Weekend Preview: ‘Sterling’ reason to think Illinois gets upset at Wisconsin


Who’s Getting Upset?: Sat. 2:15 p.m.: No. 12 Illinois at Wisconsin (Big Ten Net)

This was a fairly easy pick for me to make for three reasons:

1. Wisconsin is so tough to beat in the Kohl Center. I don’t care if this is a down year for the Badgers. I don’t care if they have point guard issues or if they are still a year away from truly being a contender. None of that matters to me, because the Kohl Center doesn’t differentiate. It’s as good of a home environment as you will find in the Big Ten.

2. The Badgers are always going to be the kind of team that is tough to get into a rhythm against because they are so good at controlling the pace and so good at frustrating you defensively. They don’t force a ton of turnovers, but they box out, they are disciplined and they challenge jump shots.

3. Illinois is a three-point shooting team. Wisconsin uses Sterling basketballs. They are the only major conference program to use that brand. Shooters are very particular about the kind of basketball they like. That’s a factor that cannot be ignored.

Who else is on upset alert?:

  • Fri. 8:05 p.m.: No. 13 Creighton at Missouri State (ESPN3): I know this sounds weird. The No. 13 team in the country on upset alert against a team that had exactly zero Division I wins in non-conference play? Well, Missouri State has won three out of four since league play started. The Bluejays better come to play.
  • Sat. 11:00 a.m.: No. 19 Georgetown at St. John’s (ESPN2): Would this even count as an upset? This is as intriguing of a game as any on the schedule this weekend. Can the Hoyas ever solve their scoring issues? Given their level of confidence right now, my men’s league team — Webb Construction, the Wisconsin Badgers of the Northern Virginia suburbs — might be able to beat them.
  • Sat. 3:00 p.m.: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (ESPN2): Oklahoma has been one of the more disappointing teams in the country for me this year. I thought the Sooners had a chance to make some noise in the Big 12 this year. They have a good front line and some scorers in the back court. The Pokes are such a tough matchup, however, because Markel Brown, Marcus Smart and LeBryan Nash are all big, physical scoring threats on the perimeter.
  • Sat. 4:00 p.m.: No. 11 Florida at LSU (ESPNU): LSU isn’t great, but they are probably better than you think. Florida’s beat up right now — Will Yegeute and Erik Murphy have nagging injuries — and on the road. That’s never a good sign.
  • Sat. 8:00 p.m.: No. 21 Cincinnati at Rutgers (ESPN3): Has Cincinnati figured out their issues yet? Going on the road after losing three of four at home isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
  • Sat. 8:00 p.m.: No. 10 Missouri at Ole Miss (ESPN3): Marshall Henderson actually said this: “I never lose confidence. I could go 0-for-25 and it’s still going up.” That’s amazing. Missouri, who will be without Laurence Bowers for this game, better not let him get hot. Ole Miss only gets so many chances at big wins in league play. This would be huge for their bubble hopes.
  • Sun. 4:35 p.m.: No. 23 Wichita State at Evansville (ESPN3): I have the utmost respect for what Gregg Marshall has done, but eventually someone is going to catchup with those injuries.

Louisville’s Deng Adel and Ray Spalding to test draft process

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A season that began with the firing of Rick Pitino in mid-October came to an end Tuesday night, as Louisville lost to Mississippi State 79-56 in a Postseason NIT regional final. There are a lot of questions to be answered, most notably who will lead the program moving forward after interim head coach David Padgett led the Cardinals to 22 wins.

As for the players, two announced following the loss that they will be going through the NBA Draft process. Junior wing Deng Adel and junior forward Ray Spalding both confirmed that they will be entering the NBA Draft but not hiring agents, so as to preserve their collegiate eligibility should they decide to return to school.

This will be the second time that Adel has entered the NBA Draft, doing so last spring before making the decision to return to school.

Playing just over 33 minutes per game, the 6-foot-8 Adel averaged 15.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest, shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from three. Moving into the starting lineup after serving as a reserve in each of his first two seasons at Louisville, the 6-foot-10 Spalding averaged 12.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 27.4 minutes per game.

Mississippi State advances to NIT semifinals at MSG

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Quinndary Weatherspoon scored 19 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Mississippi State advanced to the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York with a 79-56 victory over Louisville on Tuesday night.

Mississippi State (25-11) will face Penn State (24-13) on March 27.

Lamar Peters opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer and Mississippi State led by at least nine points the rest of the way. Weatherspoon scored eight points during a 12-3 run to start the third for a 51-31 advantage and MSU cruised.

Aric Holman added 16 points and eight rebounds for Mississippi State, which has won its most games since the 2009-10 season. Xavian Stapleton and Nick Weatherspoon each chipped in with 12 points. Abdul Ado had three blocks to tie Jarvis Varnado for the most blocks by a MSU freshman with 67.

Ray Spalding paced Louisville (22-14) with 13 points and 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season. The Cardinals shot 35 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 42-32.

Gregg Marshall does right by Alex Lomax with NLI release

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Memphis introduced Penny Hardaway as its new head coach Tuesday morning, with the former Tiger great and Memphis native making his triumphant return to campus.

And it didn’t take long for Hardaway’s hiring to have an impact on the recruiting trail either, as the point guard who led Hardaway’s Memphis East squad to its third straight TSSAA AAA state title is expected to play for his longtime mentor.

Alex Lomax, who signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Gregg Marshall at Wichita State, requested to be released from his NLI on Tuesday. It didn’t take Marshall long to make his decision, granting Lomax’s request and citing the unique circumstances in his statement as to why.

“Obviously, we take commitments to the Shocker program very seriously, but this is a very unique situation where a young man’s mentor and coach since the 5th grade has become a Division I head coach,” Marshall said. “Allowing him out of his NLI without any penalty is the right thing to do.”

The National Letter of Intent, for those who may not be too familiar with it, is a document that when signed binds the recruit in question to the school they’ve committed to. If the circumstances surrounding the recruitment change, getting released from the NLI can be incredibly difficult. Coaches and universities have no obligation to release a recruit once they sign, and it seems like every year we run into a situation where a coach is refusing to so.

Kansas point guard Devonte’ Graham is only a senior this season because, after signing an NLI with Appalachian State, he was not given a release and forced to go to prep school for a year. That’s not as uncommon as you might think.

That is also perfectly within the bounds of the rules, if not the laws of being a decent human being.

Wichita State and Marshall could have taken this opportunity to make life miserable for Lomax, and there would have been those who rushed to say that since the young man made a commitment he should stick by it no matter what. Lomax was a noteworthy recruiting win for the program during its first season in the American Athletic Conference, as the Wichita State went into Memphis and landed a pledge from a prospect who was likely to be a key part of the program’s plans moving forward.

But the hit that comes with allowing Lomax to leave without fuss is far less severe than what happens if Wichita State and Marshall make things difficult for him.

Faced with the opportunity to do the right thing and help out a young player, Marshall and Wichita State did just that.

The program should, and will, be applauded for it.

Stevens’ 30 points leads Penn State past Marquette in NIT

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — Lamar Stevens tied his career high with 30 points, Tony Carr added 25 and Penn State beat Marquette 85-80 on Tuesday night to advance to the NIT semifinals.

The Nittany Lions (24-13) will face either Mississippi State or Louisville at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 27. They advanced to the NIT semis for the first time since winning the 2009 tournament.

Stevens hit three crucial buckets in the final three minutes, including a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Josh Reaves for an eight-point lead with one minute left. The 6-foot-8 Stevens then maneuvered through a couple Marquette players to secure a rebound off Andrew Rowsey’s missed 3 with 46 seconds left.

Carr went 5 of 8 from the foul line over the final 30 seconds to give Marquette another chance. Rowsey hit a 3 and a layup to get the Golden Eagles as close as 83-80 with six seconds left before the Golden Eagles ran out of time.

Rowsey, a senior, scored 29 points for Marquette (21-14).

The Golden Eagles had whittled a 14-point deficit early in the second half to 72-68 with 2:39 left on three foul shots by Rowsey. Penn State went nearly three minutes without a bucket and got sloppy with the ball and the sharpshooting Golden Eagles started hitting 3s to get back in the game.

Report: Joseph Chartouny to transfer from Fordham

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After three seasons at Fordham, guard Joseph Chartouny will be leaving the school to play his final year elsewhere. News of Chartouny’s transfer was reported Tuesday afternoon by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, and the 6-foot-3 guard from Montreal will be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer.

Chartouny made 28 starts for the Rams this season, averaging 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals in 36.0 minutes per game. Leading the nation in both total steals and steals per game, Chartouny was an Atlantic 10 All-Defensive Team selection.

In three seasons at Fordham Chartouny, the 2016 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, averaged 11.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Given his abilities as a defender and a distributor, Chartouny stands to be a popular player amongst programs looking to add an immediately eligible contributor who also has ample experience at the Division I level.

With Chartouny reportedly moving on, Fordham head coach Jeff Neubauer has a significant hole to fill in his backcourt rotation for 2018-19.

Transfers Antwon Portley (Saint Peters’s) and Erten Gazi (DePaul) will be eligible next season, with reserve Cavit Havsa set to be a junior next season. Fordham’s also landed three perimeter recruits in its 2018 class, with three-star point guard Nick Honor among that trio.