December Highlights

Let’s take a look at some of the teams that dominated the storylines in college basketball in the month of December.

Studs: Duke, Tennessee, Nevada, Florida State

Duke Blue Devils

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SB Nation

The Duke Blue Devils are 11-1 and haven’t lost since they were defeated by Gonzaga in the finals of the Maui Invitational on Thanksgiving Eve. Since then, Duke has taken down the likes of Indiana and #12 Texas Tech. Zion Williamson has emerged as the star of the team, even though it has three other top-tier freshman in RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Tre Jones. Williamson has been an absolute beast and has catapulted the Blue Devils back to the top of the polls. He presents a matchup nightmare for almost every team in the country and has been a monster in all phases of the game. Yes, his dunks are highlight worthy on a nightly basis, but the play of the year thus far may have been that he jumped so high to block a shot against Princeton that he hit his head on the backboard. Williamson is averaging 19.8 points, on 65.2-percent from the field, and 9.4 rebounds per game. His efficiency and athletic prowess have NBA scouts drooling. Halfway through the season, Zion is atop the draft board and most teams tanking want to have a shot at him.

Tennessee Volunteers

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Chicago Tribune

The Tennessee Volunteers are a complete college basketball team and are early season favorites to earn back-to-back regular season SEC titles. Tennessee is experienced and tough at every position. Rick Barnes has a pair of frontcourt bruisers in Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams who are dominating forces that can beat you in the post or from deep. Since their lone loss that came in overtime to then #2 Kansas in the NIT Season Tip-Off, in which Williams fouled out, Tennessee has won six consecutive games, including victories over Gonzaga, Memphis, and Wake Forest. The Volunteers have climbed to #3 in the country. After defeating then #1 Gonzaga, a game in which Schofield tallied 30 points and corralled six rebounds, the senior said that his main reason for coming back to school was to become one of Barnes’ favorite players that he ever coached. That’s what college basketball is about. Schofield is averaging 18.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Although Williams, the reigning SEC Player of the Year that is averaging team-highs of 16.6 points and 8.5 boards, may get all the postseason honors, Schofield is the heart of this team that has its eyes set on something bigger than just a conference title.

Nevada Wolfpack

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Mid-Major Madness

With only one game, at Utah, left on their non-conference schedule, the Nevada Wolfpack are 12-0 and could be flirting with entering the NCAA Tournament as a one-seed with an undefeated record. Road conference games are always tough in any league, but this could be a bad year for the Mountain West which makes the prospect of an unblemished record for Nevada more reasonable. The Wolfpack have risen to #6 in the nation with wins over BYU, Tulsa, UMass, Loyola-Chicago, USC, then #20 Arizona State, Grand Canyon, and South Dakota State. Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline are leading the team in scoring with 18.8 points per contest apiece. Martin and Caroline also average 5.6 and 9.6 rebounds per game, respectively. Caleb’s twin brother Cody facilitates the offense and has an assist to turnover rate of 3.2:1. Last year, Eric Musselman’s team played Cinderella. This season, Nevada has a target on their back and are poised to make a run even further than they did a year ago.

Florida State Seminoles

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Tomahawk Nation

After a surprise run to the Elite Eight, the Florida State Seminoles carried that momentum into the 2018-19 season and are off to an 11-1 start, with their lone loss coming against Villanova in the championship game of the Advocare Invitational in November. Florida State has wins over Florida, Tulane, UAB, then #19 LSU, then #19 Purdue, UConn, and St. Louis. With their leading returning scorer, Phil Cofer, missing the first nine games of the season, the Seminoles haven’t skipped a beat and sit at #9 in the AP Poll. Terance Mann leads the Seminoles in scoring and rebounding with 12.3 points and 6.8 boards per contest. Florida State may not be getting the attention it deserves with Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina looming at the top of the ACC, but don’t be surprised to see the Seminoles near the top of the conference standings when all is said and done.

Surprises: Texas Tech and Ohio State

These four teams were all expected to be good, but two surprise teams thus far are Texas Tech and Ohio State. The Red Raiders and the Buckeyes were surprise teams a year ago and Chris Beard and Chris Holtmann have their teams shocking the college basketball world yet again in 2018-19.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

jarrett
SportsRadio 1340 The Fan

After making it to the Elite eight a season ago, Texas Tech lost their leading scorer Keenan Evans to graduation and second leading scorer, freshman, Zhaire Smith to the NBA Draft. Their top returning scorer, Jarrett Culver, is the key reason why the Red Raiders are #11 in the country. Culver is averaging 19.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists. Texas Tech has wins over USC, Nebraska, and Memphis and barely lost to Duke at Madison Square Garden a week ago. The Red Raiders have hopes of ending Kansas’ streak of 14 consecutive Big Twelve regular season titles.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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Eleven Warriors

Ohio State lost do-everything big man Keita Bates-Diop to the NBA Draft and was picked to finish near the bottom of the Big Ten entering this season. The Buckeyes are now 11-1 and have wins over Cincinnati, Creighton, Minnesota, Illinois, and UCLA—with their lone loss coming to Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in November. Kaleb Wesson is averaging 16.4 points and 7.1 rebounds per game to lead Ohio State.

If one thing is for certain it’s that Texas Tech and Ohio State were underrated two years in a row and that Beard and Holtmann are two budding stars in the college basketball coaching circle.

Freshly Squeezed (12/3)

Syracuse Riding a Three-Game Win Streak

ehosu
The Edwardsville Intelligencer

Syracuse entered last Wednesday’s tilt with Ohio State in desperate need of a nonconference win over a ranked team on the road. The Orange got exactly what the doctor ordered and pulled off a 72-62 victory over the 16th-ranked Buckeyes in Columbus in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Syracuse followed that performance up with a 63-55 win over Cornell in a hotly contested “Battle of the Boeheim’s.”

Ohio State jumped out to an early 9-2 lead by connecting on their first four shot attempts. The Buckeyes cooled off and the Orange tied the game at 17 on a three-pointer by Marek Dolezaj. The teams traded baskets to close the half and Tyus Battle gave Syracuse momentum heading into the break with a spinning layup to pull the Orange to within two points (31-29) at halftime.

Syracuse wasted no time in the second stanza as Oshae Brissett made a layup of the first possession to ignite a 10-2 run to give the Orange a 39-33 lead. Ohio State used a 10-2 run of their own to take a 43-41 lead. Syracuse ripped off an 11-0 run to take a 55-45 lead that they would not relinquish the rest of the way and came away with a much needed 72-62 victory.

The Orange had their best shooting night of the season as they shot 48.9-percent from the field and 45.8-percent from beyond the arc to earn the win. Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone noticeably bothered the Buckeyes throughout the night as Ohio State was held to just 32.6-percent from the field and 27.3-percent from three point land.

Despite battling foul trouble throughout the evening, the Orange were victorious. Syracuse committed 29 fouls in the tightly-called affair and lost three players, Bourama Sidibe, Frank Howard, and Dolezaj, to disqualification. Ohio State finished 26-for-35 from the charity stripe.

The Buckeyes were led by CJ Jackson, who tallied 19 points, on 4-of-14 from the floor, and four rebounds.

Battle paced the Orange attack with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Elijah Hughes poured in 18 points on 6-of-14 from the floor and 4-of-9 from deep. Brissett added 14 points and four rebounds.

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Syracuse University

Coach Boeheim commented on his team’s performance postgame. “Our overall defense was good,” Boeheim said. “We guarded the three-point line better than we have all year. We did a good job inside, but it was Tyus and really Oshae, and Elijah in the second half that made some big plays.”

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge ended in a 7-7 tie.

After their impressive road win over the Buckeyes, Syracuse returned to the Carrier Dome to face the Cornell Big Red in the “Battle of the Boeheim’s” Saturday night. Coach Boeheim, Buddy, and the Orange squared off against Jimmy, the eldest of the Boeheim brothers, and the Big Red.

Syracuse vs. Cornell
Syracuse.com

Syracuse looked to lack the intensity they played with against Ohio State. The Orange took a 33-24 lead into the break and built a 15 point lead (39-24) early in the second half, but Cornell refused to go away. The Big Red went on a 21-8 run to take a 48-47 lead with 7:53 remaining. Battle put the Orange ahead for good with a three-pointer that gave Syracuse a 52-50 lead with 5:51 to go. The Orange escaped the “Battle of the Boeheim’s” with a 63-55 win.

Cornell shot 46.5-percent from the field and drained 9-of-24 of their attempts from downtown to give Syracuse a run for their money. The Orange shot 50-percent from the floor and 8-of-21 from distance.

Defensively, Syracuse forced the Big Red into 14 turnovers.

Matt Morgan, one of the best players in mid-major college basketball, led the way for Cornell. Morgan scored 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including 6-of-10 from three-point range. Morgan has now scored in double figures in 59 consecutive contests. Jimmy Boeheim stuffed the stat sheet with nine points, six rebounds, four assists, and a block.

Battle led the way for the Orange as he scored a season-high 26 points on 10-of-17 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from three, and five rebounds. Brissett finished with 19 points and eight boards. Buddy Boeheim joined his older brother on the court and knocked down a three in five minutes off the bench.

boeheim brothers
Democrat and Chronicle

Coach Boeheim was not happy with his team’s effort against the Big Red. “There’s a lot of things we’re not doing well,” Boeheim said. “Tyus and Oshae played well enough for us to win. Otherwise there wasn’t a lot of good things. I can’t tell you how disappointing it is. Really bad.”

Syracuse will need to play better on Tuesday when they take on CAA favorite Northeastern.

Player of the Week: Tyus Battle

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The Daily Orange

This week’s player of the week is Tyus Battle. After playing out of position in the first four games while Frank Howard was out due to injury, Battle struggled to play up to his potential. Since Howard returned to the lineup against Colgate last Wednesday, Battle is averaging 23.3 points per game, shooting 64.9-percent from the field and 72.7-percent from three. If Battle continues playing like he has over the last week and a half, he will have a chance to live up to the All-American hype he generated in the preseason. This week, he was honored as the ACC Player of the Week.

Up Next: Northeastern and Georgetown

The Orange are set to enter a stretch in their schedule where they will not play a game away from the Carrier Dome until they travel to face Notre Dame on January 5. Syracuse will return to action on Tuesday when they take on Northeastern at 7pm. The Huskies are 4-4 and are coming off an 81-67 victory over former Syracuse assistant, Rob Murphy, and Eastern Michigan. Northeastern will be very familiar playing against zone. The Huskies are led by Jordan Roland who is averaging 15.9 points per game.

The Orange will host former Big East arch rival Georgetown on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 3:30pm. Second year head coach Patrick Ewing and his Hoyas are 7-1 and are coming off an 88-87 win over Liberty Monday night. Big man Jessie Govan leads the way for Georgetown as he is averaging 19.9 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. The Hoyas have an electric backcourt consisting of freshman guard James Akinjo and Mac McClung. The duo is averaging 21.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per contest. Last year, Syracuse traveled to the nation’s capital and emerged with an 86-79 0vertime victory over their long-time arch rivals. Syracuse and Georgetown in the Dome will certainly not disappoint.

A November to Remember

The college basketball season is off and running. What have we learned so far?

rui
Moscow-Pullman Daily News

As the calendar turns to December, teams are entering the second month of their seasons looking to take advantage of their last few opportunities to grab wins in the nonconference portion of the schedule before 2019 and conference play commences.

The month of November was a wild one from the tip. From Duke blowing out Kentucky on opening night through Feast Week, we’ve seen some marquee matchups, upsets, surprises, and teams that look like they have a legitimate chance of cutting down the nets in Minneapolis in early April.

The four most impressive teams thus far are Gonzaga, Kansas, Virginia, and Michigan.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Although Duke came roaring out of the gate, the young Blue Devils got punched in the mouth in the championship game of the Maui Invitational by the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Gonzaga held on to beat Duke 89-87 in college basketball’s most intriguing matchup thus far this season. The Bulldogs ran through the Maui Invitational without forward Killian Tillie, who is out for the foreseeable future with an ankle injury. Mark Few’s team is deep and talented—led by junior Rui Hachimura, who has been a beast. The Japan native has NBA scouts drooling and is averaging 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Even without Tillie, Gonzaga is still incredibly deep and talented. Zach Norvell Jr., Brandon Clarke, and Josh Perkins are all averaging double figures. The top ranked Zags still have nonconference games against Creighton, Washington, Tennessee, and North Carolina, but if they can make it through those contests unscathed, they may just be dancing with an unblemished mark in March.

Kansas Jayhawks

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The Edwardsville Intelligencer

The Kansas Jayhawks entered most preseason polls as the number team in the country, but for some reason are now ranked second even though they have yet to lose a game. Duke leapfrogged Kansas after their throttling of Kentucky on opening night in Indianapolis and Gonzaga did the same after beating Duke in Maui. Kansas looks every bit as good as they were expected to be in the preseason. The Jayhawks defeated fifth ranked Tennessee in the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament championship game in Brooklyn, 87-81 in overtime. After almost not being welcomed back to the roster by Bill Self, Lagerald Vick has played with a chip on his shoulder to begin the season. The senior guard is leading the team in scoring with 19.6 points per game behind 58.3-percent shooting from three point land. Memphis-transfer Dedric Lawson is averaging a double-double, while Udoka Azubuike and Devon Dotson are also averaging double figures in scoring. Prior to entering Big Twelve play in search of their fifteenth consecutive regular season conference title, Kansas has matchups with Stanford, Villanova, and Arizona State. At this rate, it would be pretty shocking if anyone were to derail the Jayhawks hopes of another league title.

Virginia Cavaliers

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SB Nation

After being the first one seed to lose to a sixteen seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Virginia Cavaliers have bounced back with a vengeance to start their 2018-19 campaign. Just as it has been over the course of Tony Bennett’s tenure in Charlottesville, defense has been the key to Virginia’s early success. The fourth ranked Cavaliers are second in defensive efficiency and have held opponents to a mere 52.4 points per game. The main reason why the Hoos were bounced by UMBC in the first round of the “Big Dance” a year ago was that they were without their best player De’Andre Hunter in that game. Hunter is back and is leading the team in points (16.6) and rebounds (6.1) per game. Freshman point guard Kehei Clark has nearly a 3:1 assist to turnover ratio, which has allowed sharp shooters, Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy, to get open looks off the ball. The Cavaliers defeated Wisconsin 53-46 in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis and traveled to College Park to defeat Maryland 76-71 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Virginia has a date at South Carolina on December 19, and it is very likely that they will enter ACC play undefeated. With Hunter being more of a focal point on this year’s team, this may be the year that Bennett finally makes it to the Final Four.

Michigan Wolverines

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Deadspin

The reigning National Runners-Up from Michigan are back and look like one of the most impressive teams in the country. John Beilein’s team has climbed to number seven in the polls behind a tremendous defensive effort. The Wolverines are the top team in defensive efficiency and are hold opponents to just 51 points per contest. Michigan is led by freshman forward Iggy Brazdeikis who is averaging 16.9 points, on 54.9-percent shooting and 38.9-percent from three, and 5.7 rebounds per game. Charles Matthews and Jordan “Swaggy” Poole have chipped in and are averaging 15.4 and 10.1 points per game, respectively. The Wolverines have absolutely dominated their competition, winning by an average margin of 21.7 points on their way to a 7-0 start. Michigan avenged their loss in last year’s National Championship game with a 73-46 whooping of defending National Champion and then number eight Villanova. The Wolverines knocked off Providence, 66-47, in the championship game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. Most recently, Michigan pummeled number eleven North Carolina, 84-67, in front of a raucous home crowd in Ann Arbor in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Wolverines begin Big Ten play this weekend when they battle with number 19 Purdue on Saturday. As it looks right now, Michigan is good enough to be right back where they were last March, with hopes of getting one more win in 2019.

Bracket Busters: Buffalo and Furman

It’s never too early to pay attention to the teams from the one-bid leagues that are making noise in the nonconference portion of the schedule because that could be the difference between winning and losing your office March Madness pool. Two teams to keep an eye on this year are Buffalo and Furman.

Buffalo Bulls

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The Buffalo News

The Buffalo Bulls are no stranger to being “Bracket Busters,” as last year they eliminated number overall pick Deandre Ayton and the Arizona Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Buffalo is off to a 6-0 start this season and have climbed to number 21 in the polls, largely in part to their 99-94 overtime win over then number thirteen West Virginia in Morgantown. Senior guard CJ Massinburg is averaging 20.5 points per game, on 51.9-percent from the field and 51.5-percent from deep, and 7.8 rebounds per game. Massinburg, along with Jayvon Graves, Nick Perkins, and Jeremy Harris, will look to have the Bulls dancing into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament this year.

Furman Paladins

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Zagsblog

Can you name a school that has beaten half of last year’s Final Four on the road this season? Probably not. The correct answer to that question would be the Furman Paladins. Furman blessed the “Fighting Sister Jeans” with a 60-58 win in Chicago and followed that up with a 76-68 upset of then number eight Villanova. The Paladins of the SoCon are 7-0 and will look to pull off another upset on the road when they take on LSU in Baton Rouge on December 21. Jordan Lyons, Matt Rafferty, and Clay Mounce hope to lead Furman to the “Big Dance” for the first time since 1980.

Keep your eyes glued to the tube as we propel our way through the remainder of the nonconference slate and into conference play in December.

Freshly Squeezed (11/26)

Syracuse Bounces Back with Win over Colgate

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Syracuse University

After falling to UConn and Oregon, Syracuse bounced back to pick up their third win of the season with a 77-56 victory over longtime instate rival Colgate on Thanksgiving Eve at the Carrier Dome. It was the Orange’s 53rd consecutive win over the Raiders—the longest winning streak against an opponent in Division I.

Colgate had Syracuse on their heels early, as the Raiders connected on eight three pointers in the first 20 minutes and trailed the Orange just 35-32 at the break. Colgate continued their hot streak from deep as they sunk three of their first four attempts from distance in the second stanza. With the game tied at 42, Elijah Hughes hit a three to spark a 22-3 run that put Syracuse up for good. Tyus Battle took the game over and scored 10 points over that stretch.

The Orange shot 43.3-percent from the field and 35-percent from three and held the Raiders to 35.3-percent from the floor and 30-percent from beyond the arc. Syracuse also forced Colgate into 16 turnovers.

Will Rayman and Jordan Burns tallied 13 points apiece to lead the Raiders in the losing effort. Rayman grabbed eight rebounds, while Burns dished out five assists.

Battle paced the Orange with 24 points on an efficient 8-of-10 shooting. Hughes and his frontcourt-mate Oshae Brissett poured in 17 points apiece and pulled down six and nine rebounds, respectively. Sophomore center Bourama Sidibe recorded his second career double-double as he finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds. The big man also came away with three steals. Sidibe saw an uptick in his minutes as starting center Paschal Chukwu left the game with a groin strain after playing only four minutes. His status for Wednesday’s game against Ohio State remains uncertain.

The most important takeaway from last Wednesday’s tilt with Colgate was that it was Frank Howard’s first appearance of the season. The senior point guard nailed a trey on his first shot attempt, dished out five assists, and came away with three steals in 19 minutes of action.

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Syracuse.com

Coach Boeheim commented on Howard’s impact in his postgame press conference. “It was good to have Frank (Howard) back,” Boeheim said. “He made a couple really smart plays to start the second half. He got the ball back to Elijah and gave it to Tyus, and we got a couple of threes because of it.”

Hopefully, a week of practice will have Howard fully back in the swing of things when Syracuse travels to Columbus to take on Ohio State on Wednesday.

Player of the Week: Tyus Battle

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Syracuse.com

In a week where the Orange only played one game, Tyus Battle proved to be Syracuse’s player of the week. The junior guard looked much more comfortable with his running mate Frank Howard back in the lineup. Battle was able to play off the ball and act as more of a scorer as opposed to having to run the offense and get others involved as he had in the first four games of the season. He also started to heat up from three against Colgate. Battle connected on all three of his attempts from three point land against the Raiders. He will need to play even better if Syracuse wants to take down the Buckeyes in this week’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Up Next: Ohio State and Cornell

The Orange travel to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Wednesday night. Tip-off is set for 7:15pm. Ohio State enters the contest undefeated and ranked 16th in the country. The Buckeyes are coming off an 89-62 win over Cleveland State and have also won at Cincinnati and at Creighton. Once again, Chris Holtmann’s team is taking the college basketball world by surprise. Ohio State is led by Kaleb Wesson who is averaging 14.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

After squaring off with the Buckeyes, Syracuse will return to the Carrier Dome to host Cornell. The game will feature Coach Boeheim, his son Buddy, and the Orange against his oldest son Jimmy and the Big Red. Cornell is 3-3 and are coming off a 91-74 loss to UConn. The Big Red are led by one of the best players in mid-major college basketball, Matt Morgan, who is averaging 26.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Jimmy Boeheim is averaging 13.8 points and 4.6 rebounds so far in his sophomore season. Last year, Coach Boeheim and Syracuse defeated Cornell 77-45, but not before Jimmy drained his first career three right in front of his dad’s bench. Buddy will make his debut in the family rivalry Saturday night. Tip-off is set for 8pm.

Freshly Squeezed (11/19)

Syracuse Stumbles in New York City

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Bluefield Daily Telegraph

After going 2-0 to start off the season, the Syracuse Orange dropped both games in the 2K Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden last week.

Syracuse fell to former Big East rival, UConn, 83-76 in Thursday night’s first round matchup. The Huskies jumped on the Orange right away and got out to a 13-4 lead. UConn’s defensive pressure had Syracuse’s freshman point guard Jalen Carey noticeably rattled in the early going, but Carey responded and helped pull the Orange to within six at the break. Syracuse rallied to within four (70-66), but back-to-back threes by Alterique Gilbert and Tyler Polley helped UConn pull away and preserve the victory.

Coach Boeheim was disappointed with his team’s effort against the Huskies. Boeheim pointed to his team’s lack of consistency on the offensive end and questioned his team’s hustle, specifically in regards to the rebounding disparity. UConn outrebounded Syracuse 46-32. The key for the Huskies was their efficiency from three. UConn shot a blistering 57.1-percent (12-of-21) from distance. The Orange, however, connected on just 6-of-22 (27.3-percent) of their attempts from beyond the arc.

Jalen Carey paced the Orange with a career-high 26 points, on 9-of-14 from the field, and seven rebounds. Tyus Battle finished with 16 points, on 7-of-17 shooting, and four assists. Elijah Hughes added 15 points on 5-of-14 from the floor. Oshae Brissett scored nine points and corralled five rebounds, but struggled from the floor, shooting only 3-for-12.

Fifteenth ranked Syracuse was joined in Friday’s consolation game by the thirteenth ranked Oregon Ducks, who lost in the first round to Iowa, 77-69. The Orange had no answer for five-star recruit Bol Bol, who completely dominated the interior. The big man stuffed the stat sheet with 26 points, nine boards, four blocks, and three steals as the Ducks won 80-65. Syracuse suffered from another dreadful shooting performance as they shot just 35.3-percent from the field, including 17.9-percent from three point land. Oregon shot 50-percent from the field and 35-percent from long range in the victory. In a game where the shots weren’t falling, Syracuse also failed to take care of the ball. The Ducks forced Syracuse into 17 turnovers. The Ducks also outrebounded the Orange 35-28.

Syracuse was led by Battle who tallied 17 points in the losing effort. Hughes and Carey scored 14 points apiece and came away with five and three steals, respectively. Brissett struggled from the field for a second consecutive night. The sophomore forward scored 11 points on 2-of-12 from the field and 1-of-9 from three, grabbed six boards, and dished out four assists.

The showing in the Garden showed that Syracuse has a ton of work to do if they are going to live up to the preseason hype they generated in the offseason. The Orange are in desperate need of efficient shooting and an experienced point guard to lead the offense. Frank Howard practiced last week, but was in street clothes on the bench at the 2K Classic. Syracuse faces Colgate this Wednesday, but would hope to have Howard back in the lineup when they face Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on November 28.

Although it is easy to identify Syracuse’s offensive inefficiencies, the defense gave up 80 points in back-to-back games for the first time since February of 2017. It will be interesting to see if Coach Boeheim reverts back to the lineup that got the Orange to the Sweet Sixteen a year ago to string together some stops when Howard returns to health.

The Iowa Hawkeyes took home the 2K Empire Classic trophy with a 91-72 victory over UConn in Friday’s championship game. Luka Garza (Iowa) was awarded MVP honors, while Tyler Cook (Iowa), Eric Cobb (UConn), Bol, and Carey joined him on the All-Tournament team.

Player of the Week: Jalen Carey

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Syracuse.com

Aside from the first few minutes of the UConn game, Jalen Carey was the clear bright spot for Syracuse in New York City. The freshman from Harlem looked to be right at home on the big stage as he averaged 20 points, on 54.2-percent shooting, and five rebounds in two games last week. Carey only turned the ball over three times after the first half against the Huskies. The diaper-dandy was able to create his own shot, but only finished with one assist in the two games in the 2K Empire Classic. His performance earned him a spot on the All-Tournament team and ACC Freshman of the Week accolades. With Howard’s return, Carey’s performance could have us see more of a three guard lineup from the Orange.

Up Next: Colgate Raiders

Syracuse will look to get back on track when they return to the Carrier Dome to host Colgate on Wednesday at 7pm. Jordan Burns leads the Raiders, who are off to a 3-1 start. The sophomore guard is averaging 18 points and five assists per contest. Last year, the Orange defeated the Raiders 72-58.

Freshly Squeezed (11/12)

Orange off to 2-0 Start

Le Moyne Syracuse Basketball
The Spokesman-Review

Syracuse tipped off its 2018-19 campaign with victories over Eastern Washington and Morehead State last week. As opposed to last season, there is a renewed buzz around the program heading into Coach Boeheim’s 43rd season on SU Hill. The Orange return all five starters from a team that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in March. In addition, Syracuse brings in a class of newcomers that are ready to make an impact right away.

Our first glimpse of the Orange came Tuesday night when they took down the Eastern Washington Eagles 66-34 in the Carrier Dome. Syracuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone held Eastern Washington to a mere 10 points in the first half and made it tough for the Eagles to get back in the game the rest of the way. The zone held Eastern Washington to 22-percent shooting and forced the Eagles into 19 turnovers. The key reason for the hype surrounding the Orange this year was a hope that greater depth and better shooters would bolster their offensive attack this season. Syracuse shot just 38.7-percent from the field and 17.6-percent from three on opening night. The Orange were paced by Oshae Brissett’s 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals in the victory.

Syracuse returned to the Carrier Dome on Saturday evening when they defeated the Morehead State Eagles 84-70 in the second game of the season. The Orange jumped out to an early 25-11 lead before Morehead State outscored them 19-11 to close the half. Clinging to a six point lead at the break, Syracuse traded baskets with the Eagles to begin the second stanza. The Orange pulled away with a 12-0 run to create a deficit that would be insurmountable for Morehead State to comeback from. Syracuse was more successful the second time out, as they connected on 41.2-percent of their attempts from the field. The Orange continued to struggle from beyond the arc as they were only 3-of-16 (18.8-percent) Saturday night. Tyus Battle led the way for Syracuse. The junior guard poured in 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting, collected three rebounds, and dished out three assists in the win. East Carolina transfer Elijah Hughes finished with 21 points, on 7-of-15 from the field, and eight boards. Brissett and senior center Paschal Chukwu both notched double-doubles as Brissett tallied 17 points and collected 12 rebounds, while Chukwu added 14 points and 10 boards. Coach Boeheim commented that the first two games were good learning experiences and that they gave his guys a lot to work on moving forward.

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Syracuse.com

The missing ingredient at this point in the season is production from the point guard position. Frank Howard, Jalen Carey, and Howard Washington are all still recovering from injuries that have caused Battle to play out of position and Buddy Boeheim to step into a starting role in the first two games of his college career. The Orange turned the ball over 24 times in their first two games and would prefer to have their senior leader, Howard, back sooner rather than later. Carey has not adjusted to the college game yet and missed valuable practice time after spraining his ankle in the Orange vs. White scrimmage in October. Washington played seven minutes in the opener against Eastern Washington, but did not see action against Morehead State on Saturday. Washington is recovering from a torn ACL which he suffered in practice in January.

I would like to see Marek Dolezaj get more involved offensively. The do-everything Slovakian forward showed glimpses of what he can be on the offensive end with 20 points against Wake Forest in the ACC Tournament and 17 points versus TCU in the NCAA Tournament his freshman year. Dolezaj is arguably the best passer on the roster, but he needs to make opponents respect his shooting ability. Dolezaj has made all four of his attempts from the field so far this season, but only took one shot (a dunk) against Morehead State. He made only two three pointers last season, but made one against Eastern Washington. It is rumored that he has been working on his stroke from three and it would be a tremendous lift for the Orange if we could see that in games. Get Dolezaj the ball!

marek
The Daily Orange

Player of the Week: Oshae Brissett

oshae
Democrat and Chronicle

This week’s player of the week for Syracuse is sophomore forward Oshae Brissett. Brissett is averaging a double-double with 18.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, good for the team lead in both categories. He also leads the team in steals with 2.5 thefts per contest. If Brissett is the best player on the Orange, there is no telling where the team can go this season. Although he missed a few layups Saturday night, Brissett is at his best when he takes it to the hoop. Add in a few more three pointers and Brissett will be among the class of the ACC.

Up next: UConn and Oregon/Iowa

2k
Phear the Phoenix

Syracuse will face UConn in the 2K Empire Classic Thursday at Madison Square Garden Thursday at 7pm. The Orange will take on either the winner or loser of Oregon/Iowa Friday night in the championship or consolation game.

The UConn Huskies are 2-0 under first year head coach Dan Hurley. UConn is led by senior guard Jalen Adams who is averaging 18 points and 2.5 assists per game. The Huskies are looking to rebound from Kevin Ollie’s final year in Storrs where they went 14-18 overall and finished eighth in the American Athletic Conference with a record of 7-11. Last year, the Orange defeated the Huskies 72-63 at MSG. If one thing for sure, Syracuse versus UConn at the Garden is always a hotly contested matchup and is one of the most electric scenes in college basketball.

Oregon enters the 2K Empire Classic with a record of 2-0 and is ranked 13th in the country. The Ducks are led by five-star freshman Bol Bol who is averaging 17.5 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per contest.

Fran McCaffery’s Iowa Hawkeyes will enter the Garden with a record of 2-0. The Hawkeyes are led by junior forward Tyler Cook who is averaging 14.5 points, seven boards, and three assists per game.

The Orange will head to Madison Square Garden determined to remain undefeated and bring a trophy back to the Melo Center.

Champions Classic Recap

What did we learn about college basketball’s blue bloods on opening night?

zion_w
New York Post

Game 1: Kansas 92, Michigan State 87

quentin
Heavy.com

Kansas showed why they were ranked #1 in the country in most preseason polls. The Jayhawks raced out to a seventeen point lead. Kansas struggled to put the game away late as Michigan State cut the lead to three, but the early deficit was too much for the Spartans to overcome.

Freshman point guard Quentin Grimes demonstrated why he is expected to be one of the best point guards in the country. The “diaper-dandy” paced the Jayhawks with 21 points and four assists. Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson was a nightmare for the Spartans. Lawson finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and two blocks in his Kansas debut. Junior Center Udoka Azubuike was a force on the interior with 17 points, although his missed free throws down the stretch allowed Michigan State to stay in the game. Freshman guard Devon Dotson did not disappoint in his first appearance in a Jayhawk uniform as he added 16 points, three assists, and three steals for the victors. Kansas has interior depth and the ability to connect from distance. The Jayhawks will be a tough out every night.

dedric_l
The Portland Press Herald

After a dreadful first half, Michigan State showed a lot of fight to make it a game in the second half. “I learned something about my team tonight,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “We played well in the second half and did some good things, but you don’t count games by halves.” Joshua Langford led the way for the Spartans with 18 points, while Kenny Goins posted a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards. The Spartans were plagued by turnovers a season ago and that issue continued into Tuesday night as Kansas forced Michigan State into 18 turnovers. The Spartans will need to take care of the ball going forward.

Both teams will get a breather from top ten competition as Kansas hosts Vermont on Monday, while Michigan State returns home to face Florida Gulf Coast on Sunday.

Game 2: Duke 118, Kentucky 84

rj
CBC

Although Kansas proved they were deserving of their top ranking in Game 1, Duke and their top ranked recruiting class scared the “Devil” out of the rest of the college basketball world in the nightcap. The highly anticipated matchup was never close as the Blue Devils took a seventeen point lead into the locker room. Duke refused to take their foot off the gas pedal and let Kentucky back in the game in the second half as their freshman proved that the Blue Devils are the best team in the country.

The freshman trio of RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish were “magnificent,” according to Coach K. Barrett, the top recruit in the Class of 2018, scored 33 points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out six assists. Williamson, the second ranked recruit in his class, dropped 28 points on the Wildcats and pulled down seven rebounds. Reddish, the third ranked recruit in this year’s class, poured in 22 points and was stout defensively with three steals. The trio accounted for 70 percent of Duke’s points in the win. The Blue Devils seem to have it all and will be a formidable matchup throughout the season.

cam

Kentucky was absolutely embarrassed by Duke Tuesday night, but it is only the first game of the season. “I haven’t lost faith in my guys. We’ve still got a good group,” Calipari said. Freshman guard Keldon Johnson poured in 23 points and pulled in four rebounds to lead the Wildcats, while Stanford transfer Reid Travis added 22 points and seven boards in his debut for the “Big Blue.” Although they will not play Duke every night, the embarrassing loss to the Blue Devils exposed the Wildcats. Kentucky will need to improve drastically, especially on the defensive end, if they want to prove that they are one of the nation’s top teams.

Duke will play host to Coach K’s alma mater, Army, on Sunday, while Kentucky will return home to square off with Southern Illinois on Friday.

2018-19 Preseason All-Americans

Let’s take a look at the Preseason All-Americans heading into the 2018-19 season.

First Team All-Americans

*Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue

carsen
Purdue Athletics

Carsen Edwards was the best player on a Purdue team that featured four seniors in the starting lineup a year ago. This season, the Boilermakers will be heavily reliant on Edwards to lead the way if they hope to make it back to the “Big Dance.” An early favorite for National Player of the Year, Edwards will look to improve on averages of 18.5 points on 45.8% shooting, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 29 minutes per game last season. An increase in usage should see Edwards improve in each of these categories.

RJ Barrett, G/F, Duke

rj
Sports Illustrated

Duke’s top recruiting class is highlighted by the top prospect in the class, RJ Barrett. The Mississagua, Ontario, Canada native will look to prove that he is worthy of the number one overall pick in next spring’s NBA Draft. Expect Barrett to challenge Edwards in the National Player of the Year race.

Grant Williams, F, Tennessee

grant williams
YouTube

Grant Williams, the reigning SEC Player of the Year, was one of the major reasons why Tennessee surprised the college basketball world a season ago winning the SEC and earning a three seed in the NCAA Tournament. This year, the Volunteers have a target on their back. Williams will look to help Tennessee repeat as conference champions and make a deep run into March. If Williams improves on a season where he averaged 15.2 points on 47.3% shooting and 6 rebounds per game, the Vols will be able to live up to the hype.

Luke Maye, F, North Carolina

Luke Maye,Klint Carlson
accsports.com

After hitting a game winning shot to beat Kentucky in the Elite Eight of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, Luke Maye was one of the most improved players in the country a season ago as he averaged 16.9 points on 48.6% shooting and 10.1 rebounds per game. Now as a senior, Maye will look to lead a young Tar Heels squad back to the Final Four after a disappointing loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year.

Ethan Happ, F, Wisconsin

ethan
SB Nation

Wisconsin missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two decades last season, but that was not because of the play of Ethan Happ. Happ averaged 17.9 points on 52.8% shooting, 8 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. Happ will be one of the most utilized players in the country and is one of the best passing big men in college basketball. Happ will be the key for the Badgers if they want to have realistic hopes of making it back to the “Big Dance.”

Second Team All-Americans

Shamorie Ponds, G, St. John’s

Tyus Battle, G, Syracuse

Caleb Martin, F, Nevada

De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia

Dedric Lawson, F, Kansas

Third Team All-Americans

Tremont Waters, G, LSU

Romeo Langford, G, Indiana

Eric Paschall, F, Villanova

Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga

Reid Travis, F, Kentucky

*Preseason National Player of the Year

2018-19 Big Ten Preview

Last season, the Big Ten was the most disappointing Power Five conference in the country. Will it be more of the same in 2018-19?

usa_today_10470270.0
BT Powerhouse

Let’s take a look at how the Big Ten will shake out in 2018-19.

1.)Michigan State Spartans

Michigan State went 30-5 a year ago, but fell to Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans are still the most talented team in the Big Ten that will likely have a down year for the second year in a row. Sharp-shooting guard Cassius Winston and big man Nick Ward, along with Joshua Langford will look to get Tom Izzo deep into the “Big Dance” once again.

2.)Michigan Wolverines

The National Runner-Up, Michigan Wolverines will look to get back to the Final Four in 2018-19. The Wolverines lost Mo Wagner to the NBA Draft and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman to graduation, but return a nucleus of Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson, Jordan “Swaggy” Poole, and Isaiah Livers. John Beilein flirted with an opportunity to coach the Detroit Pistons, but decided to return to coach in Ann Arbor. Look for Michigan to challenge their in-state rivals for the top spot in the Big Ten this year.

3.)Nebraska Cornhuskers

After finishing fourth in the Big Ten a year ago, Nebraska was on the wrong side of the bubble on Selection Sunday. James Palmer Jr. will look to get the Cornhuskers back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.

4.)Indiana Hoosiers

Archie Miller was able to land Indiana’s top high school recruit, Romeo Langford. Langford, along with senior Juwan Morgan, have Hoosier fans excited for what they will see in Bloomington this year. Indiana will look to challenge near the top of the Big Ten and make it back to the “Big Dance” for the first time under Miller.

5.)Wisconsin Badgers

ethan
SBNation

Wisconsin is coming off a disappointing 2017-18 season where they missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998. Big man Ethan Happ and sophomore guard Brad Davidson back and will look to get the Badgers back where they belong.

6.)Purdue Boilermakers

carsen
Purdue Athletics

Matt Painter is tasked with having to replace four starts from a team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen a year ago. Carsen Edwards will be one of the best players in the country, but it is a question as to who will step up in a supporting role. Look for Purdue to find themselves on the right side of the bubble this season.

7.)Maryland Terrapins

Maryland lost their best player from a year ago, Kevin Huerter, to the NBA Draft. The Terrapins could be on the bubble this year, but could find their way to the “Big Dance” if Bruno Fernando and Anthony Cowan live up to the possible NBA Draft hype that they have been generating this offseason.

8.)Iowa Hawkeyes

Fran McCaffrey could be coaching for his job this season. Iowa has not made it to the NCAA Tournament since 2016. Tyler Cook leads a high powered offense, but if the Hawkeyes want to go dancing again they will need to step it up on defense.

9.)Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State won the NIT last year and they were poised to make a top of the conference this year. Unfortunately, for them, Tony Carr departed State College for the NBA Draft. Without Carr, Lamar Stevens and the Nittany Lions will should find themselves back in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten and back in the NIT.

10.)Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State was one of the most surprising teams in college basketball a season ago in their first year under Chris Holtmann. The Buckeyes will have a rebuilding year in 2018-19 as they will be without the services of do-everything forward, Keita Bates-Diop, who declared for the NBA Draft and Jae’Sean Tate who graduated.

11.)Minnesota Golden Gophers

Jordan Murphy
Pioneer Press

Richard Pitino may be joining his father in the ranks of the unemployed if he fails to make the Golden Gophers relevant in the Big Ten this year. Minnesota was a Top 25 team during the non-conference portion of the schedule a year ago before injuries and off-court issues derailed their season. Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey could make the Golden Gophers a surprise team this year.

12.)Northwestern Wildcats

Northwestern was unable to make back-to-back trips to the “Big Dance” after getting there for the first time in school history in 2017. With the key members of that 2017 team gone, 2018-19 will be rebuilding year as the Wildcats return to a newly renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena.

13.)Illinois Fighting Illini

Brad Underwood will rely heavily on his guards Trent Frazier and freshman Ayo Dosumu, but there are still many unanswered questions in the Illini frontcourt. Underwood is definitely rebuilding the program at Illinois, but they will probably spend another season the cellar of the Big Ten.

14.)Rutgers Scarlet Knights

It’s pretty clear that Rutgers is only in the Big Ten to capture the Metropolitan New York media market as both the football and basketball program have yet to have any success since joining the league. Last year, the Scarlet Knights won two games in the Big Ten Tournament after winning only three conference games in conference play all season. Rutgers will undeniably be the laughing stock of the Big Ten once again this season.

2018-19 Big Ten First Team

*Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Cassius Winston, Michigan State

Romeo Langford, Indiana

James Palmer, Jr., Nebraska

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Second Team

Anthony Cowan, Maryland

Tyler Cook, Iowa

Charles Matthews, Michigan

Juwan Morgan, Indiana

Nick Ward, Michigan State

Third Team

Brad Davidson, Wisconsin

Joshua Langford, Michigan State

Lamar Stevens, Penn State

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota

Bruno Fernando, Maryland

*Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year

2018-19 Preseason Top 25

A Look at the Preseason Top 25 for 2018-19

PJ
Zimbio

It is the first week of fall. The leaves are beginning to change and its getting cooler outside across the country. Yesterday, college teams reported for their first official practice day of the 2018-19 season. Over the summer the NCAA made feeble efforts to address the issues responsible for the ongoing FBI investigation, but alas they seem like they will do little to change the overall state of college basketball.  Although there is still over a month to go before the season starts, it is time to take a look at who will be the major players in the college basketball scene this season. For the most part, we’ll see the usual suspects, but it is always fun to look forward to the coming season.

1.) Kentucky Wildcats

Reid
USA Today Sports

John Calipari brings in another top recruiting class to Lexington this season. The difference between last year’s team, which struggled to gel as a unit, and this group of young stars is that this year the Wildcats will have a nucleus of veterans to build around. PJ Washington returns after testing the NBA Draft waters and will look to contend for SEC Player of the Year. Additionally, Calipari landed Reid Travis, the most coveted graduate transfer in this year’s class from Stanford where he was a First-Team Pac-12 performer. Washington and Travis will be joined by the freshman class of EJ Montgomery, Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, Immanuel Quickly, and Ashton Hagans. The best Kentucky teams in years past have had a lethal combination of youth and experience. Expect this team to follow suit and have a chance to cut down the nets in April.

2.) Kansas Jayhawks

Bill Self’s group will have a chance to win its 15th consecutive Big 12 regular season title this year. Kansas will have one of the most talented teams in the country. Udoka Azubuike and Lagerald Vick are two key returning players from last year’s team that made a run to the Final Four. Freshman Quentin Grimes will take the reins at point guard and will be joined by Memphis transfers Dedric and KJ Lawson. This could be the Jayhawks best team since the squad that won it all in 2008.

3.) Duke Blue Devils

The Duke Blue Devils will struggle to replace its entire starting lineup from a year ago. Yeah right. Coach K reloads his roster with the top three recruits in the Class of 2018: RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Zion Williamson, and Tyus Jones’ brother, Tre, who will man the point. It may take some time for the Blue Devils to find some chemistry, but this team feels eerily similar to the 2015 National Championship team.

4.) Gonzaga Bulldogs

Last year, the Gonzaga Bulldogs looked well on their way to a second straight Final Four appearance until Killian Tillie sustained a hip injury and they were bounced by Florida State in the Sweet Sixteen. A healthy Tillie and an All-American/potential NBA First Round Draft pick in Rui Hachimura will make Gonzaga the class of the WCC yet again and have them in position for a one seed and a chance at a second trip to the Final Four in three years.

5.) Nevada Wolfpack

Caleb
New York Post

After back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and a run to the Sweet Sixteen last season, Eric Musselman’s team will not be flying under the radar this year. Nevada will be one of the best teams in the country this season as the Martin twins (Caleb and Cody) decided to return for their senior season after testing the NBA Draft process in the spring. In addition, Jordan Caroline returns and the Wolfpack will have the services of Jordan Brown, a McDonald’s All-American from the Class of 2018. The next step in their rise to prominence will be a trip to Minneapolis.

6.) Tennessee Volunteers

After a surprising season in which Tennessee was picked to finished last in the SEC, the Volunteers won the SEC regular season championship. SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield will look to avenge a loss to Loyola-Chicago in the Round of 32 and get Rick Barnes to the Final Four.

7.) Virginia Cavaliers

kyle
Twitter

The 2017-18 season for the Virginia Cavaliers came to a screeching halt when they became the first one seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament to a sixteen seed when they lost to UMBC in March. Tony Bennett will look to turn the tide against his woeful NCAA Tournament performances in the past and lead his team to success in the “Big Dance” in 2019. The Cavaliers return Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year, De’Andre Hunter, a likely first round pick in the 2019 NBA Draft who was sorely missed in their excruciating loss to the Retrievers.

8.) North Carolina Tar Heels

After losing in the second round to Texas A&M in the NCAA Tournament and losing the veteran backcourt of Joel Berry and Theo Pinson, Roy Williams will look to bounce back with a combination of youth, experience and aim for Tournament success in 2019. Nassir Little and Coby White join the Tar Heels as highly touted recruits, while Cameron Johnson and potential National Player of the Year candidate Luke Maye will return to Chapel Hill and look to get back to the Final Four for the third time in four years.

9.) Michigan State Spartans

Amid scandal, Tom Izzo led Michigan State to a 30-5 record in 2017-18 before being stunned by Syracuse in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Cassius Winston and Nick Ward will look to step up and fill the void left by the departures of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. to the NBA.

10.) Villanova Wildcats

eric
Getty Images

The defending National Champion Villanova Wildcats round out the preseason top ten. Jay Wright lost National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson, Big East Tournament MVP Mikal Bridges, Final Four Most Valuable Player Donte DiVincenzo, and Omari Spellman to the NBA Draft. The Wildcats return Eric Paschall and Phil Booth and add a recruiting class of Jahvon Quinerly, Brandon Slater, Cole Swider, and Albany transfer Joe Cremo. Villanova should still win the Big East, but has a lot of work to do if they plan to celebrate a National Championship for the third time in four years.

11.) West Virginia Mountaineers

Bob Huggins will be without the services of do-it-all guard Jevon Carter due to graduation this season, but the nation’s best shot blocker, Sagaba Konate, and Esa Ahmad will look to lead the Mountaineers as they try to dethrone Kansas for the top spot in the Big 12.

12.) Auburn Tigers

A veteran backcourt of Bryce Brown, Jared Harper, and DeSean Murray will look to follow-up last year’s surprise result and get Bruce Pearl deep into March.

13.) Kansas State Wildcats

Kansas State advanced to the Elite Eight last year with a late season surge despite playing without their best player, Dean Wade. Wade returns from injury and the Wildcats will look to contest atop the Big 12 and make another deep run through the NCAA Tournament Bracket.

14.) Virginia Tech Hokies

Despite being bounced in the first round of the “Big Dance” by Alabama, Virginia Tech returns deep core of talent from a team that raised havoc in the ACC, taking down North Carolina, Duke, and Virginia a year ago. Look for Nickeil Alexander-Walker to make a big jump from his freshman to sophomore year.

15.) Syracuse Orange

tyus
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

After making the NCAA Tournament as the last team in, the Orange rattled off three wins over Arizona State, TCU, and Michigan State before losing to Duke in the Sweet Sixteen. Syracuse is in a similar situation as they were entering the 2016 season, where a deep run in March fueled high expectations for the 2017 team. The Orange return all five starters, Frank Howard, Tyus Battle, Oshae Brissett, Marek Dolezaj, and Paschal Chukwu. Jalen Carey, Buddy Boeheim, Robert Braswell, and East Carolina transfer Elijah Hughes have been added to the roster to bring some needed depth and shooting to Central New York.

16.) Oregon Ducks

The Oregon Ducks advanced to the Final Four for the first time in eight decades in 2017, but failed to make the “Big Dance” in 2018. Peyton Pritchard returns to Eugene to join a group of highly touted recruits, including Bol Bol, son of Manute Bol, and Louis King. The Ducks are early favorites to win the Pac-12.

17.) TCU Horned Frogs

TCU returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in two decades last season. With Victor Brodziansky and Kenrich Williams absent from this year’s roster, Desmond Bane and a healthy Jaylen Fisher will look to dance again for the second time in as many years under Jamie Dixon.

18.) Michigan Wolverines

The National Runners-up will look to continue their success under John Beilein with the return of Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole.

19.) UCLA Bruins

Steve Alford has yet to make it past the Sweet Sixteen in his tenure and after being sent out in the First Four by St. Bonaventure last year, he sits squarely on the hot seat. Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands return to campus after testing the NBA Draft waters in the spring; and along with Shareef O’Neal, Shaq’s son, the Bruins are hoping to break through in March.

20.) Washington Huskies

mike
MyNorthwest.com

Coach Mike Hopkins brought the 2-3 zone from Syracuse to the Pacific Northwest and brought a team that won nine games in 2016-17 to a 21 win season and a trip to the NIT a season ago. Matisse Thybulle and Noah Dickerson will look to lead the Huskies to the top of the Pac-12 and to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.

21.) Mississippi State Bulldogs

Ben Howland will look to take his fourth program to the “Big Dance” after taking Mississippi State to the NIT semifinals a year ago. Quinndary Weatherspoon will need to be an All-SEC performer if the Bulldogs want to hear their name called on “Selection Sunday.”

22.) Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

Though Sister Jean and the Ramblers took the world by storm last March, they are no longer Cinderella. Clayton Custer returns to Porter Moser’s squad. A week non-conference schedule could keep Loyola-Chicago out of the NCAA Tournament if they were to slip up on their way to a Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title.

23.) Marquette Golden Eagles

Marquette had one of the best offenses in the country a year ago, but their defense was one of the worst. If the Golden Eagles can improve on the defensive end, Markus Howard and Sam Hauser will hope to shoot their way into March Madness.

24.) Nebraska Cornhuskers

Nebraska finished fourth in a down Big Ten last year, and a poor non-conference schedule kept them on the wrong side of the bubble. James Palmer Jr. will look to build on his First Team Big Ten selection a year ago and get the Cornhuskers into the Dance.

25.) Cincinnati Bearcats

jarron
LA Times

After blowing a big second half lead to Nevada in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Mick Cronan will look to regroup in order to make a run in the postseason this year. The Bearcats lost Gary Clark and Kyle Washington to graduation, and Jacob Evans to the NBA Draft from last year’s squad, but Jarron Cumberland and Justin Jenifer will look to take on a larger load and keep Cincinnati atop the AAC this year.