Game of the Weekend: No. 6 Syracuse at No. 1 Louisville (Sat. 4:00 p.m. ESPN)
Were you wondering who the best team in the Big East is this season? Well, you may be getting your answer on Saturday, as Syracuse heads down to Louisville to take on the Cardinals. At full strength, this would be a tough matchup for the Orange. As good as Michael Carter-Williams has been this season, he’s a bigger, slightly slower guard that is turnover prone. He’s going to have Russ Smith and Peyton Siva and Kevin Ware up in his jock for 40 minutes. That’s not exactly ideal for anyone, especially a guy whose dribble is that much higher than a standard point guard.
The other issue for Syracuse is that they will be playing without James Southerland, their best shooter and a key piece in their zone defense. What makes him so valuable is that not only can be be a zone buster and help get the Cardinals out of their 2-3, but he had the length and athleticism to be a threat defensively in the Syracuse zone. It will be interesting to see how Syracuse responds, but until Southerland returns to the lineup, Syracuse is going to be behind the 8-ball, especially on the road.
Six more games you have to watch
- No. 17 Missouri at No. 10 Florida (Sat. 2:00 p.m. ESPN): The big news here is that it looks like Laurence Bowers will be out on Saturday, meaning that the Tigers are going to be going up against one of the nation’s toughest defensive teams without their best offensive player. That doesn’t mean they won’t have a fighting chance, mind you; if Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross are hitting their threes, Phil Pressey is playing under control and the Tigers are defending, they are still a dangerous club.
- No. 12 Creighton at Wichita State (Sat. 4:00 p.m. ESPN2): Wichita State is getting closer to being back to full strength as they just got Carl Hall back from his broken thumb. He joins Cleanthony Early along the front line, meaning that the Shockers have the mismatch they can exploit against the Bluejays. Last season, with Creighton and Wichita State in similar situations from a nation perspective, the Shockers smacked Creighton around. If the Bluejays truly want to be the favorite in the Missouri Valley and prove they are a threat in March, they need this win.
- No. 21 Oregon at No. 24 UCLA (Sat. 4:00 p.m. CBS): Can you believe this? Two top 25 teams in the Pac-12, and they’re playing each other? For my money, these are the two best teams in the league. And while both like to get up-and-down the floor, the Bruins don’t play nearly as much defense or rebound nearly as well as the Ducks. That said, Oregon doesn’t have the same kind of talent on their roster. The key matchup: Kyle Anderson vs. whichever big man Oregon puts on him.
- No. 11 Ohio State at No. 18 Michigan State (Sat. 6:00 p.m. ESPN): The Buckeyes are coming off of a stellar win over Michigan on Sunday, but so much of that win had to do with the fact that Ohio State simply matched up well with the Wolverines. Will that be the case against the Spartans? OSU doesn’t have nearly the same amount of size, and if the Spartans go small and put Branden Dawson at the four, they can nullify Deshaun Thomas.
- UNLV at Colorado State (Sat. 7:00 p.m. NBC Sports Net): UNLV picked up a huge win at San Diego State on Wednesday night, but does this mean that they’ve gotten past their road woes? CSU is a tough team at home and they have a big, physical front line. If the Rams are truly going to make noise in the Mountain West this season, these are the kind of games they need to win.
- No. 9 Gonzaga at No. 13 Butler (Sat. 8:00 p.m. ESPN): This game took a bit of a hit last weekend when Rotnei Clarke took a nasty fall against Dayton and sprained his neck in a scary incident that required his to be taken off the court on a stretcher. But that doesn’t mean this won’t be an entertaining matchup. How about this: Kelly Olynyk matching up with the most physical defender he will have faced this season in Andrew Smith? Remember the job Smith did on Cody Zeller? If he can slow down Gonzaga’s Big Canadian, Butler will have a chance.
And the mid-majors?
- Stony Brook at Vermont (Fri. 7:00 p.m. ESPNU)
- La Salle at Xavier (Sat. 2:00 p.m.)
- Wagner at Bryant (Sat. 4:00 p.m.)
- Charleston at Davidson (Sat. 7:00 p.m. ESPN3)
- Tennessee State at Belmont (Sat. 8:00 p.m.)
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Villanova’s road to the Sweet 16 hit its roughest patch yet on Wednesday as the team attempted to leave campus for the team’s flight to Boston.
Since the Philadelphia area has been slammed with a snowstorm, the Wildcat team bus had issues leaving to get to the team’s chartered flight.
A struggle between team bus and ice ensued. The bus was delayed by 30 minutes before finally being able to leave.
Villanova continues its NCAA tournament journey on Friday when the No. 1 seed Wildcats play No. 5 seed West Virginia in Boston.
Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.
The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.
Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.
“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”
The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.
Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.
Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.
“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”
Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.
In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.
Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.
One of the most surprising parts about Kansas State’s run to the Sweet 16 is that they have done it without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade.
Wade injured his foot prior to the Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas. He did not play in that game or in either of Kansas State’s first two tournament games, but it is looking more and more like he’ll be on the floor on Thursday night when they play Kentucky.
“I don’t play percentages very well, but I’m feeling good,” Wade said, via SEC Country. “I’m very positive about it. It’s getting better every day and today I felt great out there, doing a little more than usual. It felt good.”
Wade averaged 16.5 points per game, but the big question is going to be whether or not he is actually healthy when he takes the court. Just because he’s on the floor doesn’t mean he’s at 100 percent.
“Really just trying to get it out of my mind that it’s not hurt,” Wade said. “Just more of a mental thing, just getting out there and running around. I think I got moved past that and it’s feeling better.”
With speculation mounting about who Pitt will hire to replace Kevin Stallings as their new head coach, current Arizona head coach Sean Miller released a statement saying that he is not in the running to fill the opening.
“I am not a candidate for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball head coaching vacancy. I wish them well in their search for a new coach,” the statement read.
Miller is a native of Pittsburgh and an alumni of the school — he’s the guy that had the assist on Jerome Lane’s famous dunk — and with the issues that are currently swirling around him and the Arizona program, there was speculation that he was looking for an escape plan.
Maybe he wasn’t.
Maybe he was and the Pitt administration decided they couldn’t risk hiring someone who had an assistant coach arrested in the FBI’s sweep of college basketball and who himself may be on wiretaps talking about who knows what. Releasing this statement would then be a way for him to save face and say he was never interested.
And then maybe there’s option No. 3: Pitt has won the Dan Hurley sweepstakes.
As it stands, both the Panthers and UConn are in the process of chasing after the Rhode Island head coach, and it’s not uncommon in coaching searches for a coach to announce that he is not a candidate for the job after the job decides they want someone else. Call it a professional courtesy.
But that’s neither here nor there.
What we do know now is that Sean Miller will not be the next head coach at Pitt.