Weekend Preview: Memphis is on double-upset alert

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Who’s Getting Upset?: Memphis (Fri. 8:00 p.m.: Oral Roberts at Memphis and Sun. 8:00 p.m.: Loyola (MD) at Memphis)

The Tigers have a pair of tough games this week, as they host both Oral Roberts and Loyola (MD). ORU has already knocked off Oklahoma this season and has one of the stronger mid-major programs in the country. The Greyhounds, on the other hand, are led by one of the nation’s most entertaining coaches in Jimmy Patsos who also just so happens to be leading a team that returned quite a bit of talent from last year’s NCAA tournament squad.

But the bigger issue here isn’t simply who Memphis is playing. It’s Memphis. It’s whether or not this team is actually built to compete at the national level. Because every time it seems like the Tigers have figured out how to play together, they take another step back. They played great down the stretch of last season only to revert to their old issues at the beginning of this year. They seemingly turned things around with the addition of Geron Johnson and a couple of big wins, but then Memphis blew a 16 point lead against Louisville and struggled to knock off a Lipscomb team that lost to Belmont by 34.

Who else is on upset alert?

  • Sat. 12:00 p.m.: Santa Clara at No. 1 Duke (ESPN2): Duke is the best team in the country, but Santa Clara is actually pretty good this season. Marc Trasolini is healthy, Kevin Foster is eligible and Evan Roquemore is back again. That’s as good of a 1-2-3 punch as you are going to find at the mid-major level. If the Broncs are shooting well, they have a chance. Maybe they should have scheduled this game for Christmas Day.
  • Sat. 4:30 p.m.: Air Force at No. 14 Florida (FSN): Is Florida for real? That’s the question that everyone is going to be asking after the Gators lost to Kansas State and Arizona. And that answer is probably a ‘yes’, but only when Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton aren’t playing terribly. Boynton’s made just 4-32 from three in the last six games. Air Force is a good team. If the Gators don’t come to play, the Falcons can win.
  • Sat. 8:00 p.m: Harvard at Cal (Pac-12): When Harvard lost Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, many thought that their season would be all but over. And while the Crimson clearly aren’t the same team that they would have been, the play of Wesley Saunders and Siyani Chambers have been impressive. If Harvard can slow down Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, they’ll have a chance to win.
  • Sat. 8:00 p.m.: Ohio at Oklahoma: Ohio made the Sweet 16 last season and came within an overtime against North Carolina of the Elite 8. The Bobcats have lost four of their last six games, however. Oklahoma, on the other hand, has been a bit of a disappointment this season as well. Can this be the game that DJ Cooper and company turn their season around.
  • Sat. 8:00 p.m.: No. 19 Butler at Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt is a young team that has had their fair share of struggles early on this season, but the Commodores went into Cincinnati and knocked off Xavier in overtime earlier this month. Butler proved a lot with their win over Indiana, but the Bulldogs also can struggle when the threes aren’t dropping. Can Vandy capitalize?

NCAA: Former USF assistant provided extra benefits, lied to NCAA investigators

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The NCAA has alleged that former South Florida assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided roughly $500 in impermissible benefits and initially lied to NCAA investigators about it, according to the Tampa Bay Times, who obtained the NCAA’s summary disposition report.

Oliver Antigua is the younger brother of Orlando Antigua, who was the head coach at USF until he was fired in January. Now an assistant on Brad Underwood’s staff at Oklahoma State, Orlando was not alleged to have committed an NCAA violation in the report.

Oliver is alleged to have provided the extra benefits to two student-athletes while they were being tutored by the sister-in-law of Gerald Gillion, a special assistant to Orlando who resigned last fall, four months after Oliver did. USF has already self-imposed a $5,000 and reduced their scholarships from 13 to 12, according to the report.

“The University of South Florida and the NCAA continue to work together to resolve the inquiry into violations of NCAA bylaws and university standards by a USF intercollegiate athletic program,” according to a statement released by the school. “USF anticipates having a final resolution with the NCAA sometime this fall. Until the process concludes and the matter is fully resolved, USF cannot provide further comment.”

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

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North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.