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Five-star 2019 guard Nico Mannion down to two schools

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Five-star Class of 2019 point guard Nico Mannion appears to be inching closer to his college decision after announcing that he’s down to two schools on Friday night.

The 6-foot-3 Mannion recently reclassified into 2019 after being in the Class of 2020 the past few years, as big-name colleges immediately offered. Mannion was down to a final four that included Arizona, Duke, Marquette and Villanova.

Now, Mannion is focused on Arizona and Marquette as the Blue Devils and Wildcats have been dropped from his list. With Villanova taking a recent commitment from five-star guard Bryan Antoine, it makes sense that it might be a crowded backcourt situation. Duke is a potentially crowded backcourt situation as well, with multiple five-star point guard offers in 2019.

Arizona is the in-state option for Mannion, as he plays at Phoenix Pinnacle High School. Marquette would also give Mannion plenty of freedom in the backcourt as high-scoring guard Markus Howard could be a recent example of what the Golden Eagles could look to do with Mannion.

It’ll be interesting to see how long Mannion takes to announce from here, as he hasn’t set a decision date or next step in the timeline. One of the top scoring lead guards in the Class of 2019, Mannion should have an instant impact at the college level.

Arizona PF Ira Lee cited for ‘super extreme’ DUI

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Tuesday afternoon it was announced that Arizona sophomore power forward Ira Lee was been cited for driving under the influence on Saturday.

According to the Arizona Daily Star Lee faces misdemeanor charges for failing to yield at an intersection, driving under the influence as a minor (Lee is 20 years old) and super extreme DUI involving a blood-alcohol content above .20. Lee, who had a blood-alcohol level of .215 per the Daily Star, will be arraigned on September 10.

In a release the Arizona basketball program announced that the incident has been referred to the Dean of Students for review and “the Athletics Department is reviewing the incident for team consequences.”

As a freshman Lee served as a reserve behind starters Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic in the Arizona front court, averaging 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game. With Ayton and Ristic both off to the professional ranks, Lee is expected to be a key contributor in an Arizona front court that includes transfers Chase Jeter (Duke; sat out last season) and Ryan Luther (Pittsburgh), sophomore Emmanuel Akot and freshman Omar Thielemans.

Shaq’s son, Shareef O’Neal, officially signs with UCLA

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Another O’Neal is set to patrol the paint in Los Angeles.

Shareef O’Neal, son of NBA great Shaquille, signed with UCLA on Monday, the school announced.

The younger O’Neal originally committed to the Bruins in February.

“Shareef has made great strides throughout his high school career,” Bruins coach Steve Alford said in a statement released by the school. “He’s an outstanding addition to our incoming class and brings a terrific combination of size, skill and athleticism. We love the length and height of this year’s team, and Shareef is really going to add to that dynamic.

“He has a terrific frame, one that will allow him to continue improving on both sides of the floor. With Shareef, you’re talking about a hard-working young man with tremendous upside, and his presence in our team’s frontcourt is a significant addition.”

There was some speculation that O’Neal may have difficulty being academically eligible this past spring, but his signing should put those concerns to rest.

The Bruins are getting, in addition to one of the sport’s great names, a top-50 recruit who originally committed to Arizona before the Wildcats became embroiled in the federal investigation into corruption in college basketball. O’Neal is 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds, and he averaged 27 points per game during his senior high school.

And here are some highlights from Shaq’s LSU days because A) Any excuse is a good excuse to watch Shaq highlights and B) We don’t talk about what a menace we was as a college player enough.

Important post-July recruiting storylines

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The July live evaluation period is complete as college coaches have been watching prospects over the last three weeks. We’ve learned a lot about some of the recruiting trends and popular players as there are some intriguing storylines to look out or over the next several months.

1. Kentucky or Memphis for James Wiseman?

Elite Class of 2019 center James Wiseman recently came out with his list of top eight schools. But nobody believes that six of those schools even have a chance. Almost everybody believes this one is coming down to two: Kentucky and Memphis.

Wiseman received plenty of attention from both staffs during July as head coach Penny Hardaway has helped make up a lot of recruiting ground for the Tigers these past few months. Kentucky still holds a lot of clout since they own commitments from Ashton Hagans (who’s already part of the program) and Tyrese Maxey — two guards Wiseman said he wanted to play with in college.

While Wiseman didn’t drop any additional hints, or give any kind of indication which way he might be leaning, we’ll have to wait for subtle clues and hints about the next step in this one.

2. How does USC add to its great 2019 start?

Since USC already has four commitments in the Class of 2019, they are in a sweet recruiting position before many schools even hold one pledge. And with one being a five-star and the other three being top-100 prospects, the group already has depth and balance.

While USC likely won’t take that many more players in this current 2019 class, they had a leg up on younger prospects by being able to stick with them during long stretches of the July live evaluation period. That means recruiting talented pieces around Class of 2020 big man Evan Mobley, who many expect will eventually become a Trojan like his brother, Isaiah, and play for their father who’s an assistant on Andy Enfield’s staff.

If USC lands back-to-back talented classes with a Mobley brother in each, it will set a huge foundation for deep postseason runs — even with some potential pro losses early on. Getting that much depth and talent should hopefully translate to success for the Trojans. We’ll see if the early 2019 success pays off down the road with the 2020 returns.

3. Cole Anthony recruiting information

Up until this point, elite Class of 2019 point guard Cole Anthony hasn’t talked very much about recruiting specifics. Anthony played for Kansas head coach Bill Self with the USA Basketball U18 team. So Anthony spoke about his experiences with Self as a coach and person at Peach Jam.

But that’s all we really know about Cole Anthony’s recruitment at this point. Anthony has refused to talk specific schools. It’s hard to get a read on where things stand. Playing in a guard-driven, ball-screen heavy offense is something Anthony has talked about wanting at the college level, so it’ll be interesting to see how much style of play might factor into such a decision.

As my NBC colleague Rob Dauster noted in his tremendous feature on Cole, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams was always present following Anthony during July while Oregon has also been linked quite a bit. At some point, Anthony will begin taking official visits and divulging recruiting information. It’ll be fascinating to clear up all the rumors and get some clarification.

4. Who ends up at No. 1 in 2019? 

Since the Class of 2019 doesn’t have a clear No. 1 prospect, there will still be a lot to play for as the top players enter senior season. With the No. 1 spot having multiple candidates, we could get some marquee battles for the spotlight over the next few months.

James Wiseman, Vernon Carey Jr. and Cole Anthony have long been in the No. 1 conversation. Some national scouts even believe that Jaden McDaniels is the most talented player in the class long-term. But there doesn’t seem to be a consensus player (or order or players) among that group. Others could also sneak into the conversation as well.

It should make for an interesting season with a lot to play for, since some classes have featured near-unanimous No. 1 prospects in years past.

5. How will players handle recruiting with the FBI investigation?

This will be a unique year for recruiting after the FBI investigation into college basketball has uncovered so many allegations over the past year. It’s led to some changes in the coaching ranks. Perceptions of certain programs and coaches might have also been slightly altered.

But we’ll really see the changes in how some programs are handling things with official visits and commitments beginning. Some programs like Auburn and USC haven’t seen any recruiting disadvantages so far. Watching others programs like Arizona and Louisville will be interesting since they’ve typically recruited five-star caliber players in the past. Can they continue to land those kinds of talents?

Players might also be cautious with which schools they visit and when they make a decision. Some recruits specifically cited the uncertainty when they said they were targeting a spring decision — especially with regard to coaching changes. Potential penalties and postseason bans are one thing. Many of these players want assurances that head coaches will remain safe and in place during their time on campus.

Bracket revealed for loaded Maui Invitational

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The Maui Invitational is a monster.

While the field for the 2018 edition of the event has been known for months, it’s strength and depth was on full display Tuesday when the brackets were revealed, pitting NBC Sports Way Too Early top-five teams Duke and Gonzaga on a championship collision course,

Duke will square off against San Diego State in its opening game while Gonzaga takes on Illinois in its opener on the opposite side of the bracket.

Other first round matchups include Auburn (12th in our preseason poll) vs. Xavier (26th) and a game of unknown-but-talented teams in Arizona and Iowa State.

“Each of the eight teams that step on the hardwood at the Lahaina Civic Center is capable of winning the 2018 Maui Jim Maui Invitational,” tournament chairman David Odom said in a statement. “All 12 games in Maui will help shape the course of the 2018-19 college basketball season, and the team that leaves the island with the Wayne Duke Championship Trophy will have incredible momentum to begin the year. The atmosphere is going to be electric, and we’re looking forward to hosting the teams and their fans in November.”

Simply, this tournament is stacked.

Gonzaga and Duke are going to draw the big headlines, but the rest of the tournament is going to be just as intriguing.

Can Auburn back up its SEC title? What does Xavier look like under Travis Steele? Can Brian Dutcher keep momentum with the Aztecs? What kind of team is Sean Miller going to have? Can Iowa State return to relevance after a last-place Big 12 season? Can Brad Underwood rally the Illini?

So while Chaminade isn’t in the field for the first time since the event’s inception in 1984 (the Silver Swords return on a rotating basis in 2019) and there won’t be any chance of a blockbuster upset, Maui is making up for it with an all-time field.

2018 Mauit Invitational

 

Arizona releases non-conference schedule

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

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

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

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

Here’s the full schedule:

Day Date Opponent Location

Sunday Nov. 11 Cal Poly Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Nov. 14 UTEP Tucson, Ariz.

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

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

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

Wednesday Nov. 28 Texas Southern Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 2 at UConn Hartford, Conn.

Thursday Dec. 6 Utah Valley Tucson, Ariz.

Sunday Dec. 9 at Alabama Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Saturday Dec. 15 Baylor Tucson, Ariz.

Wednesday Dec. 19 Montana Tucson, Ariz.

Saturday Dec. 22 UC Davis Tucson, Ariz.