It’s been a busy month for the top high school seniors in America.

First, it was the McDonald’s All American Game, then the Nike Hoop Summit and finally last week’s Jordan Brand Classic.

While these all-star-style games are mostly about show and only rarely about competition, they also serve as the first real opportunity that NBA scouts have to evaluate these prospects.

With the vast majority of the NBA’s 30 franchises having a consistent presence at all three events (both games and practices), we spoke to front-office personnel from five different teams to see their first impressions of the top players in the ESPN 100.

Here’s what they had to say:


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North Carolina coach Roy Williams loses James Michael McAdoo to the NBA draft and Leslie McDonald to graduation. Between the two, that’s 24 points per game and a lot of game experience you can't replace, but you can try to help replenish what's returning. UNC's 2014 recruiting class finished the season ranked third in the nation with three players in the top 20 of the ESPN 100 – No. 8 Justin Jackson, No. 10 Theo Pinson and No. 17 Joel Berry. This class will be impactful both individually and as a collective unit. They all bring different elements to next year's team that will make the Tar Heels more talented and help UNC play better as a team. Jackson will score in a very efficient manner to help take the pressure off Marcus Paige, Pinson will be outstanding in the conversion game and from a defensive standpoint if he applies himself and Berry will be a good defender and lead guard who can finish drives and hand out assists. Berry will also lead by his work ethic in practice but in reality, all three of these guys are serious about the game and are high-quality people.

Should North Carolina win the ACC next season, it probably won’t be criticized -- as Virginia was this season -- for catching a break in the schedule.

Virginia won the regular season by playing each of the top seven teams in the standings just one time this past season. That won’t be the case for the Tar Heels next season.

Duke and Louisville are two of the four teams Carolina will play both at home and on the road.

The Blue Devils, armed with the No. 1-ranked recruiting class, and Cardinals, who received a big boost with the return of forward Montrezl Harrell, will be projected to finish near the top of the standings. NC State and Georgia Tech are the Heels' other two home and road opponents.

The Cavaliers return most of their rotation and, despite losing Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, should be in contention to repeat their title. Carolina again will get only one shot against the Cavs, but it will be at home.

Syracuse has a lot of restructuring to do with the early entries of Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant to the NBA. The Orange will make their first trip to Chapel Hill in the only regular season meeting of the teams.

The Heels will make just their fourth trip to Pittsburgh and their first to the Petersen Events Center. They split with the Panthers this past season, winning in the Dean Smith Center and losing in the ACC tournament.

Pittsburgh will arguably be the toughest of the five road-only opponents. Boston College and Wake Forest are facing rebuilding jobs with new head coaches. Miami’s roster is depleted, and Clemson’s best player, K.J. McDaniels, is reportedly set to declare for the NBA draft.

Carolina’s Marcus Paige will likely be a preseason Player of the Year candidate. And despite the loss of James Michael McAdoo to the NBA draft, the Tar Heels should be a contender for their first regular season ACC title since 2011-12. That’s thanks in part to the addition a freshman class (forwards Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson and point guard Joel Berry) ranked third in the nation.

The league also released its 2015-16 men’s basketball schedules on Tuesday. The dates and times will be announced later.

2014-15 ACC opponents for North Carolina

Home/Road: Duke, NC State, Georgia Tech, Louisville

Home: Florida State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Notre Dame

Road: Miami, Clemson, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh, Boston College

2015-16 ACC opponents for North Carolina

Home/Road: Duke, NC State, Boston College, Syracuse

Home: Miami, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh

Road: Florida State, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Notre Dame

UNC reading specialist to resign

April, 22, 2014
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The reading specialist who questioned the literacy level of athletes who were admitted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says she's resigning at the end of the semester.

Mary Willingham said in an email to The Associated Press on Monday night that she met with Chancellor Carol Folt earlier in the day.

Willingham says in the email that she and Folt "clearly have different ideas and opinions."

"She has a job to do and I hope that she does the right thing -- academics should be in charge of this great university, not athletics," Willingham said.

She says she will meet with her supervisor after she posts her grades next week to submit her letter of resignation and finalize details.

Willingham told CNN in January that her research of 183 football or basketball players from 2004 to '12 found 60 percent reading at fourth- to eighth-grade levels and roughly 10 percent below a third-grade level.

Three outside experts hired by UNC issued reports earlier this month saying Willingham's research data doesn't support her claims. One of them estimated about 7 percent of athletes from Willingham's research read at fourth- to eighth-grade levels.

The school said the data included scores for 176 athletes, including baseball and volleyball players, and was based on testing to screen for learning disabilities or other problems.

The school said it had about 1,800 athletes attend the school during the eight-year period.

UNC had called Willingham's findings flawed after its own internal review of her data, which she provided to Provost James W. Dean Jr. She has stood by her findings.

Willingham met last week with former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein, who was hired by UNC to conduct a review of possible fraud in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies Department.


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The Jordan Brand Classic featured much of the nation’s top talent.

Obviously, a number of players operate at the same position. That said, each brings a different aspect at the spot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and break down how they are different and impactful.


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The Jordan Brand Classic was played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Friday.

This game is always filled with future NBA talent and usually has the No. 1 pick in a future NBA draft.

Twenty-two of the country's elite players went head to head for likely the last time before they meet again in college. There were so many impressive plays and highlights, so let's take a look at what we learned from the event.


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Roundtable: Jordan Brand Classic 

April, 18, 2014
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It has been a busy few weeks for the top prospects in the ESPN 100.

It began at the beginning of the month when they arrived in Chicago for the McDonald's All American Game. Immediately after that game concluded, some players jumped on a red-eye to New York for the Dick's Sporting Goods High School National Tournament. Last week it was a trip to the West Coast for the Nike Hoop Summit in Oregon. This week, that string of all-star events gets a fitting culmination as the top players in the Class of 2015 return to New York for the Jordan Brand Classic.

Given what we've seen, not just in the past few weeks but in the past few years, is there anything left to learn? Here are a few players whom our Recruiting Nation staff will be watching during Friday's Jordan Brand Classic (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET):


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The Jordan Brand Classic features the best talent high school basketball has to offer. Here are some of the most intriguing potential matchups in this terrific annual event, which airs Friday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Tyus Jones (Duke) vs. Tyler Ulis (Kentucky)

This matchup will be the battle for who can get the most assists. Both are terrific pass-first point guards who can play fast or slow. They can make open shots in order to keep the defense honest, and their decision-making on the offensive end of the floor is excellent, as well. Ulis can apply more heat on the ball defensively, while Jones is stronger and the better finisher in heavy traffic. It will be interesting to see who makes the fewest mistakes with the ball and who will win the assist category as Jones and Ulis push each other on both ends of the floor.


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Look back, look ahead: ACC

April, 16, 2014
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A basketball-related expansion -- an anomaly during the entire conference realignment shuffle -- was supposed to culminate by making the Atlantic Coast Conference rise above other conferences. The league was supposed to be the biggest and baddest of the major conferences thanks to its first season with Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame as league members.

However, the only thing that increased was disappointment in the league’s overall showing.

Expanding to 15 teams did little to affect the ACC’s reach in the NCAA tournament. Six teams received bids -- and that likely would have been just five until NC State’s late push (including its upset of Syracuse in the ACC tournament).

North Carolina and Duke both failed to advance into the NCAA tournament’s second weekend for the first time since 1979. The Blue Devils were upset by Mercer in the second round. The Tar Heels lost to Iowa State in the third round. The ACC has long depended on the bluebloods to carry the league’s baton, and this season did little to change that narrative.

Only Virginia, which earned a No. 1 seed by winning the league title, advanced to the Sweet 16. The Cavaliers were then eliminated by Michigan State.

The league should improve next postseason thanks in part to Carolina's and Duke's potential to have powerhouse squads.

[+] EnlargeMike Krzyzewski
Tyler Smith/Getty ImagesWith a stellar recruiting class, Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils may be the ACC's best in 2014-15.
What we saw this season: The Cavaliers returned to prominence by winning their first outright ACC regular-season title since 1981. Criticism followed since the Cavs, who only played Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina once each and two of those games were in Charlottesville. It took winning the ACC tournament for Virginia to erase those doubts.

Freshmen Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) and Jabari Parker (Duke) proved to be not only among the best players in the conference, but in the nation -- regardless of class.

Many ACC teams had outstanding individual talents -- NC State’s T.J. Warren (won the league’s player of the year award), Duke’s Rodney Hood, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige, Clemson’s K.J. McDaniels to name a few -- but those teams were heavily flawed. Opponents who stopped Lamar Patterson essentially stopped Pittsburgh. Syracuse had trouble scoring. Duke had a thin frontcourt. Carolina was limited by its shooting from the perimeter.

Syracuse started the season strong -- winning its first 25 games -- but faded down the stretch losing six of its last nine games, as its offense went on hiatus. The Orange did provide two classics sure to be talked about in ACC lore. Their first meeting with Duke was a thrilling 91-89 overtime win in the Carrier Dome and their 66-60 loss at Duke featured Jim Boeheim’s first ejection in a regular-season game.

As has long been a problem since the league expanded to 12 teams, the ACC failed to develop a strong second tier of added depth. The conference continued to be top-heavy as Florida State, Maryland, Clemson and Notre Dame never quite became teams to fear.

Three of the bottom four teams in the standings played poorly enough to end the season with their coaches being fired. Boston College arguably had the most disappointing seasons of them all relative to its talent level. The Eagles pulled it together long enough to hand Syracuse its first loss, which was the highlight of their season.

What we expect to see next season: More of the nation’s top freshmen. Duke’s recruiting class is considered tops in the land and is led by center Jahlil Okafor, who is ranked No. 1 overall in the ESPN 100, and Tyus Jones, the No. 1 point guard who is fourth overall. North Carolina also snagged two top-10 recruits in Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson and is ranked third as a class by ESPN.com.

Newcomers are great and all, but let’s also appreciate what we won’t see in the ACC for the first time in its existence. Maryland, a charter member of the conference started in 1953, will begin competing in the Big Ten. Let’s pause to remember the good times.

Long enough? OK.

Louisville obviously doesn’t compare to the tradition Maryland had within the league, but it could be considered an upgrade otherwise. With three national titles and a Hall of Fame coach currently on its sideline, the Cardinals fit the league’s basketball pedigree.

Their addition, plus Virginia’s returning most of its ACC title squad, should help the league become closer to the juggernaut many of its coaches expected this past season.

For all the hand-wringing over a change of guard in the ACC, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels look primed to re-establish their stranglehold on the top of the league standings. Regardless of how Parker’s NBA draft decision falls on Wednesday, Duke will have a good blend of experience (Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson) and young talent (Okafor, Jones, Justise Winslow, Grayson Allen) at Mike Krzyzewski’s disposal.

Carolina returns the likely front-runner for preseason player of the year in Paige. Forward Brice Johnson and center Kennedy Meeks give the Heels an inside offensive scoring punch that will be hard to contain.

Because of those teams at the top, a trio of new coaches could face a harsh inaugural season in the league. Buzz Williams shocked many by leaving Marquette to take the reins at Virginia Tech, replacing James Johnson. Jim Christian (after a stint at Ohio) takes over Boston College, replacing Steve Donahue. And Danny Manning returns home to Tobacco Road to rebuild Wake Forest, replacing Jeff Bzdelik.

It could all add up and help the ACC live up to its own expectations as the best basketball conference in the nation.

Looking ahead: ACC preview

April, 15, 2014
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Prior to the start of the 2013-14 season, the ACC was supposed to be the best league in college basketball. Although it didn't fulfill those expectations, next season appears to be different.

The conference adds perennial national title contender Louisville, Duke brings in ESPN's No. 1 recruiting class and North Carolina will be talented enough to go deep. The ACC's key will be for the bottom of the league to get more competitive and have those teams win games in their respective nonconference schedules.


Favorite: Duke Blue Devils

Duke will be the team to beat in the ACC with or without Jabari Parker. The Blue Devils return a solid core led by point guard Quinn Cook, a strong floor leader and a capable shooter. However, he must improve defensively for Duke to go far. He'll be pushed by ESPN's No. 4-rated prospect, Tyus Jones. The freshman is explosive off the dribble, sees plays and has the potential to be a disruptive defender on and off the ball. They'll be joined in the backcourt by Rasheed Sulaimon, a junior who should be one of the better shooting guards in the country.


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Roundtable: ESPN 100 commit predictions 

April, 15, 2014
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The ESPN 100 has just three remaining uncommitted prospects, and the competition remains furious for their services.

Myles Turner, No. 2 in the ESPN 100, leads the way, followed by No. 94 Elijah Stewart, who was released from his letter of intent to Loyola Marymount following the firing of coach Max Good, and No. 98 Josh Cunningham.

Devonte Graham wasn’t ESPN 100 eligible by virtue of his post-graduate status, but there is no denying he is a wanted man after receiving his release from Appalachian State. He will take official visits to Kansas and North Carolina State while also considering Virginia, Virginia Tech, Xavier and Providence.

So where are these remaining four prospects headed? No one knows for sure just yet, but here are a few educated guesses:


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PORTLAND, Ore. -- In the 17th annual Nike Hoop Summit on Saturday, the USA team defeated the World team 84-73 for the first USA win since 2011. The USA squad featured a balanced attack as four players scored in double figures: Justise Winslow (Duke signee) led the USA team with 16 points, Jahlil Okafor (Duke) and Kelly Oubre (Kansas) each scored 14 points and Tyus Jones (Duke) added 13.

Let's take a look at what we learned from this year's Hoop Summit.


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Review: UNC literacy findings flawed

April, 11, 2014
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Research data from a University of North Carolina reading specialist doesn't support claims of low athlete literacy levels at the school, according to reports released Friday from three outside experts.

The university hired Georgia State, Minnesota and Virginia professors to review Mary Willingham's findings. Willingham told CNN in January that her research of 183 football or basketball players from 2004 to 2012 found 60 percent reading at fourth- to eighth-grade levels and roughly 10 percent below a third-grade level.

One expert estimated about 7 percent of athletes from Willingham's research read at fourth- to eighth-grade levels in his report. The school says the data included scores for 176 athletes, including baseball and volleyball players, and was based on testing to screen for learning disabilities or other problems.

The school said it had about 1,800 athletes attend the school during the eight-year period.

UNC had called Willingham's findings flawed after its own internal review of her data, which she provided to Provost James W. Dean Jr. on Jan. 13. She has stood by her findings and said in a statement Friday that she needed time to review the reports before "a full response."

"For now I will just say that I am disappointed that the university neglected to take even the most basic steps to ensure the integrity, impartiality and fairness of its supposedly 'independent' review of my data," Willingham said. "The fact that they engaged in this exercise without ever seeking input from me or my research partner, and without the raw scores, or an examination of the full battery of tests ... speaks volumes about the true motivations behind today's press release.

"UNC personnel with the knowledge and expertise to verify my claims continue to remain and/or are being forced to remain silent."


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When our final rankings came out the other day Elijah Stewart came in at No. 94.

Stewart can play, as he has a rangy frame and is a terrific jump-shooter. He’s an explosive athlete who can compete and perform in any conference. He loves to attack the rim in combination with his jumper, which makes him hard to guard. An area of improvement would be his ball handling, as he attacks with speed more than control.

UNC has inquired, as have USC, UCLA and many other programs.

If Tar Heels go after him hard, they will get a visit. His quick-trigger jumper is just what they need.

Best 2015 CBB title bets

April, 10, 2014
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It didn't take long for the sportsbooks in Las Vegas to hang odds on the 2015 national title winner in college hoops. UConn cut down the nets in Arlington,Texas, on Monday night, and by Tuesday Jay Kornegay and his staff at the LVH Superbook had a full complement of future-book odds posted for next year's NCAA tournament.

There's little urgency to get involved with future-book wagers for next April -- the opening numbers aren't likely to move dramatically over the spring and summer. And the two main concepts that professional bettors use when assessing future-book wagers won't change over the next six months either: price point and potential. Both concepts are easy to explain and to understand. The "price points" are the odds. Savvy bettors won't touch teams if they're not offering anywhere near their true odds to win the title. And of course, teams must actually have the talent (potential) to win six straight games against elite-level foes over three weekends without wilting under the spotlight.

UConn came through as a rare long shot with its NCAA title this season, offering enormous return on investment for those who placed a futures bet on the Huskies. I recommended the Huskies at 75-to-1 in my preseason future-book odds column, written back on Halloween before a single game had been played:

"After being forced to sit out of the Big Dance last year, Kevin Ollie's Huskies are primed to make some noise in 2014. The Huskies return all five starters from last year's 20-win team, including senior studs Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright in an elite backcourt. ... UConn just might have the frontcourt muscle to make a deep March run."

    It's still very early in the process, but early sportsbook odds are always interesting to dissect and discuss. Here are a handful of schools that have piqued my interest with their future-book odds for the 2015 title.


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