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.

Report: CBE Hall of Fame Classic headliners set

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The headliners for the 2017 CBE Hall of Fame Classic have been set.

UCLA, Baylor, Wisconsin and Creighton will highlight the bill for the annual event in Kansas City, according to a report from CBS Sports.

The CBE Hall of Fame Classic historically has included on-campus games and a flagship four-team championship round at the Sprint Center. This year’s headliners include Kansas, Georgia, George Washington and UAB.

Certainly securing four high-majors is a significant get for the event, which will also likely coincide with the induction of the 2017 class of the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. The 2016 class is highlighted by Mark Aguirre, Doug Collins, Dominique Wilson, Jamal Wilkes and Mike Montgomery.

Coach Cal softball game raises $300K for La. flood relief

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John Calipari is known for his ability to amass talent. Over the weekend, that quality helped raise $300,000 for Louisiana flood relief.

The Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic brought Kentucky stars like Keith Bogans, Andrew Harrison and Karl-Anthony Towns and the likes of former UK quarterback Tim Couch and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter to Lexington to help aid Louisiana in conjunction with the Red Cross after the area suffered major flooding earlier this month.

“I didn’t want to really do a softball game,” Calipari said according to his website, “but then we decided to do it and then Louisiana happens and now you have a cause. … It’s kind of neat. You have a cause, you have a why.”

Towns’ team was the 18-12 victor over Team Calipari on the day.

“This is amazing,” Towns said on CoachCal.com. “This is something that we get a chance to rarely do. We get to help the community out but at the same time have fun. There’s nothing better than doing something that we would do for free but for charity. This is something we’re going to have a lot of fun doing today.”

The softball game was played the same weekend as the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience which generated $1 million that will be shared with 14 charities.

‘Noles add legacy guard to 2017 class

ACC Basketball Tournament: Florida State v North Carolina
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Florida State has added another solid member to its 2017 recruiting class.

Anthony Polite, a 6-foot-6 guard from Florida, pledged to the Seminoles on Tuesday morning.

“Officially committed to Florida State University #Nole Nation,” Polite wrote on Twitter.

Polite chose Leonard Hamilton’s program out of a final top-five that also included Pitt, Memphis, Texas Tech and Miami. He also sported offers from TCU, Boston College, Kansas State and Utah, among others.

“It was a really tough decision,” Polite said according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Miami had a great coaching staff. I just thought FSU would be the best fit for me and I had more of an opportunity to talk to the players at Florida State.”

Polite, whose father played for the Seminoles during his college career, averaged 21.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists last year as a junior playing for St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton, Fla.

“Anthony Polite is a skilled wing who can handle the ball and distribute a bit,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “Florida State still needs to help Polite improve his perimeter jumper, but his commitment gives them another talented playmaker from the wing who can handle and attack the rim.”

Regarded as a three-star prospect, Polite join power forward RaiQuan Gray and fellow guard Bryan Trimble in the Seminoles’ 2017 class. It doesn’t have the star power of Hamilton’s group last year, which included five-star Jonathan Isaac and four-star Trent Forrest, but they can be important pieces for a Florida State team that has just one senior on the 2016-17 roster.

Kansas players make weight room gains – and losses – this summer

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JUNE 18: Udoka Azubuike #105 in red runs back for defense the NBPA Top 100 Camp on June 18, 2015 at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Kelly Kline/Getty Images)
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Summer is the time to refine not only players’ skill sets, but also their bodies. Kansas’ highly-touted freshman duo of Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike have fulfilled the latter thanks to the Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning program.

Azubuike has dropped 27 pounds from his 7-foot frame while the wiry Jackson has added 17 pounds, according to the Kansas City Star.

“These guys have goals,” Adrea Hurdy, Kansas’ long-time assistant director for sports information, told The Star. “They come here in part because we have the resources to help them attain their goals.

“They want the challenge and want to become better people, better basketball players and better athletes.”

Only 16 years old, Azubuike arrived in Lawrence having been consistently listed as weighing around 270 pounds throughout his prep career. Getting leaner while still maintaining – and increasing – strength is a significant development for such a young player, who was a consensus top-50 player in the 2016 class.

Jackson, the country’s top rated incoming freshman, now weighs in at slightly over 200 pounds at 6-foot-8. Six-foot-10 forward Carlton Bragg,a sophomore, also got in on the body-changing as he’s put on 26 pounds to head into the fall at 247 pounds.

Kansas is a likely top-five preseason team with returners like Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, and having newcomers like Jackson and Azubuike along with sparsely-used but talented returnees like Bragg making gains in the weight room will only make them more formidable as they look to capture an astounding 13th-straight Big 12 title.

 

Texas bolsters 2017 frontcourt

Texas head coach Shaka Smart calls a play during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan., Monday, Feb. 22, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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Shaka Smart has added another four-star forward to his 2017 recruiting class.

Texas picked up a commitment Tuesday from 6-foot-8 Jericho Sims of Minnesota, according to multiple reports.

Sims, who visited Texas this past weekend, is ranked in the top-50 by Scout and in the top-75 by ESPN and 247Sports. He joins Royce Hamm, a top-100 forward from Houston, as members Smart’s second recruiting class at Texas.

“Jericho Sims is a late-blooming big man who has a lot of room to grow in terms of upside,” NBCSports.com recruiting analyst Scott Phillips said. “A good athlete with a good frame to work with, Sims should help immediately on the glass and defensively but his offense will be a work in progress.

“Texas has a large recruiting class and targeted Sims later than many, so this is a nice commitment for the Longhorns.”

The commitment represents a significant get for the Longhorns, who beat out the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Ohio State, Connecticut and Sims’ hometown Gophers, whom his father played basketball for in the 1970s and his brother football more recently.

Sims and Hamm both are players that could help Smart and his staff transition more back to the Havoc style of play Smart employed at VCU as both have the length, speed and athleticism to help the Longhorns dial up the pressure and push tempo.