KU basketball lands another No. 1 ranking in early 2018-19 preseason polls

By Gary Bedore gbedore@kcstar.com

Kansas continues to be a popular choice for preseason No. 1 team in the country heading into the 2018-19 college basketball season.

NBCsports.com updated its rankings this week and, like ESPN.com, CBSsports.com, USA Today, Sporting News and Yahoo Sports, lists KU as the preseason favorite to win the 2019 national title.

“Losing Devonté Graham is a major, major blow for this program, but they had as much talent sitting out this season as any program in college basketball,” writes Rob Dauster of NBC Sports. “Cal transfer Charlie Moore should be able to step in and handle the point guard duties — if that role isn’t taken over by Devon Dotson — while Dedric Lawson and K.J. Lawson will give Bill Self actual power forwards, something he has been yearning for the last two years.

“There is still going to be some turbulence with this roster. Do they hold onto Udoka Azubuike? Will anyone else get run out of town? But the bottom line is that they are talented, they are old, they are well-coached and they have a functional point guard on their roster.”

Defending national champ Villanova is listed at No. 2 in the current NBC Sports poll, followed by Gonzaga, Duke, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Nevada, Kansas State (up one from 10) and North Carolina.

Cremo to play one game in Allen

Joe Cremo, a 6-foot-4 graduate transfer guard who this week committed to Villanova over Kansas, Creighton, Texas and Gonzaga, will get to play one game in tradition-rich Allen Fieldhouse.

Defending national champion Villanova, which beat KU 95-79 in the Final Four, will meet KU on Dec. 15 at Allen Fieldhouse. KU will take on the Wildcats in a return game on Dec. 19, 2019, at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Cremo, who averaged 17.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists at Albany his junior season, told 1045theteam.com that “it was a hard decision (to choose VU). At Villanova, when I went there, the minute I stepped on campus it felt like family. Those guys were bought in on me — the players, coaches. I’m excited to get over there, be part of something special, hopefully just get to work.

“Those schools were the ones that spent a lot of time on me,” he added of Villanova, KU, Creighton, Texas and Gonzaga. “Kansas jumped in a little bit later. Texas and Creighton were some of the first schools that came out here, flew to see me (at Albany). The right thing I knew in my heart was to call them (on Monday after he announced for Nova), talk to them, tell them how much I appreciate the time they put in. At the end of the day I told them it was tough on me. They respected my decision, were great about it. They are great programs. I wish them nothing but the best.”

Matt Norlander of CBSsports.com says Cremo could be a key in Villanova winning its third national title in four seasons.

“Cremo is a coup of an addition. Remember how deadly Villanova was from three last season? The Wildcats set records for most threes made in a season (469), in an NCAA Tournament (76) and in a Final Four game (18). The 2017-18 Wildcats are among the best teams in college hoops history,” Norlander wrote.

“Now they'll bolster their long-range arsenal by adding Cremo, who seems like an ideal fit for Villanova's culture and system. Six VU players shot at least 100 threes last season. Cremo's going to step in and get the green light. Villanova's three-ball killer scheme isn't going anywhere.

“Cremo is also a good stop-gap if (Donte) DiVincenzo opts to stay in the draft. At this point, Villanova's roster — again — sets up as the strongest in the Big East. Cremo coming in secures that. If the Wildcats want to enter all-time territory — dynasty-level stuff — then getting (Omari) Spellman and/or DiVincenzo back is probably pivotal. But those decisions are still weeks away; those two players will compete in the NBA combine later this month.”

Cockburn considering KU, many others

Kofi Cockburn, a 6-10, 300-pound center from Christ the King High in Middle Village, N.Y., who is ranked No. 31 in the recruiting class of 2019 by Rivals.com, is considering KU, Illinois, LSU, Villanova, Duke, Kentucky, Indiana, UNLV, Syracuse, South Carolina, Florida State, Miami, St. John’s, Georgetown, UConn and others.

"They (Illinois coaches) are telling me how they can develop me and how they need me in the school," Cockburn said as quoted by 247sports.com’s LSU Website. “It felt good, knowing that hard work is paying off (to pick up a KU offer). I know Joel Embiid is from there. I'm looking for if it's a top program that I can go in every day and go hard every day, compete and get better.”

Of Cockburn, an ESPN.com scouting report analyst wrote: “He's almost like the Shaq of high school basketball. Big, powerful, and a sheer force around the rim. He has more game left to discover though as he polishes a post arsenal, develops his face-up fundamentals, utilizes his physical tools to become more of a shot-blocker and continues to learn the game on both ends.”

Taylor, Johnson event info

Former KU guards Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor on Wednesday announced their “Too Strong Tour,” a one-day event for both adults and youths under 15 to include a three-point contest, free-throw contest, trivia games, 5-on-5 games with the two former Jayhawks and autographs.

The tour will start June 18 at Shawnee Mission South followed by stops at Parsons High, June 20; Arkansas City High School, June 21; Maize South, June 22; Concordia High, June 24; and Hutchinson Middle School, June 25.

More details should be available in coming weeks on Johnson’s Facebook page.


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