Marcus Denmon, Thomas Robinson

Big 12 conference tournament preview

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We all thought this was finally going to be the year.

With the amount of talent that Kansas lost off of their roster from last season and with the majority of their recruiting class finding themselves ineligible to play this season, the Jayhawks were left with the inconsistent Tyshawn Taylor, the unproven Thomas Robinson and a supporting cast of former walk-ons and ex-bench players to try and win their eighth straight Big 12 regular season title.

With the amount of talent on the roster at Baylor and with Texas A&M putting a veteran group on the floor every night, it only made sense to finally pick against the Jayhawks.

And anyone that did regretted it.

Thomas Robinson exploded, morphing into one of two serious candidates for National Player of the Year. Tyshawn Taylor shook off a rough start to the season by playing like an all-american in the last two months. That supporting cast of walk-ons and ex-bench players? they turned out to be pretty good.

There are those that will call this Bill Self’s best coaching performance of his career. Those people aren’t wrong.

The Bracket

Where: Kansas City

When: March 7th-March 10th

Final: March 10th, 7 p.m. ESPN

Favorite: Kansas

At this point, how can you bet against them? They weren’t supposed to win this season, yet they did. With what amounts to, more or less, a two-and-a-half man team — depending on which Jeff Withey shows up — the Jayhawks lost just two games in Big 12 play. I’ve been saying it all season long: Tyshawn Taylor is the most important player on this team. Thomas Robinson is going to go out and get you 17 points and 12 boards every single night. He’s going to bust his tail and outwork everyone else on the floor. You know what you are going to get out of him. Taylor, on the other hand, is as talented as he has been inconsistent throughout his career. When he plays like he has the last two months, the Jayhawks are a Final Four team.

And if they lose?: Missouri

I’m not going to lie: I’m rooting for Missouri. And I’m rooting for Kansas. If there is one thing in this world that all us college basketball fans want to see, its Round III of KU-MU in Kansas City with the Big 12 title on the line. You want to talk about atmosphere? Yeesh. As far as the Tigers are concerned, they are a known quantity at this point. You can’t match up with their perimeter attack, Marcus Denmon has proven himself to be lethal in the clutch and their guards are just tough enough that they can hang with the Big 12’s best bigs on the glass.

Other contenders?: Baylor is obviously a contender. They are a contender for the Final Four as well. When you have as much talent as the Bears do, there really isn’t you aren’t capable of. But if they don’t play hard or play with heart, they’ll lose. Iowa State should also be thrown into the mix here. The Cyclones have the league’s most versatile and unique talent in Royce White and surround him with guys that can either jump out the gym or knock down threes from press row.

Sleeper: Kansas State

I just love the way Frank Martin teams play. They are tough, they are relentless and they always play hard. The difference is that this season the Wildcats don’t have quite as much natural ability as in years past. They are also pretty young, especially in the back court. When Will Spradling and Angel Rodriguez are playing well, they are a sneaky-good team.

Deeper sleepers: Texas is still a year away, but they are a talented group led by a star in J’Covan Brown. Can he carry this team?

Studs:

Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas: Both will be all-americans.

Royce White, Iowa State: He leads ISU in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. And he’s a 6’8″, 270 lb point guard.

Mike Dixon, Missouri: I’ll give Dixon the love here as he as been the most under-appreciated member of that back court. He makes things happen off the bench almost every single game.

Pierre Jackson, Baylor: Jackson has quickly become Baylor’s most important player. He had 35 points the last time out.

Rodney McGruder, Kansas State: Nothing about McGruder’s game is overwhelming, but he does everything well and can go for 25-30 in a given night.

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

Iowa State guard Naz Mitrou-Long gets hardship waiver to play additional year

Iowa State guard Nazareth Mitrou-Long defends Buffalo guard Jarryn Skeete during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 84-63. (AP Photo/Justin Hayworth)
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Iowa State got a boost to its roster for next season as senior guard Naz Mitrou-Long has been granted a hardship waiver by the Big 12 conference.

“Everything happens for a reason and although it hurt to not be able to play for a group of guys I loved last year, my body needed time to recover and that time off allowed me to feel the best I’ve felt since my freshman year,” Mitrou-Long said in the release. “I’m glad I’ll be able to play for the best fans in the country and represent the name on the front of my jersey, Iowa State, one more year. Words can’t describe this feeling. Cyclone Nation, be ready for a special year.”

The 6-foot-4 Long played in eight games last season for Iowa State as he averaged 12 points per game. He missed the rest of the season to deal with pain in his surgically repaired hips. Mitrou-Long has been a very effective three-point shooter during his career at Iowa State and he should be a nice option to have for next season if he’s healthy.

CIAA will stay in North Carolina despite state’s LGBT law

Protesters rally against House Bill 2 in Raleigh, N.C.,  Monday, April 25, 2016. While demonstrations circled North Carolina's statehouse on Monday, for and against a Republican-backed law curtailing protections for LGBT people and limiting public bathroom access for transgender people, House Democrats filed a repeal bill that stands little chance of passing. (Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association says it won’t move its headquarters, its basketball tournament or other conference championships from North Carolina, despite the state’s controversial new LGBT law.

The CIAA said in a statement Thursday that it will instead partner with the NCAA to educate its members on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues as it does on other issues, like graduation rates and concussion management.

The Charlotte Observer reports that the CIAA, the oldest African-American sports conference in the U.S., has hosted its annual basketball tournament in Charlotte since 2006 and announced it was moving its headquarters to Charlotte from Virginia in 2015.

The CIAA said Thursday that it will continue to “monitor the issues,” as it has since House Bill 2 passed.

 

VIDEOS: Stephen Curry’s personally invites athletes to his select camp

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, left, holds the championship trophy and Andre Iguodala holds the series MVP trophy as they celebrate winning the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland, Wednesday, June 17, 2015. The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 105-97 to win the best-of-seven game series 4-2. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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As he did last year, the NBA’s MVP is sending out personal invites to Under Armour’s SC30 Select Camp for some of the best high school and college point guards in the country.

It’s a pretty cool thing for the kids. Can you imagine how you would feel as a high school junior getting a personalized invitation to a camp from Stephen Curry himself?

 

VIDEO: John Calipari vows to lose some weight

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John Calipari has a goal this offseason: to lose some weight.

“Mid-50s, I let it go a little bit,” Calipari said as he worked out on an elliptical. “Had a heck of a year. But going forward, gotta get in better shape. Gotta get the body right. Started a week ago. What I will say to you is really simple. I’m not showing you my body for a month.”

The reason why Cal needs to get into shape?

He’s going to have to coach this year, because Tyler Ulis is heading to the NBA.

“I shoulda got some of his salary,” Ulis joked.

Cal won’t have to coach too hard. He’s got one of the best recruiting classes in the country coming into the program, including three top ten players and five of the nation’s top 30 prospects.

Four-star PG Jaylen Fisher de-commits from UNLV

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Coaching changes can wreak havoc on a program’s recruiting class, and that’s been the case for UNLV thanks to the tumultuous nature of their search for a new head coach. Thursday evening one prospect who remained committed to the Mountain West program throughout the process that ultimately led to Marvin Menzies landing the job announced that he’s decided to reopen his recruitment.

Four-star point guard Jaylen Fisher, ranked 55th in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.com, announced via social media that he’s decided to de-commit from UNLV.

“I was very much looking forward to the opportunity to be a Rebel this year,” Fisher wrote. “But there have been a lot of changes with the program since I committed to UNLV; changes that have made me reconsider whether UNLV is still a good fit for me. So with that in mind and after much consideration with my family, I have decided it’s best that I reopen my recruitment.”

Fisher’s decision leaves wing Justin Jackson as the lone member of UNLV’s 2016 class at this point, with Jackson telling Scout.com in early April that he was undecided as to whether or not he’d reopen his recruitment. The school’s search for a coach began in January when they parted ways with Dave Rice, promoting Todd Simon in an interim role.

After deciding not to retain Simon, who’s now the head coach at Southern Utah, UNLV hired former Little Rock head coach Chris Beard…who left for Texas Tech less than two weeks later. UNLV landed Menzies, who they passed over for Beard, and he’s got a lot of work to do to field a roster that will be competitive in the Mountain West next season.

As for Fisher, the Arlington, Tennessee native should be a popular prospect with his decision to reopen things. And with Memphis losing former commit Charlie Moore, the Tigers are in need of help at the point. The question now is whether or not new head coach Tubby Smith will look to reach out to Fisher.

h/t Memphis Commercial-Appeal