Kentucky’s upperclassmen have carried the Cats, but the freshmen make them dangerous

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Under the leadership of John Calipari, Kentucky has become known has one-and-done central.

Last season, they sent four players to the first round of the NBA Draft that had been on campus for just the one year. This season, two more (possibly three, if Doron Lamb decides to make the jump) will be headed out the door. And with a recruiting class featuring three of the top 10 recruits and four of the top 25, Coach Cal may end up playing babysitter for 10 one-and-done players in the span of three seasons, and that doesn’t even count Enes Kanter.

But if Kentucky’s run to the Elite Eight, thanks to an exciting 62-60 win over Ohio State on Friday night, proved anything, it’s that freshmen alone cannot carry a team.

It was the play of the upperclassmen that allowed the Wildcats to advance.

Josh Harrellson was sensational against Jared Sullinger on the block. He finished with 17 points, 10 boards (five offensive), and three blocks, and while he certainly didn’t outplay Sullinger (who had 21 points and 16 boards, eight offensive), he was able to make Ohio State’s star freshman work. He forced him into tough shots down the stretch and used his size to prevent Sullinger from consistently getting position.

DeAndre Liggins, who is known as a defensive stopper, became a go-to player down the stretch, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting to go with six boards, three assists, and three blocks. Darius Miller added seven points, four boards, four assists, two steals, and two blocks and, in combination with Liggins, shut down William Buford for the night.

Those three freshmen?

They finished with a combined 23 points on 8-of-25 shooting. Brandon Knight had six turnovers. Terrence Jones was just 1-for-7 from inside the arc, had no offensive rebounds, and didn’t get to the free-throw line. Lamb had six points on two threes in the span of about a minute, but beyond that, his only addition to the box score was a block and two fouls.

And Kentucky <span style=”font-style:italic;”>still</span> beat the team most believed to be the best in the country.

That’s saying something.

It’s saying that Kentucky is a very, very dangerous basketball team.

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Not to beat a dead horse, but they just knocked off the best basketball team in the country when their two first-team all-conference players each shot 3-of-10 from the field. They’ve made it all the way to the Elite Eight with Jones struggling. In the three tournament games, Jones is averaging 10.0 ppg and 6.7 rpg. He’s shooting 10-of-23 from the field, has just three offensive rebounds, and has gotten to the foul line all of 10 times. Lamb hasn’t been much better, averaging 6.3 ppg and shooting just 7-of-17 from the floor.

What happens when they wake up?

Knight has been inconsistent — he had two points against Princeton, 30 against West Virginia, and nine against Ohio State — but he has been terrific in the clutch. He has hit game-winners to beat both Princeton and Ohio State (despite having off-nights) and made six free throws down the stretch to hold off a West Virginia comeback.

Kentucky matched up very well with Ohio State. They don’t match up quite as well with North Carolina, which the Wildcats face on Sunday in the East regional final.

But with the way the upperclassmen have been playing over the past month, if Jones, Knight, and Lamb all show up, a bad matchup may not matter.

All of a sudden, Kentucky looks like it may actually be a title contender.

And if I were to tell you that it was due, in very large part, to the play of Harrellson, Liggins, and Miller, who would have believed me in February?

Jalen Coleman-Lands cleared to practice

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Jarrod Uthoff #20 of the Iowa Hawkeyes defends against Jalen Coleman-Lands #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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When Illinois takes on Southeast Missouri State in the opener of the 2016-17 season, the Fighting Illini should have it’s starting backcourt out on the floor.

According to Jon Rothstein, Jalen Coleman-Lands has been cleared for all basketball activities. The sophomore two-guard has been recovering from a broken bone in his right hand.

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.

Coleman-Lands will team up with Tracy Abrams, a point guard who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing the past two seasons due to injuries.

This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.

The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.

NBC Sports projected Illinois to finish eighth in the Big Ten this season.

Curtis Jones jumps over Tom Crean

Tom Crean
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Indiana held its annual Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night.

One of the highlights from the team’s dunk contest was when freshman guard Curtis Jones jumped over Indiana head coach Tom Crean.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a newcomer us his coach as a dunk contest prop. Last week, Rawle Alkins cleared Arizona head coach Sean Miller en route to a reverse jam.

Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.

WATCH: Edmond Sumner take off from the foul line

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Edmond Sumner #4 of the Xavier Musketeers dunks the ball during the game against the St. John's Red Storm at Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Edmond Sumner is a big reason why Xavier is likely going to be a preseason top-10 team.

On Saturday night, during Musketeer Madness, Sumner won the team’s dunk contest when he took off from the foul line.

Sumner defeated freshmen Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin. J.P. Macura, the reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year, took home the honors last year.

The 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore is coming off a debut season in which he averaged 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

WATCH: Duke goes crazy for Chase Jeter’s bottle flip

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Chase Jeter #2 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on in the second half against the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The bottle flip has become an international sensation in recent months.

It’s as simple as it sounds: flipping a water bottle in the air, attempting to have it land upright.

Duke sophomore forward Chase Jeter, in front of 9,300-plus fans, successfully pulled off the bottle flip on Saturday night at Duke’s Craziness.

Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.

Auburn to honor Charles Barkley with a statue

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04:  Former NBA player and commentator Charles Barkley looks on prior to the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.

The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.

“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”

Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.

His number 34 is retired at Auburn.