Four leagues that must make a statement in the NCAA tournament

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Everyone wants it, but not everybody has it.

Earning respect in college basketball, in all of sports, really, is one of the most difficult things to do.

Overcoming pre-conceived notions or shedding those negative connotations can be hard to do, but the best time to sway the perceptions is in the post-season.

Whether it be making up for less than impressive tournaments in recent years, or simply taking advantage of the limelight, here are four conferences that stick out as leagues that could really benefit from an overall strong showing.

Because they need to earn some respect

Big East

Remember last season when the Big East became the Big Bust? The Big Least? A record 11-teams from the conference were awarded NCAA Tournament berths, only to have nine of them eliminated in the first weekend. The two that advanced to the Sweet 16? UConn and Marquette, who both beat a Big East club to advance.

With nine teams particiaping this season, hostile fans of otehr conferences won’t take it any easier on the league, and now that Fab Melo is donzeo there’s arguably no real Final Four threats.

If the Big East screws this up again, expect plenty of voracious criticism.

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Big Ten

A conference like this can’t possibly be the best in college basketball, right? Well, maybe, but for a league with five of their six participants seeded six or higher, this league is either ripe to stay releveant well into the tournament, or fail dismally and face the wrath of public opinion.

Beware, however, as teams like Wisconsin (offensive woes), Michigan (frontcourt woes)  and Indiana (road woes) all have obvious flaws that make them suspectible to an early round exit, and No. 1 seed Michigan State faces a dangerous road to New Orleans.

But with the aforementioned departure of Fab Melo, the East Region has opened right up, and it could be an ideal situation for Ohio State to march right back into the Final Four.

The league needs to be successful this season to validate the regular season praise they received.

Because they deserve some respect

Mountain West Conference

If there can be something trendy in college basketball, it’s the MWC. Better than the ACC and Pac-12, RPI wise, the past two seasons, this is a league that could be represented by two teams in the regional final (if you’re brave), and possibly three teams in the Sweet 16 (if you’re brave and intelligent). It’s a stretch even offering that possibility up, sure, but both UNLV and New Mexico have the personnel and the pod(s) get win some games here.

The Rebels have the athleticism to match Baylor, and enough skill to get past the fairly underwhelming Duke Blue Devils. And we didn’t even mention San Diego State, the MWC conference tournament runner-up, who boasts the league’s player of the year Jamaal Franklin.

There’s the potential for a real memorable close to this league’s season, which would give it some must-deserved respect.

ACC

We’re on to this conference. A league once holding the discintion as the best in college basketball, that’s simply not the case anymore. But hold your horses.

North Carolina has the easiest road to the Final Four, and Florida State is a real dangerous three-seed in the East, proving that sound defense can really go a long way in the NCAA Tournament.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Heels and Seminoles match-up for the third time this season, and it would not be a complete fluke. You’d have to be impressed by the feat.

Virginia, matched-up against an inconsistent Florida team that has not been playing well lately, could serve as a nice statement victory for the league over an SEC foe.

Follow Nick Fasulo on Twitter @billyedelinSBN

Ohio State snags third 2018 commitment in a week with four-star guard Luther Muhammad

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Ohio State continued a strong week on the recruiting trail on Friday night by landing a commitment from Class of 2018 guard Luther Muhammad.

Regarded as a four-star prospect, the 6-foot-4 Muhammad is a tough and rugged perimeter defender who can attack the basket. Also showing some ability to play on the ball as a secondary handler, Muhammad is a very solid addition to Ohio State’s recruiting class since they need to overhaul their roster under new head coach Chris Holtmann.

Muhammad is the third player to commit to the Buckeyes in the Class of 2018 this week as he joins four-star forward Jaedon LeDee and three-star guard Duane Washington in the current Ohio State recruiting class. Since Washington is a three-point threat and Muhammad is more of an off-the-bounce specialist, the two guards are a good start for Ohio State in this class as they will likely try to find a true floor leader to play with them on the perimeter.

Michigan lands four-star 2018 forward Ignas Brazdeikis

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Michigan added to an already strong Class of 2018 recruiting haul on Friday night as four-star forward Ignas Brazdeikis pledged to the Wolverines on Twitter.

The 6-foot-8 Canadian was one of the premier scorers in the Nike EYBL this past spring and summer playing with CIA Bounce as Brazdeikis averaged 21.1 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the floor. Well-rounded outside of his scoring, Brazdeikis also put up 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while also showing a workable jumper that was 26 percent from three-point range.

With the job that Michigan head coach John Beilein has done developing forwards, most recently with the rapid improvement of players like D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner, it’ll be fascinating to see how Brazdeikis will look at the college level after some time on campus. Beilein’s offense is favorable for skilled forwards with a penchant for scoring and Brazdeikis could end up being a tremendous fit for the Wolverines.

Brazdeikis becomes the fourth member of Michigan’s Class of 2018 recruiting haul as he joins four-star forward Brandon Johns, four-star guard David Dejulius and three-star forward Taylor Currie.

Sex assault count dropped against ex-Creighton player Watson

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped a first-degree sexual assault charge against former Creighton point guard Maurice Watson after questions arose about the accuser’s story.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced Friday that his office had dropped the felony charge, filed earlier this year when a 19-year-old woman accused Watson of assaulting her early Feb. 4 at a party in an Omaha home. Watson has denied that allegation.

The 24-year-old Watson pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor assault for an encounter the same night with a different Creighton student, who said Watson touched her thigh and tried to make her touch his genitals. Watson was sentenced to the five days he’d already served in jail.

Watson was a senior when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in January, just days before the party.

Storm damage forces Paradise Jam out of Virgin Islands

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MIAMI (AP) — The Paradise Jam basketball tournament will not be played in the U.S. Virgin Islands this year because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

The tournament will be played in the U.S., with a new site expected to be announced by Sept. 29.

The Paradise Jam field this year includes Wake Forest, Colorado, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Liberty, Mercer and Quinnipiac, and each of those schools was given the chance to bid for the right to host the tournament.

Tournament officials say they looked at multiple other options, such as moving to another island and using a cruise ship for accommodations, before deciding to move the event to the U.S.

For now, the tournament is scheduled to be played from Nov. 17-20.

Kentucky lands commitment from five-star point guard

Immanuel Quickley (USA Basketball)
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Kentucky landed a commitment from Immanuel Quickley on Friday night, a top ten prospect and arguably the best point guard in the Class of 2018.

Quickley picked the Wildcats over Kansas, who he visited earlier this month, and Miami, who he was scheduled to visit before Hurricane Irma struck south Florida.

The 6-foot-3 point guard is the first commitment in the class of head coach John Calipari, and it really comes as no surprise. He’s been considered a Kentucky lean for months, and Quickley played for Calipari on the USA U19 team during the 2017 FIBA World Cup.

While Quickley has the size and the build – he’s 180 pounds with broad shoulders and long arms – of some of Kentucky’s former elite point guards, he’s not the same kind of point guard as, say, De’Aaron Fox or John Wall. He’s more of a smooth athlete than an explosive one, and while his long strides allow him to get out into transition, he’s not the finisher at the rim that those two were. What he is, however, is an intelligent player. He’s good in ball-screens, he’s an excellent passer and facilitator and he is a good enough shooter that he forces defenses to stay honest. He also has the potential to be a plus defender given his physical tools and the fact that he’ll try on that end of the floor.

Where this commitment gets interesting is the current point guard in Kentucky’s back court, Quade Green. Green was a five-star recruit in his own right, but he’s not quite built as a potential one-and-done prospect. Calipari has maneuvered through two point guards in the past, and each of the last five national champions have played major minutes with two point guards on the floor at the same time, but if Green is back next season that will be something to monitor.

That, however, is a long ways away.

What matters now is that Kentucky has gotten this commitment out of the way, and it paves the way for them to also receive a commitment from Zion Williamson. There has long been talk of those two attending college together, and with Quickley on the board, that likely keeps Kentucky in the driver’s seat as they pursue the South Carolina native.

If Kentucky can also wrangle a commitment out of R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the 2018 recruiting class, that would likely be the end of the discussion of whether or not Duke has surpassed the Wildcats on the recruiting trail.