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Three Things to Know: Syracuse scores 34; Buckeyes top Bearcats; Arizona gets promising freshman performance

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The glow of the Champion’s Classic has come and gone, but college hoops still had some entertainment in store for its follow-up act on the season’s second night.

Here’s what you need to know from Wednesday:

Virginia remains Virginia; Syracuse matches Cole Anthony’s scoring output

De’Andre Hunter is gone. Ty Jerome, too. Same with Kyle Guy.

Those are some serious departures, although the national championship trophy that now lives in Charlottesville seems like a fair trade. Still, given those losses, you wouldn’t fault Virginia if it took awhile for the Cavaliers to find themselves early this season.

Not surprisingly, the Cavs aren’t going to need a lot of self-discovery.

Tony Bennett’s team did what Tony Bennett’s program does, absolutely stifling Syracuse in a 48-34 victory.

Yes, Syracuse scored 34 points. In a regulation 40-minute game. Of basketball. In the ACC.

Which isn’t ideal.

Given that it was Virginia playing defense and slowing the pace, though, it’s at least understandable. Even if it’s unconscionable, ya know?

The Orange shot 13 of 55 from the field and 5 of 29 from 3. That’s 23.6 and 17.2 percent, respectively. They scored as many points as Cole Anthony in the freshman’s North Carolina debut. Usually, you want to outscore a freshman guard as a team. So Syracuse has some things to work on.

As for Virginia, its offense wasn’t exactly picture of efficiency. The Cavs shot 40 percent from the floor and a nasty 4 of 24 (16.7 percent) from 3. Given the new faces in new roles, it might take awhile before they get squared away on that end of the floor.

But defensively, Bennett has proven time and again that whoever is on the roster, his teams will defend. Not only defend, but defend as well as anyone in the country. This year doesn’t look any different. And just like years past, that makes Virginia a contender. Last season’s departures and tonight’s offensive ugliness notwithstanding.

Buckeyes outlast Cincy

It’s not Cincinnati-Xavier, but Cincy-Ohio State provides a nice little intrastate matchup to begin a season for the second-consecutive year. And for the second-straight season, the Buckeyes prevailed.

Ohio State outscored Cincinnati by 15 in the second half to claim a 64-56 victory over the Bearcats in Columbus.

It’s a nice win for the Buckeyes against Cincinnati, which will be competing for an AAC title this winter, with what is likely going to be a nice resume-booster come March.

Kyle Young was 6 of 7 from the floor for a team-best 14 points while adding 13 rebounds for the Buckeyes, who also got eight points and 11 rebounds from Kaleb Wesson.

Jarron Cumberland and Keith Williams both had 13 points for John Brannen in his debut on the sideline for the Bearcats.

Zeke Nnaji goes for 20 in Arizona debut

Nico Mannion, a top-10 recruit, was the prize of Sean Miller’s 2019 recruiting class, but it was another freshman who starred for the Wildcats in their 91-52 thrashing of Northern Arizona.

Zeke Nnaji, a 6-foot-10 four-star prospect from Minnesota, was 9 of 12 from the floor for 20 points in his Tucson debut.

Mannion, meanwhile, went 2 of 6 from the floor to finish with nine points along with four assists. Josh Green, another top-50 freshman in the class, joined Mannion and Nnaji in the starting lineup and finished with 10 points, six rebounds, two steals and two assists.

Miller might not have the best freshmen core in the country, but it looks like there’s a nice foundation of talent there.

Devonaire Doutrive reverses course, will return to Arizona

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An Arizona sophomore with plans to transfer has pivoted.

Devonaire Doutrive, who was said last month to be leaving the Wildcats, will return to the program, he announced Monday.

“Sorry for the confusion everyone,” he wrote on social media, “but I’m staying at the University of Arizona.”

Doutrive’s guardian, Laurian Watkins, had confirmed last month that the 6-foot-5 guard planned to continue his career elsewhere.

”He is looking for a spot that’s more suitable for him going forward,“ Watkins told the Arizona Daily Star then. “U of A was awesome just not the best fit for him!”

The reversal, though, means Doutrive will be back after playing sparingly as a freshman. He averaged just 11 minutes a game, posting 3.3 points and 3 rebounds. He was a top-75 recruit in the 2018 class that chose the Wildcats over the likes of Arizona State and Georgetown

Pac-12 loosens intra-conference transfer rule

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The Pac-12 approved a measure Monday that will lighten restrictions on players that want to transfer to schools within the conference.

Players who now make an intra-conference transfer will no longer be subject to an immediate loss of a season of eligibility, the conference announced.

“This rule change removes one of the last remaining penalties associated with transferring between Conference schools,” the league said in a press release, “and is designed to provide student-athletes with a similar experience to any other student who decides to transfer.”

The league also has passed rules to beef up its non-conference schedule as programs will be required to a non-conference five-year trailing average of opponents’ NET ranking must be 175 or less, no participation in road buy games, no regular season games against non-Division I opponents and no road games versus a non-conference opponent with a five-year trailing average of 200 NET. Those requirements, along with the move to a 20-game conference schedule, come in response to continued struggles by the league in basketball, with last season seeing the league flirt with being a one-bid NCAA tournament conference. Ultimately, its league champion, Washington, received a No. 9 seed with Oregon getting a 12 and Arizona State an 11 and a First Four invitation.

 

Arizona lands Kentucky transfer Jemarl Baker

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Arizona landed a notable transfer on Tuesday night as former Kentucky guard Jemarl Baker Jr. announced his commitment to the Pac-12 program on Twitter.

A former four-star prospect who never earned consistent minutes with Kentucky, Baker opted to head West as the California native should become a key piece for Arizona once he’s eligible. After missing his freshman season with a season-ending knee injury, Baker returned to Kentucky’s rotation for the 2018-19 season as he averaged 2.3 points per game in 9.1 minutes per contest.

Known as a perimeter threat, Baker never consistently found his shooting touch for Kentucky last season as he only shot 31 percent from three-point range. Baker will have to sit out the 2019-2020 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but given his knee injury, he should have three seasons of eligibility remaining if he petitions the NCAA for the extra year.

While Baker couldn’t establish himself at arguably the deepest program in America, playing at Arizona could be a better fit as he’ll have a year to acclimate with the new Wildcats before taking the floor.

Christian Dawkins claims he never spoke with Arizona’s Sean Miller regarding payment to Deandre Ayton

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Christian Dawkins was found guilty of two of six charges he was facing in federal court during the second college basketball corruption case on Wednesday afternoon. But perhaps the most interesting thing that happened involving Dawkins was his comments to reporters following the jury’s verdict.

Dawkins was charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery as the two-week college basketball corruption trial concluded in New York on Wednesday. Afterwards, reporter Adam Zagoria asked Dawkins how he would have answered a question on the witness stand about Arizona head coach Sean Miller knowing that Arizona players were being paid. Government lawyers objected before Dawkins could answer in both instances as Dawkins was never given the chance to answer under oath.

Zagoria’s question follows up a previous ESPN report from Mark Schlabach in February 2018 in which Dawkins allegedly had a phone call with Miller centering around an alleged payment to star center Deandre Ayton.

Downplaying the alleged phone call, and Miller’s alleged payment to Ayton, Dawkins gave some surprisingly candid on-the-record quotes for a man who was just convicted of a federal crime.

“I’m not going to answer that,” Dawkins said to Zagoria. “Because this is the thing, I don’t see nothing wrong with it so I’m not gonna throw nobody under the bus for something that I agree with.

“I’m not going to put (Miller) in a position that could hurt him. It’s just too sensitive for me. I don’t care that much. I don’t want him to lose his job.

“I wasn’t there. I just got out of criminal court case for the last two months. I had no involvement with Deandre Ayton, that’s a fact,” Dawkins continued. “So the whole (February 2018) ESPN report (that said Dawkins and Miller discussed paying Ayton), that’s something I couldn’t say is accurate because I never had conversations about delivering Deandre Ayton to Arizona for Sean Miller. Didn’t happen.”

Dawkins also reiterated to Zagoria that it was Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson who brought up Ayton’s name during the trial.

“Book is saying, ‘Sean [Miller] gave Ayton X,Y,Z.’ I’m just listening,” Dawkins said.

Schlabach’s initial ESPN report said that FBI wiretaps intercepted telephone conversations between Miller and Dawkins in which Miller discussed paying $100,000 to make sure Ayton signed with Arizona. Dawkins’ comments on Wednesday contradict Schlabach’s initial report while none of the alleged phone calls between Dawkins and Miller have been included as evidence during the college basketball corruption trials.

Report: Arizona confirms it’s under NCAA investigation

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It’s been clear for some time now that the NCAA was going to have to look into Sean Miller’s Arizona program with all the information of alleged misdeeds that has come from the federal government’s investigation into corruption in college basketball.

The school confirmed Friday that such an investigation is underway, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Former assistant Emanuel ‘Book’ Richardson has already pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the investigation, and wiretaps played at the second trial from the investigation last week further embroiled the Wildcats program in the case.

New NCAA rules will allow it to use evidence and testimony from the trial as it makes its own investigation, which could be troublesome to Miller and his program given all that has been said in court and on federal wiretaps. Even if Miller is not found to have done anything outside NCAA rules, he could still be in a tenuous position as NCAA rules hold head coaches accountable for the actions of their assistants.