Weekend Preview: Ohio State gets a rematch with Indiana

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source: AP

(All times ET)

Game of the Weekend: Sunday, 4:30 p.m.: No. 8 Indiana  at No. 5 Ohio State

The last time these two teams played, Indiana knocked off the Buckeyes in Assembly Hall 74-70, giving their fans even more reason to believe they deserved to be ranked somewhere in the top ten. The problem? Indiana probably doesn’t. The Hoosiers are a flawed basketball team, one that struggles on the defensive end of the floor and that doesn’t have the kind of strength in the paint to effectively battle on the glass. That said, if they are hitting their threes, they are dangerous. Ohio State found that out the first time these two teams got together. As did Kentucky. Even Michigan State was on the receiving end of a 25-2 run from the Hoosiers.

The question we all have right now is whether or not IU is capable of winning game on the road against good teams. The two times they’ve played on the road in the Big Ten, they lost to Michigan State despite going on a 25-2 run and they beat Penn State by six despite shooting 16-24 from three. That’s not exactly promising.

Ohio State, on the other hand, was in foul trouble when these two teams tangoed back on New Year’s Eve. It seemed like everyone on their roster had two fouls in the first 20 minutes of the game. That kind of kept OSU from getting into a rhythm offensively. That said, the Buckeyes have had some issues of late. They haven’t looked quite as dominant as we expected them to be, and a large part of that is due to the fact that we all underrated just how much they would miss David Lighty and Jon Diebler.

That’s the bottom line right there. Diebler did not miss when he got his feet set. Lighty could literally do anything on a basketball court and do it well. The guys filling in those roles — DeShaun Thomas, Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith — are capable, but they are not on the level of Diebler or Lighty. Throw in the fact that Sullinger doesn’t appear to be 100 percent or all the way back in shape after the time he had to take off, and it has put a ton of pressure on Aaron Craft to be a primary playmaker. That’s not his forte.

Its sets up a situation with all kinds of intriguing story lines. But most importantly, the loser drops to three games behind Michigan State and out of first place in the Big Ten. That deficit may be too much to overcome.

Three more to watch:

Saturday, 4 p.m.: No. 12 UNLV at No. 22 SDSU: There may not be a more intriguing matchup this weekend that when the Aztecs take of UNLV. On the one hand, SDSU hasn’t played anyone in well over a month. UNLV, on the other hand, has played the role of road dogs, galavanting across the country like they are on the #BIAHRoadTrip. UNLV seems to be the odds-on favorite to win the MWC this season, but the question many people are asking is just how good SDSU is. New Mexico has played about as well as anyone on the west coast over the last month and seems primed to make a run at the league title. If the Aztecs want a shot at winning the conference, defending their home court is crucial.

Saturday, 4 p.m.: Alabama at No. 20 Mississippi State: Who is the favorite in the SEC West? Prior to the start of the season, the obvious pick was Alabama. But as the Crimson Tide started to struggle in early December, the Bulldogs slid into the lead. But Mississippi State has come back to earth, starting with a loss at Arkansas to open up SEC play. Winning this game opens up a two game lead for the Tide in the division. The best part? These two teams match up very, very well. Both teams have big front lines — Arnett Moultrie and Tony Mitchell will be difficult to keep off of first-team all-SEC — while the matchup of Trever Releford and Dee Bost pits two of the best point guards in the league.

Saturday, 7 p.m.: UCF at Marshall: Who is going to be the biggest challenger to Memphis in the Conference USA regular season race? Southern Miss gave the Tigers their best shot on Wednesday, coming up just short as a game-winning three bounced off the rim. Both UCF and Marshall are sitting at 3-0 in the league. Who is for real? Personally, I like Marshall more because I love their back court.

Who’s getting upset?: Saturday, 8 p.m.: No. 23 Gonzaga at Loyola Marymount

Despite all the struggles that LMU has had this season, they are currently tied with Gonzaga are second place in the WCC at 3-1. And, believe it or not, the Lions probably have just as much talent on their roster this season, especially with Drew Viney back in the mix and healthy. Gonzaga is also going to have a tough matchup in the back court as neither Kevin Pangos or David Stockton are really known for their defense and Anthony Ireland has proven to be a player. The Zags are coming off of a 21 point loss at St. Mary’s. They are ripe for the picking.

Three more on upset watch:

Saturday, 1 p.m.: No. 13 Michigan at Iowa: The Hawkeyes have caught a couple of teams napping this year (ahem, Wisconsin), and they are certainly more talented than typical Iowa teams. Throw in the fact that they are coming off of an embarrassing and thorough whooping at the hands of Michigan State — one that caused Fran McCaffrey to body slam a chair — and I think that Iowa will be ready to play. Michigan struggled against Northwestern at home their last time out as well.

Saturday, 1 p.m.: Texas at No. 9 Missouri: To be honest, I love Missouri. I think they proved quite a bit with the way that they beat Iowa State on the road last week. When you can win on the road while doing what you do best poorly, that’s a good sign. That said, I like this Texas squad. I think they have a good young core and an underrated big man in Clint Chapman. But I had to pick someone to get upset, so I’m betting that J’Covan Brown and Myck Kabongo put it all together for a game.

Saturday, 6 p.m.: Tennessee Tech at No. 14 Murray State: Tennessee Tech has a really solid 1-2-3 punch in Kevin Murphy, Jud Dillard and Zach Swansey. They’ll be able to get up and down with Murray State. So yeah, I’m going to call the upset this weekend. Streak: over.

Mid-major matchup of the weekend: Friday, 7 p.m.: Cleveland State at Butler

OK, so maybe I’m just being hopeful because I’ll be at this game tonight, but I think there is a ton of intrigue in this game. Both programs lost a ton from last season, but both are still right near the top of the Horizon League. Hinkle is never an easy place to win, even if Butler is a bit down this season.

Three more to watch

Saturday, 4 p.m.: Ohio at Akron: Two of the best teams in the MAC take the court. Akron had the hype in the preseason, but it was Ohio that made a run early in the year and got themselves considered for the top 25.

Saturday, 9 p.m.: Montana at Weber State: The two best teams in the Big Sky? National Player of the Year candidate Damian Lillard, who currently leads the nation in scoring, has carried WSU to a 5-0 record in the league, but the Grizzlies are currently sitting at 4-0 themselves.

Sunday, 3:30 p.m.: Loyola MD at Iona: Iona blew a 17 point lead in the final eight minutes last night to Manhattan, suffering their first loss in league play. Loyola is sitting just a half game back in the win column, meaning that a win here for the Greyhounds would put them into first place in the MAAC. That is going to be a fun race to watch this season.

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

Kentucky fans flood Facebook page of official John Higgins’ company with negative reviews

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Unhappy with how John Higgins performed at his part-time job, Kentucky fans did their best trash him at his full-time gig.

The Facebook page of the referee’s Omaha-based roofing company was flooded by Big Blue Nation with negative comments and reviews after they were displeased with the official’s work in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight loss to North Carolina.

Not only did fans leave obviously fake and vulgar comments on the page, they also deluged it with one-star reviews to drive down its average significantly.

Once again, the Internet is struck by its proportionality problem. What could be considered a silly bit of online pranking by a small minority suddenly turns into an avalanche of nastiness that could do real damage to someone’s life, business and family, given the importance of social media for companies in 2017. It becomes cruel when it reaches a level like this.

When there’s so many general complaints about the state of officiating in college basketball, it’s also not helpful to do something like this to one of the referees generally considered to be one of the country’s best. It’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for prospective future officials to follow the career path if it brings this level of negative attention to you off the court.

Report: North Carolina to miss out on NCAA events through 2022 if HB2 not addressed by Thursday

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North Carolina is in danger of losing out on hosting NCAA events through 2022 if the state does not make changes to HB2, the controversial so-called “bathroom bill” by Thursday afternoon, according to the leader of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

“I have confirmed with a contact very close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now,” Scott Dupree, the head of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “If HB2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids.”

“The NCAA has already delayed the bid review process once and has waited as long as it possibly can, and now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022.”

The NCAA, as it reminded North Carolina last week, is making its determinations on hosts for events from 2018-2022 this week. There was movement last week at the North Carolina statehouse for a compromise on the bill, but that apparently stalled out, the News & Observer reported, though there remain efforts to make progress on a pact.

Should lawmakers not reach an agreement in time, the state’s flagship basketball programs will be without an NCAA tournament home-court advantage that they have often enjoyed. HB2 just this past year moved the first and second rounds out of the state and to South Carolina, where No. 2 seed Duke lost to the seventh-seeded Gamecocks in their home state.

Clearly, there’s much more to consider here than NCAA tournament implications, but it’s another reminder of the economic impact the bill has made in North Carolina. This week, The Associated Press estimated it will cost the state $3.76 billion over a 12-year period.

Baylor’s Freeman to graduate and transfer

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Baylor is losing one of its contributors over the past three seasons.

Al Freeman, a 6-foot-3 guard, will graduate and transfer to another school, the Bears announced Tuesday.

“Al has been a tremendous student-athlete and made great contributions to our program over the last four years, and we’re thrilled that he’s going to complete his degree at Baylor,” Bears coach Scott Drew said in a statement. “He’ll always be part of the Baylor family, and we’ll be rooting for him as he continues his career.”

Freeman, who redshirted his freshman year due to a broken wrist, started 57 games during his career in Waco and averaged 8.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He was a full-time starter as a sophomore, but made just 22 this past season and saw his minutes slashed.

As a graduate transfer, the Charlotte native will be immediately eligible at his next program for his final collegiate season.

Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner declares for NBA Draft

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Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner has declared for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent.

“First let me start by saying these three years at Xavier have been the best of my life,” Sumner said in a statement. “I have certainly been presented with some ups and downs but they have only served to make me a stronger person. This decision was very hard for me because of the love I have for X. After weighing my options with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft, fulfilling a lifelong dream. I want to thank Coach Mack and the rest of the staff for believing in me and giving me a chance when no one did! I’ll always be grateful for that. Xavier Nation I will always love you!”

Sumner, a 6-foot-6 point guard with dynamic athleticism and first round potential that averaged 15.0 points, but he is coming off of a torn ACL that he suffered in January. He’s likely to be a second round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

This is a big loss for the Musketeers, but it’s one that they planned for. After his eruption last season, most expected him to put his name in the draft this season.

Duke freshman Harry Giles III declares for NBA Draft

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Harry Giles III has declared for the NBA Draft after playing just one season at Duke.

“Playing in the NBA has been my goal for as long as I can remember, and I’m so excited to take the next step in that journey,” Giles said. “My time at Duke has been a dream come true. I’ve built so many strong relationships here and I have so many people to thank, from my teammates and coaches to our medical staff and strength coach. I can’t understate how proud I am to be part of the Duke Basketball program forever.”

Giles played in 26 games for the Blue Devils. He started six games and averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story with Giles. At one point considered to be the best player in the loaded Class of 2016, Giles has dealt with a pair of devastating knee injuries already. He underwent a third surgery right before the start of the season and never seemed like he was fully able to get back to being the player he was when he was in high school.

This is the right decision for Giles to make, as there is still some uncertainty regarding the health of his knees. Were his struggles due to the fact that he was tossed right into the middle of a college basketball season after having sat out for 14 straight months, or was this simply a result of knees that no longer allow him to be the player that he used to be?

He might still end up being a first round pick this year. At the very least, he’s make some guaranteed money if he can get into a camp. Maybe returning to school could have helped vault him into the lottery in 2018, but another year like this year would’ve firebombed his draft stock.

“With his uplifting personality and love for the game, Harry Giles has been a joy to coach,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He is only beginning to scratch the surface of how good he can be on the basketball court. Harry has an exciting NBA future ahead of him and we are here to fully support him as a member of our brotherhood.”

I know I’m not alone when I say I hope that Giles gets healthy and succeeds in the NBA.