Game of the Day: No. 1 Louisville at UConn (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Call me crazy, but I think that UConn has a real chance to knock off Louisville tonight at the XL Center in Hartford. With the Cardinals taking over the reins as the No. 1 team in the country tonight, UConn is playing without an ounce of pressure on them this season. They, quite literally, have nothing to lose. Regardless of what they do this season, the Huskies are ineligible from tournament play due to APR sanctions from the Jim Calhoun days.
A team with nothing to lose is a dangerous team, and I happen to think that the Huskies matchup pretty well with Louisville, mainly because they have a back court — Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright — that is talented enough to beat Louisville’s pressure while avoiding turnovers. If Deandre Daniels plays the way he has through three Big East games, Louisville could find themselves heading back to the Commonwealth with a loss.
Who’s Getting Upset?: See above
Five Things to Watch For
1) Big Monday happens tonight for the first time this season, and as someone that grew up on Big East basketball, I can tell you that it’s bittersweet. This is the last season where Big Monday will truly be Big Monday.
2) Baylor will be taking on Kansas in the nightcap at 9:00 p.m. ET, but there is much less hype heading into this season’s matchup between the Bears and the Jayhawks. Baylor has the roster makeup to give Kansas a scare, as seven-footer Isaiah Austin is talented enough to force Jeff Withey to cover him on the perimeter. But, simply put, I just don’t trust Baylor anymore.
3) Davidson is sitting at 4-0 in the Big South’s Southern division, but they aren’t the only undefeated team in that conference. Up in the Northern division, Western Carolina is sitting at 4-0 as well as going 3-9 in non-conference play. The Catamounts take on Elon tonight.
4) Southern has ripped off six straight wins to take control of first place in the SWAC. They host Mississippi Valley State tonight.
5) No Damian Lillard, no big deal. Weber State puts their 5-0 record on the line by heading to Idaho State tonight.
Oregon is returning to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season following a thrilling 69-68 victory over No. 7 Michigan in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City on Thursday night.
The Ducks, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region, will face top-seeded Kansas or No. 4 Purdue in the Elite Eight on Saturday.
Jordan Bell was unquestionably the deciding factor for Oregon. The senior big man had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Tyler Dorsey poured in 20 points, continuing his stellar play this month. Derrick Walton Jr., who front-rimmed a potential game-winner at the buzzer, ended his collegiate career with 20 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Zak Irvin added 19.
WATCH: Steve Alford end practice with half-court shot
“Truth be told, we’ve been getting slaughtered. We’ve got guys like Lonzo (Ball) literally takes a jump shot from the timeline. We were just lucky that they only got one shot at it. I think coaches are down about eight on the half-court shots this year. I told them, though, that the coaches are ahead at the Sweet 16. I don’t think they’re buying it.”
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes is entering the NBA draft.
The 6-foot-4 junior made his announcement on Instagram on Thursday and also informed the school of his decision. He did not say whether he intends to hire an agent, a move that prevent him from returning to school.
Rathan-Mayes averaged 10.6 points per game this season and averaged 4.8 assists, which was sixth in the conference. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.6-to-1 was third in the ACC.
The All-ACC defensive team selection helped Florida State (26-9) reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. The Seminoles advanced to the second round before a 91-66 loss to Xavier.
Rathan-Mayes averaged 12.4 points in his three seasons with the Seminoles and is the 46th player in school history to reach 1,000 points.
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Rutgers sophomore guard Corey Sanders is entering the NBA draft.
In making the announcement Thursday, the university said Sanders will not sign with an agent.
Sanders will be able to attend workouts scheduled by NBA teams and will be eligible for invitation to the league’s combine next month. Players have until 10 days after the combine to remain in the draft or return to school, as long as they don’t sign with an agent.
Sanders started 31 of 33 games this season, averaging 12.8 points and 3.2 rebounds.
Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said Sanders needs to make an informed decision on his future.
“My dream has always been to play in the NBA,” Sanders said. “I look forward to determining where I am in that journey.”
NEW YORK — If the NCAA tournament ended today, South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell would be named the event’s Most Outstanding Player.
Through two games, he’s averaging 27.5 points and 3.5 assists while shooting 48.5 percent from the floor and 6-for-12 from three. He’s been the catalyst of an offensive explosion fro the Gamecocks that no one — not Thornwell, not Frank Martin, not anyone — could have seen coming.
South Carolina, a team that ranked in the 130s in offensive efficiency nationally and in the 300s in effective field goal percentage prior to the start of the NCAA tournament, put up 93 points on Marquette and 88 points on Duke. They scored more second half points in their upset win over the Blue Devils — 65! — than they did in ten games this season, five of which they won.
So it may not come as a surprise to you that No. 7 seed South Carolina’s opponent in the East Regional semifinals, No. 3 seed Baylor, have zeroed in on Thornwell as the man they need to slow down on Friday night.
“Coach has broke down every made shot that he’s had and we have all watched at least about three hours of film on just Sindarius,” Baylor senior Ishmael Wainwright said. “He’s just a great player. The whole team, it’s not just me, it’s not just me, but the whole team, we’ll be trying to stop him.”
It’s fitting that Thornwell is the cornerstone of South Carolina’s arrival on the national scene, as the Lancaster native was the most important commitment of Frank Martin’s tenure with the Gamecocks. A blue-chip prospect that ranked in the top 40 of every recruiting service, Thornwell was an in-state kid that was recruited by the likes of Louisville, Indiana and Syracuse. South Carolina, at the time that Thornwell committed, had a new head coach that took over a program that hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament in eight years and had the prestige of making four trips to the Big Dance in the previous 38 seasons.
More to the point, it wasn’t clear whether that new head coach, Frank Martin, was there because he wanted to be there or because he simply didn’t want to be at Kansas State anymore, a program where his relationship with his Athletic Director had deteriorated.
Thornwell, who at that point had left Lancaster High School for the more prestigious Oak Hill Academy, had every reason in the world not to go to South Carolina.
But he did.
He wanted to play for his state, for his family. He is loyal, and that loyalty almost kept him from leaving Lancaster for Oak Hill in the first place.
“They had to force him to go, because he did not want to leave his state, did not want to leave his high school team, did not want to leave his high school coach, did not want to leave his family,” Martin said. “His uncle, ‘Big Country’, Dajuan Thornwell, may he rest in peace, who was his father figure basically put him in a car and drove him and said, ‘You’re going to school here. This is for your own good.'”
“And it’s who he has become. The day I got the phone call from him telling me, ‘I want to do this with you,’ when he could have gone to some of the blue bloods. He wanted to help us build. He wanted to surround his heart with the state name that means so much to him and his family’s name on the back of his jersey. And that’s powerful.”
Thornwell was the SEC Player of the Year in 2017. He was in the mix for a spot on the NBC Sports All-American teams before South Carolina’s late-season swoon. He’s had a sensational senior season individually, but more importantly, he got South Carolina back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004. He led them to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. South Carolina had never won back-to-back in the NCAA Tournament before.
As in ever.
Thornwell did that for his state, and he wasn’t alone. Fellow senior Justin McKie and sophomore P.J. Dozier are both from Columbia, and the Gamecocks have quite a bit of young talent on their roster, as well as a five-man recruiting class headlined by four-star prospect David Beatty and former Delaware guard Kory Holden, who sat out this past season as a transfer.
The South Carolina program is as healthy as it’s been in decades, and Thornwell has as much to do with that fact as anyone.
“I have been born and raised in South Carolina,” Thornwell said, saying that all of the South Carolina natives play “for the same reasons, for our family, for our state. We all grew up in South Carolina. We all have been through the struggles and with the program.”
“For us all to be in the spotlight is just tremendous because we don’t feel like we get the recognition that we deserve.”
The Gamecocks certainly got plenty of recognition last weekend, becoing the focal point of the nation’s glare as they played a the biggest role in putting an end to the soap opera that was Duke’s season.
And Thornwell is going to find himself getting plenty of recognition on Friday night, as the Bears will focus plenty of their attention on slowing down the Gamecock star.
After all, three hours of film on one player is a lot of film.
“They exaggerate so much,” Baylor head coach Scott Drew said. “It was only two and a half.”