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Jordan Taylor leads Wisconsin’s comeback

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The No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes lost their first game of the season to No. 13 Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon, losing 71-67 after blowing a 15 point lead at the Kohl Center.

That shouldn’t exactly be a surprise.

Wisconsin might just be the best team in the country on their home court. Already sitting in the top 15 in both of the rankings and tied for second in the Big Ten with Purdue, its tough to define this game as an upset. Vegas certainly wouldn’t; Wisconsin was a one point favorite.

What was a surprise, however, was how Wisconsin won this game.

Its no secret that the Badgers are the slowest team in the country in terms of possessions. They are deliberate in what they want to do offensively, they don’t force a ton of turnovers, and they play solid enough defense that they force their opponents to chew up clock as they work for a good shot. Bo Ryan’s system is built on efficiency, and efficiency is rarely pretty.

In other words, the Badgers don’t score a ton of points, and they generally don’t score all that quickly.

Which is why I was getting ready to map out a column on how Ohio State was the nation’s one truly great team when a 21-6 run that spanned both halves gave the Buckeyes a 47-32 lead with 13:16 left in the game.

But Jordan Taylor had other plans.

Taylor, it should be noted, has been robbed twice this week. He wasn’t a finalist for the Cousy Award, which is a list of the nation’s 10 best point guards, and he wasn’t on the list of the 30 Naismith Award finalists. Taylor’s averaging 17.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, and 4.5 apg with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.9:1 as the Badger’s primary ball-handler playing almost 36 mpg. Considering that he is putting those numbers up with the fewest number of opportunities (possessions) in the country, it’s a travesty he wasn’t a finalist for those awards, but thats another post for another day.

In the second half today, Taylor proved to country why he was robbed.

He took the game over in the final 13:16. He scored on a tough drive. Two possessions later, he knocked down a three to get the lead to ten. On Wisconsin’s next possession, he buried another three to cut Ohio State’s lead to seven. After two Mike Bruesewitz free throws and another jumper from Taylor, the Badger’s point guard found freshman John Gasser for a three that tied the game with 9:46 left.

It took Wisconsin, the nation’s slowest team, just 3:30 to erase a 15 point deficit against the No. 1 and last remaining undefeated team in the country, and it was Taylor — with 10 points and an assist in the run — that was the hero.

He was far from done.

Wisconsin’s surge would continue for the next five minutes, and when it was all said and done, the Badgers had put a 30-8 run on the Buckeyes, turning a 47-32 deficit into a 62-55 lead. Taylor had 15 points and three assists in the run.

Ohio State didn’t quit, as they were able to get the lead down to 65-63 with under a minute left, but Taylor found Bruesewitz for a wide open three at the top of the key with 29 seconds left. A couple of free throws down the stretch was all the Badgers needed to allow all hell to break loose on the Kohl Center floor.

All told, Taylor had 21 of his 27 points and four of his seven assists in the final 13:16 against Ohio State.

Despite the win, Wisconsin probably doesn’t have a chance to win the Big Ten regular season title. They are still a full two games behind the Buckeyes, and if it takes a 15 point comeback by Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in the last 13 minutes for Ohio State to lose, its tough to envision the Buckeyes losing two more games this season.

In fact, I’m not sure I would even take Ohio State out of the No. 1 spot in Monday’s poll.

There is no shame in losing to Wisconsin at Wisconsin.

And while he won’t be named the nation’s best point guard or best player, the nation now knows who Jordan Taylor is.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Report: CBE Hall of Fame Classic headliners set

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The headliners for the 2017 CBE Hall of Fame Classic have been set.

UCLA, Baylor, Wisconsin and Creighton will highlight the bill for the annual event in Kansas City, according to a report from CBS Sports.

The CBE Hall of Fame Classic historically has included on-campus games and a flagship four-team championship round at the Sprint Center. This year’s headliners include Kansas, Georgia, George Washington and UAB.

Certainly securing four high-majors is a significant get for the event, which will also likely coincide with the induction of the 2017 class of the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. The 2016 class is highlighted by Mark Aguirre, Doug Collins, Dominique Wilson, Jamal Wilkes and Mike Montgomery.

Coach Cal softball game raises $300K for La. flood relief

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John Calipari is known for his ability to amass talent. Over the weekend, that quality helped raise $300,000 for Louisiana flood relief.

The Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic brought Kentucky stars like Keith Bogans, Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns and the likes of former UK quarterback Tim Couch and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter to Lexington to help aid Louisiana in conjunction with the Red Cross after the area suffered major flooding earlier this month.

“I didn’t want to really do a softball game,” Calipari said according to his website, “but then we decided to do it and then Louisiana happens and now you have a cause. … It’s kind of neat. You have a cause, you have a why.”

Towns’ team was the 18-12 victor over Team Calipari on the day.

“This is amazing,” Towns said on CoachCal.com. “This is something that we get a chance to rarely do. We get to help the community out but at the same time have fun. There’s nothing better than doing something that we would do for free but for charity. This is something we’re going to have a lot of fun doing today.”

The softball game was played the same weekend as the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience which generated $1 million that will be shared with 14 charities.

‘Noles add legacy guard to 2017 class

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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Florida State has added another solid member to its 2017 recruiting class.

Anthony Polite, a 6-foot-6 guard from Florida, pledged to the Seminoles on Tuesday morning.

“Officially committed to Florida State University #Nole Nation,” Polite wrote on Twitter.

Polite chose Leonard Hamilton’s program out of a final top-five that also included Pitt, Memphis, Texas Tech and Miami. He also sported offers from TCU, Boston College, Kansas State and Utah, among others.

“It was a really tough decision,” Polite said according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Miami had a great coaching staff. I just thought FSU would be the best fit for me and I had more of an opportunity to talk to the players at Florida State.”

Polite, whose father played for the Seminoles during his college career, averaged 21.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists last year as a junior playing for St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton, Fla.

“Anthony Polite is a skilled wing who can handle the ball and distribute a bit,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “Florida State still needs to help Polite improve his perimeter jumper, but his commitment gives them another talented playmaker from the wing who can handle and attack the rim.”

Regarded as a three-star prospect, Polite join power forward RaiQuan Gray and fellow guard Bryan Trimble in the Seminoles’ 2017 class. It doesn’t have the star power of Hamilton’s group last year, which included five-star Jonathan Isaac and four-star Trent Forrest, but they can be important pieces for a Florida State team that has just one senior on the 2016-17 roster.

Kansas players make weight room gains – and losses – this summer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JUNE 18: Udoka Azubuike #105 in red runs back for defense the NBPA Top 100 Camp on June 18, 2015 at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
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Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.

Azubuike has dropped 27 pounds from his 7-foot frame while the wiry Jackson has added 17 pounds, according to the Kansas City Star.

“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.

“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”

Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.

Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.

Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.

 

Texas bolsters 2017 frontcourt

Texas head coach Shaka Smart calls a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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Shaka Smart has added another four-star forward to his 2017 recruiting class.

Texas picked up a commitment Tuesday from 6-foot-8 Jericho Sims of Minnesota, according to multiple reports.

Sims, who visited Texas this past weekend, is ranked in the top-50 by Scout and in the top-75 by ESPN and 247Sports. He joins Royce Hamm, a top-100 forward from Houston, as members Smart’s second recruiting class at Texas.

“Jericho Sims is a late-blooming big man who has a lot of room to grow in terms of upside,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “A good athlete with a good frame to work with, Sims should help immediately on the glass and defensively but his offense will be a work in progress.

“Texas has a large recruiting class and targeted Sims later than many, so this is a nice commitment for the Longhorns.”

The commitment represents a significant get for the Longhorns, who beat out the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Ohio State, Connecticut and Sims’ hometown Gophers, whom his father played basketball for in the 1970s and his brother football more recently.

Sims and Hamm both are players that could help Smart and his staff transition more back to the Havoc style of play Smart employed at VCU as both have the length, speed and athleticism to help the Longhorns dial up the pressure and push tempo.