Adriean Payne, Jared Berggren

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

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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.

Malik Newman to return to school, considering transfer

Mississippi State guard Malik Newman (14) dribbles past a Northern Colorado player during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/15712769/mississippi-state-malik-newman-withdraw-draft-transfer
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Malik Newman will withdraw his name from consideration and return to school for his sophomore season.

Newman was a top 10 recruit in the Class of 2015, a high-scoring combo-guard that opted to stay home and play for Mississippi State instead of enroll at one of the blue bloods that was recruiting him. He averaged 11.3 points as a freshman, but it was a largely disappointing season as he spent the year off of the national radar playing inefficient basketball.

Put another way, the fourth-leading scorer on a 14-17 SEC team isn’t exactly a lock for the lottery.

But here’s the catch: he may not be returning to Mississippi State, as Newman is considering a transfer, according to a report from ESPN. That report quotes a source close to the situation saying “unhappy with his role and how he was utilized.”

It will be interesting to see what happens from here. Newman would have to sit out a year if he transferred to another Division I program, and for a kid that thought he was destined to be a one-and-done star, locking himself into a three-year college career would be an odd move.

Whitehead to stay in NBA Draft

Seton Hall guard Isaiah Whitehead (15) shoots past Xavier forward Sean O'Mara (54) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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Seton Hall sophomore guard Isaiah Whitehead has signed with an agent and will remain in the NBA Draft, according to multiple reports.

Whitehead averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game last season for Seton Hall, which went 25-9 and reached the NCAA tournament. He likely projects as a second-round pick with a bit of a shaky shot, but a high usage and assist rates. His strong finish to the season likely lifted him on some draft boards, but his inefficiency will cap his ceiling in June’s draft.

The loss is significant for the Pirates as Whitehead was so much of their offense, but they’ll bring back Khadeen Carrington, Desi Rodriguez, Angel Delgado and Ismael Sanogo. It’s a group that will miss Whitehead’s playmaking, but is still a solid enough foundation that Seton Hall will still likely be competitive in the Big East and vying for another NCAA tournament berth.

Hart returning for Villanova’s title defense

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 26:  Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts in the second half against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament South Regional at KFC YUM! Center on March 26, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Villanova’s title defense just got a whole lot stouter.

Josh Hart, the leading scorer of the Wildcats’ national championship team, will return for his senior season, he announced on Twitter.

The decision for Hart to return is a major boost for Villanova in its quest to become the first back-to-back champions since Florida in 2006 and 2007. Hart, a 6-foot-5 guard,  averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Most draft pundits had him pegged as a potential end-of-the-first-round pick in next month’s draft though he could have certainly slid into the second should he had decided to forego his senior season. Instead, Hart will be a potential first-team All-American exhausting his eligibility in Philadelphia.

The 2016-17 season is taking shape nicely, and Hart returning to Villanova only increases the strength of the field at the top. Title game hero Kris Jenkins as well as Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth and Mikal Bridges are also back for the defending champs while the super recruiting classes of Duke, Kentucky and Michigan State, Kansas’ returning core along with Josh Jackson and a solid group of teams including North Carolina, Arizona, Louisville and Wisconsin make for an intriguing upper-tier of teams that could very well make for a top-heavy season following last year’s free for all.

College basketball isn’t the NFL. Parity doesn’t equal strength and quality, and when the sport has a handful high-quality teams, it is at its best. It’s looking like that is a possibility for the 2016-17 campaign.

UConn duo returning to school

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Connecticut may have lost its 6-foot-7 wing scorer but it is keeping its defensive stalwart and leading scorer.

Center Amida Brimah and guard Rodney Purvis have withdrawn their names from NBA Draft consideration and will return to the Huskies for another year, the school announced Tuesday.

The decisions from Brimah, a 7-foot center, and Purvis, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, help soften the blow dealt by Daniel Hamilton’s decision to sign with an agent and leave school despite having some shaky draft stock. The Huskies may not open the season as a top-25 team, but they won’t be far behind and will be one of the AAC’s favorites, along with Cincinnati.

Brimah averaged 6.5 points per game last year, but blocked 2.7 shots per game. He missed 11 games last season with a broken finger. Purvis registered 12.8 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor.

Neither Brimah or Purvis were among those invited to this month’s NBA Draft combine nor were either expected to be drafted should they have kept their names in the draft.

Gonzaga’s Karnowski returning for fifth year

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The man in the middle is returning to Gonzaga.

Przemek Karnowski will return to the Bulldogs for his final year after a medical redshirt waiver was granted allowing him a fifth season in Spokane, the school announced Tuesday.

“I’m excited to be coming back,” Karnowski said in a statement. “After talking with the coaches, my parents and the team, I decided this was the best decision for me. I still have a ways to go with my rehab, but I’m staying positive about the upcoming season.”

The 7-foot-1 Karnowski, a Poland native, would have, at minimum, had professional opportunities overseas, but instead will return to play for the Bulldogs once more after a back injury limited him to five games last season. He averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game as a junior in 2014-15.

With Karnowski returning along with  Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, Gonzaga coach Mark Few will be having newcomers Nigel Williams-Goss, Zach Norvell, Johnathan Williams II and Zach Collins joining an experienced and talented group.

Gonzaga (shocker) will be the West Coast Conference favorite once more, but the Bulldogs will also be fielding a team that should open the season in most everyone’s top-15.