guard play. Can Kihei Clark make the leap that we saw London Perrantes and Ty Jerome make as sophomores? Will Casey Morsell be able to step in and play as a freshman? Just how good will Tomas Woldetensae be in his first season on campus?

4. NORTH CAROLINA: I love Cole Anthony, and I fully believe he is going to have a massive freshman season. I am also in on the idea that the grad transfers they are bringing it will make a major difference. But I do think that their reliance on unproven pieces is going to be something that has a bigger impact that people realize. UNC’s floor is the lowest of the top four teams.

5. NOTRE DAME: I think the Fighting Irish will end up being a top 25 team at some point this season. Rex Pfleuger is back and he should be healthy by the start of the season. He’ll be joined by fellow seniors Temple Gibbs and John Mooney, which, when combined with redshirt juniors Juwan Durham Nikola Djogo, give the Irish an old team, which Mike Brey thrives with. Then toss in the fact that last year’s excellent freshmen class is now a year older, and Notre Dame is my bet to be the best team in the ACC outside the big four.

6. N.C. STATE: We were all the way in on N.C. State last season, and it makes sense to be back in on them this year. Kevin Keatts is at his best when he has a roster loaded with backcourt talent, and that will be the case once again this season; basically everyone is back. Markell Johnson, Braxton Beverly, C.J. Bryce, Devon Daniels. Now as long as they play someone – anyone – in non-conference play this season, the Pack should be heading to the NCAA tournament.

7. FLORIDA STATE: Losing Terance Mann’s leadership is a blow, and the versatility of what Mfiondu Kabengele brought to the program won’t be easily replaced. There are also some question marks about what is going on at the point guard spot. But I do think that Trent Forrest and M.J. Walker are in for big years, and if that happens, the Seminoles have top 25 upside.

8. MIAMI: The NCAA scandal that was hanging over the program did not help the Hurricanes, and losing three seniors from last year’s roster – not to mention the fact that Dewan Hernandez was forced to turn pro – certainly won’t, either. But Chris Lykes is back and in line for a big season while Kameron McGusty is eligible and Keith Stone is (hopefully) going to be healthy. I am bullish on the ‘Canes.

9. CLEMSON: The Tigers missed their window. They lose Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell, Elijah Thomas and David Skara. Tevin Mack and Curran Scott are interesting pieces, and Aamir Simms is, in theory, the kind of player that should thrive under Brad Brownell.

10. SYRACUSE: The Orange just lose so much off of last year’s roster. Tyus Battle, Frank Howard, Oshae Brissett, Paschal Chukwu. The problem they’re dealing with now is that their best defensive lineups won’t have the shot-making of Battle to bail them out and their best offensive lineups, the ones with Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard and the like, won’t be as good defensively. I think that their ceiling will be determined by just how good Eli Hughes and Jalen Carey become.

11. VIRGINIA TECH: It’s a new era in Blacksburg. Mike Young replaces Buzz Williams while Justin Robinsin, Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker are all gone. Wabissa Bede is back, Landers Nolley II is eligible and Young can really coach, but there is going to be a learning curve.

12. GEORGIA TECH: In theory, this is a team we should like. They bring back a sneaky 1-2 punch in Jose Alvarado and James Banks, and the sophomore version of Michael Devoe should be a bit better. But they won’t be taking part in this year’s NCAA tournament, and it’s hard to imagine them really getting better without anything to fight for.

13. BOSTON COLLEGE: The Eagles went 5-13 in ACC play last season, and that was with Ky Bowman in school and Wynston Tabbs on the floor. Now, Bowman is in the professional ranks and Tabbs is out for the year. BC missed their window when both Bowman and Jerome Robinson were on the roster.

14. PITT: Pitt started ACC play last season by beating both Louisville and Florida State in the first two weeks. Then they proceeded to reel off 13 straight losses. At least Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens are interesting players.

15. WAKE FOREST: Danny Manning is in his sixth season at Wake Forest. He’s won more than five ACC games in a season just once, and he is coming off of a year where the Demon Deacons finished 11-20 overall. The only reason he wasn’t listed as the ACC coach under the most pressure is that Josh Pastner got himself on the wrong side of the NCAA.

Kansas transfer Grimes receives waiver, eligible immediately at Houston

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Maybe we now know why Houston was picked to win the AAC over Memphis.

On Tuesday, news broke that Quentin Grimes had won his appeal and received a waiver to gain immediate eligibility this season. Grimes was a top ten prospect in the Class of 2018, but after going for 21 points in the season opening Champions Classic, he struggled. In 36 games, Grimes averaged just 8.4 points and 2.0 assists while failing to prove himself a lead guard and struggling with consistency as a shooter.

Part of the reason why Grimes eventually was ruled eligible for this season was that Kansas did not have a scholarship available for him. The Jayhawks supported his eligibility throughout the process.

Grimes will get a chance at starting over with Houston, where Kelvin Sampson has proven to be exceptional at getting the most out of his backcourt. He’ll join DeJon Jarreau, one of this year’s breakout stars, and Nate Hinton in Houston’s perimeter.

With Grimes in the mix, Houston has the making of a top 20 team.

Grimes released the following statement on twitter:

Michigan State’s Langford out until January with ankle injury

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The joy of being named the No. 1 team in the AP preseason poll lasted for a matter of hours for Michigan State.

Because that’s when the Spartans found out that Joshua Langford, who missed the second half of last season, would be out for another three months after suffering a setback in his attempt to return from that ankle injury.

“It breaks my heart,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told reporters on Tuesday. “I love Josh Langford. He’s given me everything on the court, off the court, in the classroom.”

Langford started the first 13 games last season before the ankle injury kept him out, but he was cleared to practice in full in September. But Izzo said on Tuesday that Langford’s ankle had limited him of late and that he did not play when the Spartans scrimmaged Gonzaga in Denver on Saturday.

College Basketball’s Breakout Stars: Who will be this year’s most improved players?

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One of my favorite things to do heading into a season is to put together a list of the season’s Breakout Stars. 

Sometimes, the picks are just too obvious – think De’Andre Hunter, or P.J. Washington, or Nickeil Alexander-Walker. 

Sometimes, those obvious picks just don’t pan out – like Herb Jones, or M.J. Walker, or Cane Broome.

Sometimes, a guy needs to be on the list for a couple years before he actually reaches said breakout – hi Jermaine Samuels!

Some people have strictly-defined parameters for putting together a list like this. I do not, beyond the basic principle that the player will be going from playing a role to being a star, whether that means he was a starter that will become an all-american or a bit-player slated to be a key cog on a potential Final Four team matters not.

Anyway, here are the 17 players that will be household names by the end of the year:



JERMAINE SAMUELS, Villanova

There’s an argument to make that Samuels’ breakout already happened.

It happened on February 28th of last season. Samuels popped off for a career-high 29 points, hitting five threes, as Villanova snapped a three-game losing streak by knocking off Marquette at home. During that three-game losing streak, Samuels had gone scoreless while attempting just two shots. Over the final seven games of the season, he averaged 11.0 points, cracked double-figures five times and helped lead the Wildcats to their fifth Big East regular season title and fourth Big East tournament title in the last six years.

And now the Wildcats are entering a season without Phil Booth and Eric Paschall to carry the offense while Bryan Antoine, their five-star freshman guard, is out with a shoulder injury. Someone needs to provide Villanova with some scoring. Samuels is a former top 40 recruit that picked Villanova over Duke and Kansas, that has proven the ability to put up big numbers and is a perfect fit for what Villanova’s offense has been over the course of the last half-decade. He’s a junior now. This is the year that players make the leap on the Main Line, and I’ll be ready for it.

ANDREW NEMBHARD, Florida

Everyone wants to talk about Kerry Blackshear and what his arrival will mean for Florida. What people seem to be forgetting is that Andrew Nembhard is a former five-star recruits that averaged 8.0 points and 5.4 assists as a freshman for the Gators and will be helping to fill the “role” vacated by uber-inefficient gunners Jalen Hudson and Kevaughn Allen. I think Blackshear ends up being the best player on the Gators this season, but Nembhard may end up being their MVP and their leader. On a team that projects to finish in the top ten and contend for SEC titles and the Final Four, that’s going to put him in the All-American conversation. That, to me, counts as a breakout star.

TRE JONES, Duke

This all hinges on what Jones becomes as a shooter this season. We’ve talked about this ad nauseum. I put together an entire video about it. Jones may just be the most influential player in all of college basketball this season.

TYRESE HALIBURTON, Iowa State

I’m torn about having Haliburton on this list because I’m not exactly sure how much better he can play than he did over the first three months of last season. That said, Iowa State is going to be one of the better teams in the Big 12 this season, and after a terrific performance playing for Team USA in the U-19 World Cup, Haliburton returns to Ames to play for an Iowa State team that lost pretty much everyone in front of him in the offensive pecking order.

The thing to note here is that I am not expecting Haliburton to suddenly become a guy that averages 18 points. That’s not who he is or how he plays. But I do think that there is a chance that he puts up a stat line that is somewhere around 12 points, six boards, six assists and two steals while shooting better than 40 percent from three. Put another way, we’re going to know that he is a star without having to look at the counting numbers to confirm it.

JAY HUFF, Virginia

We have talked plenty about Jay Huff and Virginia’s big guys in this space, but I think that he is in line for a massive jump this season. On the one hand, he’s actually going to be playing. Huff was in the same recruiting class as Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy. He redshirted his first year in Charlottesville, he played just twelve games as a freshman and managed to see the floor for roughly 10 minutes a night last year. With so much of Virginia’s frontcourt depth gone, he is going to be getting 30-35 minutes a night this year.

But as we talked about in the video below, it’s not just the added minutes that changes things. It’s how good Huff is as the big guy in ball-screen actions and the fact that Virginia ran a more ball-screen heavy offense last season. Huff is a 7-foot-1 rim-running, lob-catching, shot-blocking menace that also shoots threes at a 45 percent clip while being able to put the ball on the floor. He’s going to have a massive year.

ISAIAH LIVERS, Michigan

With Iggy Brazdeikis gone after his one-and-done season, Livers is going to be the guy that steps up for the Wolverines. A hyper-athletic, 6-foot-7 combo-forward, Livers is a good, versatile defensive weapon that shot 42.6 percent from three last year. Someone is going to have to step up and fill the scoring void that has been vacated by the departures, and Livers seems to be the obvious fit. I would not be shocked to see Livers showing up in NBA mock drafts at some point during this season.

DEJON JARREAU, Houston

This one is simple, really. Jarreau played just 18 minutes per game last season and still managed to put up 8.7 points and 3.3 assists despite sharing the backcourt with the likes of Corey Davis, Armoni Brooks and Galen Robinson. This year, those three are gone, which means that Jarreau is going to be the guy that the offense runs through. I think that he is up for the task, and considering Kelvin Sampson’s track record of finding a way to figure things out with his lead guards, all the dots connect.

NOJEL EASTERN, Purdue

Matt Painter has been as good as anyone in the country at finding ways to get his best players into positions where they can succeed, and I think that this year is the year that he figures out how to take advantage of the things that Eastern does well. He’s a skilled passer that has terrific size at the point and has proven the ability to take smaller guards into the post. I think that Aaron Wheeler and Trevion Williams are candidates for this list as well, but I tend to lean towards the veterans when it comes to Painter working his magic.

OCHAI AGBAJI, Kansas

This pick is not actually as easy as it may seem, and that’s because Agbaji’s emergence last season came after Udoka Azubuike went down with his wrist injury. So while Kansas is losing Dedric Lawson, among other, Azubuike is coming back and is going to demand a very large market share of the Jayhawks offense. Throw in Devon Dotson’s continued development, and the added opportunities for Agbaji may not be there. That said, I think that he is clearly the most talented perimeter player on the Jayhawks roster this season, and given his size, athleticism and ability from the perimeter, I think there is a real chance that he ends up playing major minutes as the four in this Kansas system.

Put another way, he’s definitely going to be better than he was when his redshirt was pulled midway through his first season in Lawrence, and he is definitely going to be a useful weapon for Bill Self, I just don’t see him emerging as a guy that scores 15 points per game.

COREY KISPERT and FILIP PETRUSEV, Gonzaga

These decisions somewhat hinge on whether or not Killian Tillie is back and fully healthy this season. If he is, then I think that Kispert is the guy that takes the biggest step forward for the Zags. He’s an underrated talent that has been hidden by the likes of Zach Norvell and Rui Hachimura, but he’s a guy that has the potential to be an all-WCC performer if given the opportunity. If Tillie ends up being banged up all season long, than Petrusev is the obvious pick. He’s a really talented big that will carry even more of the load without Tillie’s presence.

REGGIE PERRY, Mississippi State

After getting off to a relatively slow start to his freshman season, Perry was absolutely dominant for long stretches of SEC play. He averaged 11.2 points and 8.2 boards during conference play, posting eight double-doubles. After an offseason to develop, he should end up being the focal point of Ben Howland’s offense as a sophomore.

KIRA LEWIS, Alabama

The way that Nate Oats played at Buffalo, he gave his lead guards quite a bit of responsibility. Lewis is going to be his lead guard this season. As a 17-year old in the SEC, he averaged 13.5 points and 2.9 assists. He’s heading into his sophomore season at the same age as the kids in the Class of 2019 heading into their freshmen year.

JOE WIESKAMP, Iowa

As a freshman, Wieskamp was one of the best shooters in the Big Ten, averaging 11.1 points and shooting 42.4 percent from three. Then Iowa lost Tyler Cook to the draft and lost Isaiah Moss to transfer and look like they may have lost Jordan Bohannon for the season. Someone is going to have to score, and Wieskamp is certainly capable of that.

OSUN OSUNNIYI, St. Bonaventure

Osunniyi was one of the best defensive players in all of college basketball last season, averaging 2.7 blocks to go along with his 7.5 points and 7.6 boards. With three of the Bonnies’ top four scorers graduating, he is going to be asked to play a much bigger role this season.

NATE REUVERS, Wisconsin

There is always someone waiting in the wings in Wisconsin’s frontcourt, and this year it is Nate Reuvers. As a sophomore, playing on a team that ran their offense through Ethan Happ, Reuvers averaged 7.9 points, 3.9 boards and 1.8 blocks while shooting 38.1 percent from three. If the Badgers are going to get back to the NCAA tournament, they are going to need Reuvers to have a monster junior season.

JALEN HILL, UCLA

Hill is a bit of a reach, but someone is going to have to step up and be Mick Cronin’s frontcourt anchor, and Hill makes sense. He’s long and athletic, he can rebound and he can block shots, he can do all of the things that Cronin got out of his big men for the last 13 years in Cincinnati. There is more talent in Westwood than people realize. Hill is the perfect example of that.

Michigan’s Franz Wagner out 4-6 weeks with fractured wrist

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan freshman Franz Wagner is expected to miss four to six weeks with a fractured right wrist.

The school said Monday a full recovery is anticipated. The 6-foot-8 Wagner is the younger brother of former Michigan standout Moe Wagner. He’s expected to be a key newcomer in the basketball team’s first season under new coach Juwan Howard.

The Wolverines open Nov. 5 against Appalachian State. They face Creighton on Nov. 12 and Louisville on Dec. 3, and play in a tournament in the Bahamas in late November. Those are all games Wagner could conceivably miss if he ends up on the long end of his recovery timeline.

Michigan opens Big Ten play Dec. 6 against Iowa.

Kansas-Missouri hoops series to resume next season in KC

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — The Border War is returning to college basketball.

The acrimonious rivalry between Kansas and Missouri, once the longest continually played series west of the Mississippi River, will resume next season in Kansas City. The schools have agreed to play six times, with four of those matchups taking place on their respective campuses.

“Having coached a lot of games versus Missouri in my time in Kansas, I could not be more excited to start this series up again,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self, who had been among the biggest reasons the teams never played, said in a statement announcing the series Monday night.

The series began in 1907 with a pair of wins by Missouri in Lawrence. The schools went on to play 269 times over 105 years. The last meeting was on Feb. 25, 2012, when the No. 4 Jayhawks rallied from a 19-point second-half deficit to beat the No. 3 Tigers in overtime at Allen Fieldhouse.

The reason the series ended can be traced to Missouri’s decision to depart its longtime home in the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. During a period of chaotic conference realignment, the Tigers moved to what they considered a more lucrative league — even though it made far less geographic sense — and in doing so left the Big 12 scrambling for its very survival.

Many coaches and administrators at Kansas not only took umbrage with their decision but held a grudge for years. Among them was Self, who was asked periodically over the years if he could envision playing the Tigers again, and was usually steadfast in his refusal to schedule them.

Tensions finally cooled enough that on Oct. 22, 2017, the schools agreed to play an exhibition game in Kansas City dubbed “The Showdown for Relief” to raise money for hurricane relief efforts.

Kansas won 93-87 in their first meeting in five years.

The thousands of fans who turned up for the game, coupled with the buzz it generated on both sides of the Kansas-Missouri border, piqued the interest of new Kansas athletic director Jeff Long. He was not part of the conference realignment mess and harbored no ill will toward Missouri, making him the ideal figure to help patch up relationships and ultimately resume the rivalry.

“One of the best aspects of college athletics is rivalries,” Long said. “We have quietly sought input from fans and supporters on the renewal of this series and we believe the overriding sentiments are that this historic rivalry should resume.”

After the initial game scheduled for Dec. 12, 2020, at the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City, the schools will alternate between Allen Fieldhouse and Mizzou Arena for the next four games. The final scheduled matchup will return to Sprint Center, though it’s possible the series continues.

It’s also possible that the basketball matchups are just the beginning.

“Hopefully, this renewal on the hardwood will lead to more opportunities down the road in other sports,” Tigers athletic director Jim Sterk said. “Rivalries make college sports great, and there is no question that when Missouri and Kansas face off in any sport, it’s important to a lot of people.”