Lon Kruger, Buddy Hield

Weekend Preview: Does Oklahoma have a shot at beating No. 3 Kansas?

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Who’s Getting Upset?: Oklahoma at No. 3 Kansas (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)

I think that Oklahoma has a chance to knock off Kansas in Phog Allen this weekend. If you remember earlier this season, Iowa State nearly beat Kansas before getting bailed out by a banked-in three from Ben McLemore with 1.0 seconds left on the clock. The Cyclones probably deserved to win that game in regulation, however, and the way they did it was fairly simple: They used their perimeter-oriented big men to pull Jeff Withey away from the rim and get him into ball-screen and dribble-handoff actions.

Oklahoma has a pair of bigs that are quite capable of stepping out onto the perimeter and knocking down jump shots. If Lon Kruger can get his team to execute offensively the same way that Fred Hoiberg got his team to, and if the Sooners are knocking down their shots, they’ll have a puncher’s chance.

There’s more to it than that, however. Oklahoma has a kid by the name of Buddy Hield who is an athletic freshman that is one of the better defenders in the Big 12. He’ll likely get stuck on Ben McLemore, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did a good job slowing down the uber-talented freshman.

Who else is on Upset Alert?:

  • No. 3 Syracuse at Villanova (11:00 a.m. ET, ESPNU): Villanova just knocked off Louisville at home in another game against a top five team that plays almost primarily 2-3 zone. The Wildcats, if they can hit shots from the perimeter again, should have a chance in their last visit from Syracuse before the Big East finally splits up.
  • No. 5 Louisville at Georgetown (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN): Louisville gets into trouble when they have problems scoring the ball because it means that the Cardinals can’t get into their press. Louisville is capable of going on these game-changing runs — they’re more like surges than runs, as they slowly wear you down — because they are at their best defensively immediately after a made shot. Georgetown, for all their issues, offensively, is quite good on the defensive end of the floor. That should at least let them keep it close.
  • No. 11 Kansas State at Iowa State (1:45 p.m. ET, ESPN3): Iowa State may have just lost to Texas Tech, but the Cyclones have talent on their roster and a handful of players that can get hot and go for 20 points on a given night. They also have the kind of versatility on their front line that will make it tough for a Thomas Gibson or a Jordan Henriquez to cover.
  • No. 2 Michigan at Illinois (Sun. 6:00 p.m. ET, Big Ten Net): Given the divergent paths of Michigan and Illinois this year, this seems silly, but hear me out: Illinois ran Ohio State out of the gym when they hosted the Buckeyes because the Illini were able to matchup with them playing small ball. In other words, Deshaun Thomas is essentially a three playing at the four, which was ideal for John Groce’s style this season. Guess what Michigan has: a three (Glenn Robinson III) playing the four for them.
  • No. 24 Notre Dame at South Florida (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN3): At this point, would a win by the Bulls here even be considered an upset? The only reason Notre Dame is still ranked is because the new rankings haven’t been released yet. Don’t expect this game to reach the 50’s. South Florida plays slow, and I would expect Notre Dame to go back to their Burn Offense.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

Lon Kruger
(AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.