Save the best for last: 5 players rolling entering the tournament

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It happens every year. One player steps up his game and carries his team to a huge upset or a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Here are five guys to keep an eye one. Five who are playing the best hoops of their lives.

Ray McCallum – Detroit: McCallum, a sophomore, has been lighting up the Horizon all year. He led the team in scoring and finished 2nd in the conference. In the conference opener he had a pedestrian 10 points on 2-7 shooting. And then he got hot. In the next three games Detroit knocked off Youngstown State, the #2 seed (Cleveland State) and the #1 seed (Valparaiso) to clinch an automatic bid. In those 3 games the 6’2 McCallum made 78% of his 2s and 18-20 FTs.  He averaged 23 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5 assists.

Opening round opponent: Kansas (2)

Mike Scott – Virginia: Mike Scott was able to terrorize ACC opponents this season since he got hurt last year and qualified for a medical redshirt. He was 1st Team All Conference, but turned it up a notch when Virginia needed a win to secure a bye in the conference Tourney. In the past three games he’s averaged a ridiculous 28.7 points and 10.3 rebounds.

Opening round opponent: Florida (7)

Dion Waiters – Syracuse: The 2nd sophomore on this list, Waiters nearly doubled his scoring output this year, going from 6.6 as a freshman to 12.6 as a soph. But in the final regular season game and the two Big East Tourney games, he went to the next level. Waiters made 55% of his 2s and 63% of his 3s on his way to 19.7 points a game.

Opening round opponent: UNC-Asheville (16)

Andrew Nicholson – St Bonaventure: The A-10 champs finished 3rd in the regular season, and won the A-10 Tourney without having to face the #1 or #2 seed. But the way Nicholson was playing it probably wouldn’t have mattered. After the Bonnies loss to Temple on February 15th dropped them to 6-5 in the conference, Nicholson took over.  In the following 8 games he averaged 26 points and 10.6 rebounds.

Opening round opponent: Florida State (3)

Michael Snaer – Florida State: The Seminoles have been in the ACC for 20 seasons, and they just locked up their first ever conference championship. And to accomplish that they had to go through Miami, Duke and North Carolina. How’d they do it? Michael Snaer. Starting with the regular season finale which clinched the 3-seed, Snaer averaged 19.3 points and couldn’t miss when he set up for a 3. He made 14-19 (74%) in those games.

Opening round opponent: St Bonaventure (14)

Michael Rogner is the founding editor of Run the Floor, and you can find him on Twitter: @RunTheFloor

Virginia, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, Vandy in NIT Tip-Off

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NEW YORK (AP) — Virginia and Vanderbilt will meet in one semifinal of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off on Thanksgiving Day at Barclays Center.

Rhode Island and Seton Hall face off in the other semifinal with the winners meeting on Friday, Nov. 24.

This is the third straight year the Tip-Off has been held at Barclays Center. Eventual NCAA champion Villanova won the event in 2015. All games will be televised on ESPNU.

Non-bracketed teams in the NIT Season Tip-Off who will play games at campus sites are: Austin Peay, Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Oakland City and UNC Asheville.

Miles Bridges explain why he returned to Michigan State

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Miles Bridges changed the landscape of the 2017-18 college basketball season on April 13.

The Michigan State forward spurned the NBA for another year in East Lansing. The decision not only meant that Bridges was a frontrunner for national player of the year, but solidified the Spartans as a national title contender.

But Bridges’ choice to return was still puzzling to many. The 6-foot-7 forward was projected as a lottery pick. Bridges explained his decision to Mike Decourcy of Sporting News in a story published on Thursday.

“He says, ‘You know what, Coach? I want to get better. I don’t want to be in the D-League. I’ve got buddies that are, and I just want to make sure when I go, I’m ready,’ ” Izzo recalled to Sporting News. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Done deal.’ For me, that was a done deal. It was a reasonable, sensible argument.”

Agents, friends, reporters, scouts, acquaintances, fans, strangers and family members — oh and, as we said, coaches — all had one opinion about how Bridges should spend the next year of his life. Miles had another, opposing, viewpoint.

Bridges told Decourcy that support came from his teammates, many of whom were returning to the team as well. Assuming the backcourt of Cassius Winston and Josh Langford make a leap forward, as well as incoming freshman Jaren Jackson providing an immediate impact, the Spartans’ title hopes could become a reality.

Bridges averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks as a freshman at Michigan State. He’s rated as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.

Four conferences sign on to basketball officiating alliance

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Four more Division I conferences will join a men’s basketball officiating alliance formed last year by the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association.

The Big South, the Ivy League, the Northeast and the Patriot League are joining ahead of the 2017-18 season, according to announcements from the leagues Thursday. The alliance launched last summer for conferences to work together on officiating matters and enhance training, development, recruitment, retention and feedback for officials.

John Cahill, the Big East’s supervisor of officials, and Bryan Kersey, the ACC’s coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, will continue to lead the alliance operations.

ACC commissioner John Swofford says the new additions to the alliance “provide an even greater opportunity to build chemistry and quality” across the officiating ranks.

North Carolina to unveil national championship banner in October

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The latest addition to the rafters of the Dean Dome will be unveiled this fall.

North Carolina will raise the banner for its 2017 national championship on Oct. 13, according to a report from Inside Carolina.

The event will coincide with the Tar Heels’ “Late Night With Roy” event that marks the public start to the season for the program and also serves, like many other top programs, as a recruiting tool.

North Carolina won its sixth NCAA national championship in April by defeating Gonzaga, 71-65, in Phoenix to avenge its last-second loss in the title game to Villanova the year prior. It was the Tar Heels’ first championship since 2009.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball highlights

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It was the most anticipated matchup of the summer.

Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball.

People were turned away at the door – and LeBron James reportedly came and went – as the gym reached capacity for SC Supreme’s 104-92 victory over the Big Ballers. That’s Williamson over Ball (LaMelo and LaVar).

The game was mostly spectacle, and you can see it’s top moments right here.