Stephan McCarty, Zach McCabe, Matt Gatens, Melsahn Basabe

Thursday’s slate and what to watch: three league titles on the line?

Leave a comment

All times ET. Television guide via here.

Game of the Night: No. 5 Duke @ No. 15 Florida State, 7 p.m. (ESPN)

Do I really need to explain to you how important this game is in the ACC standings? Three teams are tied for first place in league play with four games left on the schedule. Duke and Florida State are two of those teams. The Seminoles already have wins at Duke and against UNC in their only meeting, which means that a win tonight puts them in the driver’s seat. In other words, if Florida State wins their last four games, they’ll be the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament. Raise your hand if you thought that was even a possibility back in November.

(I’ll wait.)

There will be a couple of interesting personnel matchups in this one. In the paint, the Plumlee have played better basketball of late, but from a physicality perspective, they will be at a disadvantage against FSU’s massive front line. On the perimeter, the Seminoles have some terrific on-ball defenders and should make life difficult for a Duke team that already has issues penetrating off the bounce. If you’ve forgotten, the last time these two teams played, this happened. The Blue Devils have been waiting for a month to run it back. In other words, this should be fun.

Who’s getting upset?: No. 16 Wisconsin @ Iowa, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

The Hawkeyes have been one of the most pesky teams in the country this season. They’ve beaten No. 11 Michigan at home. They’ve beaten No. 23 Indiana at home. And they’ve gone into the Kohl Center and knocked off Wisconsin already this season. Matt Gatens is coming off of a 30 point performance in Sunday’s upset win over the Hoosiers. Can he keep the streak going?

Also on upset alert:

No. 14 Murray State @ Tennessee State, 8 p.m. (ESPNU): Murray State doesn’t have an undefeated season to worry about anymore, which takes a bit of luster off of their remaining schedule. I’ll watch this team play simply because I enjoy Isaiah Canaan and what he is capable of doing on the court, but most other people are not addicted to this game like I am. Who is the reason that Murray State blemish on their record? Tennessee State. Like Duke, the Racers have probably been waiting to run this back.

No. 17 Louisville @ Cincinnati, 9 p.m. (ESPN): I’m not sure you can even technically justify this as an upset if Cincy were to win, but I’ll go with it because a) Louisville has that number to the left of their name which signifies that the top 25 polls that you should all-but disregard are think the Cardinals are better and b) NBC gave me the power to do so and you better believe I’m going to take advantage of that authority. Was I rambling? Sorry. Winner moves into a three-way tie with USF and Georgetown for the fourth double-bye in the Big East Tournament.

St. Mary’s @ Portland, 10 p.m. (ESPNU): This is going to be a game that you will want to keep a very close eye on. The Gaels are in the midst of another late-season swoon, having lost three of their last four. They were given a gift when Gonzaga lost to San Francisco and opened the door for the Gaels to win the WCC regular season title, but for that to happen St. Mary’s has to win their last two games. On the road in league play from a team that’s struggling? Portland is just the appetizer to Saturday’s trip to San Francisco.

Mid-major matchup of the night: Bucknell @ American, 7 p.m. (CCS)

After losing to Lehigh at the buzzer last week, the Bison stumbled at Holy Cross, meaning that both the Mountain Hawks and the Eagles, who are one game behind Bucknell, will have their shot at getting even in league play with two games left. In all likelihood this is the last chance that they will have. Bucknell’s final game of the year is against Navy, who is 0-13 this season.

Bubblicious:

Alabama @ Arkansas, 7 p.m. (ESPN2): The Crimson Tide, who are still without JaMychal Green after Tony Mitchell was booted from the team, are playing for their NCAA Tournament lives against an Arkansas team that is very, very tough to beat at home. That’s a rough combination.

BYU @ Gonzaga, 11 p.m. (ESPN2): This isn’t quite a bubble game, but it does become important with the way the WCC standings look like they are going to shake out. Both BYU and Gonzaga at 11-3 in the league, a game behind St. Mary’s. But the Gaels are playing some poor basketball right now and have two road games left this season. The winner tonight will have the best chance of beating out St. Mary’s for the league title.

Be sure to keep an eye on:

Elon @ Davidson, 7 p.m.: The Wildcats will win the SoCon’s regular season title with a victory.

Belmont @ Kennesaw State, 7 p.m.: Ditto, Bruins in the Atlantic Sun.

Middle Tennessee State @ Louisiana-Monroe, 8 p.m.: MTSU has already clinched the No. 1 seed in the Sun Belt Tournament, but a win tonight gives them the outright league title.

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

Whitehead to stay in NBA Draft

Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) shoots past Xavier forward Sean O'Mara (54) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Leave a comment

Seton Hall sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead has signed with an agent and will remain in the NBA Draft, according to multiple reports.

Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last season for Seton Hall, which went 25-9 and reached the NCAA tournament. He likely projects as a second-round pick with a bit of a shaky shot, but a high usage and assist rates. His strong finish to the season likely lifted him on some draft boards, but his inefficiency will cap his ceiling in June’s draft.

The loss is significant for the Pirates as Whitehead was so much of their offense, but they’ll bring back Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo. It’s a group that will miss Whitehead’s playmaking, but is still a solid enough foundation that Seton Hall will still likely be competitive in the Big East and vying for another NCAA tournament berth.

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

brimah
Leave a comment

Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.

Gonzaga’s Karnowski returning for fifth year

2 Comments

The man in the middle is returning to Gonzaga.

Przemek Karnowski will return to the Bulldogs for his final year after a medical redshirt waiver was granted allowing him a fifth season in Spokane, the school announced Tuesday.

“I’m excited to be coming back,” Karnowski said in a statement. “After talking with the coaches, my parents and the team, I decided this was the best decision for me. I still have a ways to go with my rehab, but I’m staying positive about the upcoming season.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, a Poland native, would have, at minimum, had professional opportunities overseas, but instead will return to play for the Bulldogs once more after a back injury limited him to five games last season. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a junior in 2014-15.

With Karnowski returning along with  Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, Gonzaga coach Mark Few will be having newcomers Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams II and Zach Collins joining an experienced and talented group.

Gonzaga (shocker) will be the West Coast Conference favorite once more, but the Bulldogs will also be fielding a team that should open the season in most everyone’s top-15.

Michigan St. at Duke highlights ACC/Big Ten Challenge

GettyImages-468631066
Getty Images
Leave a comment

A matchup in Durham of likely top-10 teams is the headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, whose schedule was released Tuesday.

Michigan State, expected to open the season in the top-10, and Duke, the presumptive preseason No. 1, will meet Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the most intriguing contest of the 14-game event.

The Spartans are losing Denzel Valentin, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, but the recruiting class of Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward is one of coach Tom Izzo’s best and has Michigan State positioned as one of the Big Ten’s favorites.

Izzo’s recruiting class, though, pales in comparison to what coach Mike Krzyzewski is bringing to the Blue Devils, with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Frank Jackson and Javin DeLaurier in their 2016 class, which is why, when paired with the likes of Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and Luke Kennard, make Duke nearly everyone’s No. 1 heading into next season.

Krzyzewski is 9-1 all-time against Izzo’s Spartans.

Among the other highlights of the conference competition is Syracuse at Wisconsin (Nov. 29) Pittsburgh at Maryland (Nov. 29), Purdue at Louisville (Nov. 30) and Ohio State at Virginia (Nov. 30).  

Monday, Nov. 28

Minnesota at Florida State

Wake Forest at Northwestern

Tuesday, Nov. 29

Syracuse at Wisconsin

Michigan State at Duke

Pittsburgh at Maryland

Iowa at Notre Dame

Georgia Tech at Penn State

N.C. State at Illinois

 

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Purdue at Louisville

North Carolina at Indiana

Ohio State at Virginia

Virginia Tech at Michigan

Rutgers at Miami (Fla.)

Nebraska at Clemson