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NBC Sports Top 25: Duke back to No. 1, Tennessee hops Gonzaga

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Here’s the conundrum that is going to face voters in the top 25 this week: What do you do with Kansas?

When it comes to resume, Kansas probably has the strongest one of any team in the top seven. They’ve beaten Michigan State on a neutral court. They’ve beaten Tennessee on a neutral court. They’ve beaten Marquette on a neutral court. Every win they have in Phog Allen Fieldhouse this year comes against teams ranked in the top 135 on KenPom.

And then there is this: Kansas has beaten Tennessee. Tennessee has beaten Gonzaga. Gonzaga has beaten Duke. Duke, according to some, can beat the Cavs, which officially means that Kansas is a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

Or something like that.

The point is that it makes total sense to rank Kansas No. 1 based on what they’ve accomplished this season, but I think that even the most irrational Kansas fans will cop to the fact that these Jayhawks haven’t come close to hitting their stride yet this season, and that’s before you factor in the loss of Udoka Azuibuike to an ankle injury.

The difference between the top seven teams this season is marginal, particularly if you are not as high on Duke as I am, and while that means there really isn’t all that much difference between Nevada at No. 7 and whoever it is that you are going to rank No. 1, it does mean that a team like Kansas — who is in a bad run of form — drops to sixth in this ranking.

And to be frank, as long as your top seven is, in some order, the same as my top seven, your ranking is probably going to be just fine. I’d quibble with ranking Nevada in the top four, and I think it’s probably silly to have Duke, Tennessee or Gonzaga outside the top four, but there are arguments to justify it all. I’m sure Kansas fans will call me a Duke homer and say that Bill Self must ignore my calls, but the truth of it is that there are a lot of really good teams at the top this year. Parsing through a jumbled mess like that is never easy.

I dropped Kentucky all the way out of the top 25, as I did Kansas State, but I’ll go more in depth on that in the Monday Overreactions column.

Here is the full top 25:

1. Duke (9-1, Last week: 2)
2. Michigan (10-0, 3)
3. Tennessee (7-1, 6)
4. Gonzaga (9-1, 1)
5. Virginia (9-0, 4)
6. Kansas (8-0, 5)
7. Nevada (10-0, 7)
8. Auburn (8-1, 8)
9. North Carolina (7-2, 9)
10. Florida State (8-1, 10)
11. Texas Tech (8-0, 11)
12. Michigan State (8-2, 13)
13. Virginia Tech (8-1, 14)
14. Wisconsin (8-2, 15)
15. N.C. State (8-1, 17)
16. Ohio State (8-1, 19)
17. Arizona State (7-1, 20)
18. Purdue (6-4, 18)
19. Villanova (8-2, UR)
20. Syracuse (7-2, UR)
21. Marquette (8-2, UR)
22. Buffalo (9-0, UR)
23. Mississippi State (8-1, 25)
24. Iowa (7-2, 23)
25. Nebraska (8-2, 24)

New Additions: 19. Villanova, 20 Syracuse, 21. Marquette
Dropped Out: 12. Kentucky, 16. Kansas State, 21. Creighton

Five-star guard Cole Anthony trims list to six

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Cole Anthony is down to six.

The top guard in the class of 2019 halved his list of potential landings spots, with North Carolina, Miami, Georgetown, Wake Forest, Oregon and Notre Dame making the cut.

“I’d like to thank all the coaches that have recruited me,” Anthony announced via social media, “but after talking to my family we have decided these will be my top 6 schools.”

The headline here is that Anthony eliminated two of the heaviest hitters on the recruiting trail – Kentucky and Duke – from consideration. The Wildcats and Blue Devils will undoubtedly have  two of the best recruiting classes in the country come next spring, but it won’t include the son of former NBA player Greg Anthony.

Also not making this round of cuts was Louisville, Pitt, Villanova and Kansas.

None of Anthony’s final six are exactly strangers to success, but it might be notable that, outside of North Carolina, that the five are exactly the bluest bloods. Oregon has Nike (and a recent Final Four), sure, and Georgetown has history and a Hall of Famer at the helm, but Miami, Wake Forest and Notre Dame aren’t reeling in top-five players everyday. Anthony was always going to be a major, game-changing addition to a team, but if he could be an even bigger impact as a rare top recruit at some of those programs.

Anthony is expected to make his decision this spring.

Four-star forward Ismael Massoud commits to Wake Forest

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Danny Manning and Wake Forest are on the board for 2019.

Ismael Massoud, a top-150 forward from New York, committed to the Demon Deacons on Monday.

“They were my first high-major offer and they have just been there from the beginning for me,” Massoud told Rivals. “The coaching staff, them playing professionally and developing players, that is priceless for me and that is big for me with my development. The school is beautiful and with the academics, it is a perfect blend of everything.”

Massoud averaged 8 points and 4 boards per game for the PSA Cardinals in the EYBL this past summer.

The 6-foot-9 Massoud had offers from the likes of Georgia Tech, Harvard, Auburn, Xavier and others, but became Manning’s first commitment in the 2019 class.

Wake Forest also gets the commit less than two months after one of its assistant coaches, Jamill Jones, was placed on leave while facing assault charges in New York stemming from an alleged incident in which authorities say a man fell and died as a result from a punch thrown by Jones. While Jones is on leave, Wake Forest has had director of operations Justin Bauman assuming assistant duties, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Five-star guard Cole Anthony announces 12 finalists

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For a kid that’s the son of an NBA player (who also is prominently on TV as an analyst) and a top-five recruit, Cole Anthony has kept his recruitment remarkably quiet. Our own Rob Dauster wrote 2,500 words on him earlier this summer, and still had to “read the tea leaves” as to who, exactly, was recruiting the talented guard.

Anthony finally provided some clarity on the situation ahead of his senior year.

Twelve schools made the cut for Anthony, who will now consider Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisville, Oregon, Villanova, Wake Forest, Pitt, Georgetown, Notre Dame and Miami as his college destination.

Anthony essentially had his pick of any school in the country, so this list is a trim, but considering the size of it, Anthony is still keeping his options open. Those options basically being all the top programs in the country. And Pitt.

(Sorry, that was mean to the Panthers. Clearly the hiring of Jeff Capel, who spearheaded Duke’s recruiting of recent seasons, is putting them in contention for top-level players.)

Anthony has said previously he’s looking to make a spring decision on where he’ll attend school.

 

Wake AD sits ‘tight’ as coach goes through legal process

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman says the school is “sitting tight” while the legal process continues for an assistant basketball coach who police say punched a New York City tourist who later died.

Wellman spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday, four days after the school placed assistant coach Jamill Jones on leave, and says there have been no further updates.

Police say Jones attacked digital marketing guru Sandor Szabo early on Aug. 5, causing him to fall and smash his head on a Queens sidewalk.

Jones has pleaded not guilty a charge of misdemeanor assault and has an Oct. 2 court date. Wellman said “what transpires between now and then, we have no idea. We’re not in control of that, so we’re just sitting tight at this point.”

Wellman declined to discuss the situation further.

In the less serious realm on the basketball court, the AD has some other issues to sort out that aren’t nearly as grave.

The program took a step back in Danny Manning’s fourth season, finishing 11-20 a year after making the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010 and then losing two key players early. But the roster turnover continued this year, with the top three scorers from last year’s team all leaving early — Bryant Crawford and Doral Moore turned pro, while Keyshawn Woods transferred to Ohio State.

Wellman isn’t concerned about the roster churn, called the season “a disappointment on the surface” but expressed confidence in Manning and his assistants, pointing to an incoming recruiting class ranked in the top 25 nationally by Scout.com.

“This staff can recruit. This staff can coach,” Wellman said. “This staff can do all of the things that need to be done to build a championship-caliber program.”

But it’s obvious the progress in basketball has lagged behind the school’s other high-profile sport, with Dave Clawson leading the football team to consecutive bowl victories after going 3-9 in each of his first two seasons.

“He’s building a program with depth,” Wellman said of Clawson. “He has all of the right approaches for a Wake Forest, the type of people he’s recruiting, recognizing that we are something of a developmental program where guys come in and are going to develop, and he has the right coaches to develop those players. And I think you’re seeing the results on the field.”

Overall, the recently completed academic year was a success at Wake Forest, which finished 48th in the standings for the Director’s Cup, which is awarded to the top overall athletic department. The unquestioned highlight of the year was the team national championship the Demon Deacons claimed in men’s tennis as well as the individual crown won by Petros Chrysochos, who beat teammate Borna Gojo in the final.

Wellman is hoping for even more improvement in all of the school’s sports in 2018-19, and is eager to open some new facilities in the coming year. Set to open in January are a pair of buildings that together cost $50 million — an all-sports facility for strength, conditioning and coaches’ office space, as well as a basketball player development center to include a practice gym and strength and conditioning space for both basketball teams. That comes after the school opened its indoor practice facility for football a year ago.

“What we want is for facilities to be an asset,” Wellman said. “They were a liability in the recruitment game and they were a liability once our players got here, in training our players the way you want to be able to train them. With the facilities that are coming on line now, we will be in as good a position as anyone in the country.”

Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter @JoedyAP

Wake Forest assistant charged with assault in connection to deadly incident

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Jamill Jones, an assistant on the Wake Forest coaching staff, has been charged with assault in connection with an incident that resulted in the death of a man over the weekend.

Sabor Szabo of Florida on Sunday morning was allegedly drunk and hitting cars, including Jones’, in Queens. A resident came outside and Szabo punched that person in the face, according to the Post. Jones then hit Szabo, who fell and hit his head on the pavement and later succumbed to his injuries. Jones turned himself in to authorities on Thursday.

He was later released on his own recognizance and ordered to return to court Oct. 2.

Jones joined coach Danny Manning’s staff prior to last season after stints with UCF, VCU and Florida Gulf Coast. He previously coached the Washington, D.C.-based Team Takeover grassroots program.

“We have just been made aware of this matter and we are gathering information,” a Wake Forest spokesperson said Thursday night. “We will make a further statement after we learn more about the matter.”