Late Night Snacks: Teams do harm to NCAA tournament resumes on Super Bowl Sunday

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Game of the Day: No. 23 Minnesota 62, Iowa 59 

The Golden Gophers found a way to win at home, as Austin Hollins’ three-pointer with 11.6 seconds remaining gave Minnesota a 60-59 lead. Two things that stand out from this one: Iowa allowing a needed resume-building win slip from their grasp and the lack of production from Minnesota’s bench. On the first point, Fran McCaffery’s team is now 3-6 in Big Ten play, and losing contact with the top half of the conference is a major issue for the Hawkeyes in their quest to get into the NCAA tournament discussion. As for Minnesota’s reserves, who didn’t even attempt a shot much less score, someone has to step up this month despite Tubby Smith’s desire to lean on his starters for production if they’re to have a shot at knocking off No. 13 Michigan State on Wednesday night.

Important Outcomes 

1. Georgia Tech 66, Virginia 60 

The Cavaliers have done themselves no favors when it comes to their NCAA tournament resume. While Tony Bennett’s team has some good wins they also have stunning losses that will not help their cause, and this one can be added to the list. Virginia led 57-48 with 8:12 remaining but scored just three points the rest of the way, and the Yellow Jackets took advantage with a game-ending 18-3 run. Mfon Udofia scored 15 points to lead the way with Robert Carter Jr. and Chris Bolden scoring 14 apiece for Georgia Tech. Joe Harris led all scorers with 18 points.

2. Providence 55, Villanova 52

Jay Wright’s team has two wins over Top 5 teams on their resume, and now they’ve also got a season sweep at the hands of Providence. Bryce Cotton’s three-pointer with just over two seconds remaining proved to be the difference, with the Friars avoiding an epic collapse after leading by nine with two minutes remaining. Cotton finished with 18 points and six rebounds and Josh Fortune added 15 on five three-pointers. Darrun Hilliard shot 3-of-13 from the field but still managed to score 17 points (10-of-10 FT) to lead Villanova.

3. Wisconsin 74, Illinois 68

John Groce brought Brandon Paul off the bench today and the move didn’t work, as Illinois’ leading scorer struggled offensively and as a team the Fighting Illini continued to have issues defensively. Wisconsin shot 55.6% in the second half and Ben Brust led three Badgers in double figures with 20 points. Illinois may have shot just 2-of-13 from beyond the arc but if they show the ability to get stops consistently their chances of winning would have improved greatly. Now 2-7 in conference play, Illinois has a lot of work to do if they’re to factor into the NCAA tournament conversation.

Starred

1) F Rhamel Brown (Manhattan) 

Brown posted his fourth double-double of the season in the Jaspers’ 57-49 win over Saint Peter’s, scoring 21 points (8-of-10 FG), grabbing ten rebounds and blocking seven shots.

2) G Shabazz Napier (Connecticut) 

In the Huskies’ 64-59 overtime win over South Florida the junior point guard accounted for 24 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.

3) F Josh Huestis (Stanford) 

Huestis finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots in Stanford’s 81-73 win over Oregon State.

Struggled

1) G Brandon Paul (Illinois)

Head coach John Groce made the decision to bring Paul off the bench and Illinois’ leading scorer didn’t react well, shooting 3-of-13 from the field in a 74-68 loss to Wisconsin.

2) G Roy Devyn Marble (Iowa)

Marble went scoreless for the first time since his freshman year in the Hawkeyes’ 62-59 loss at No. 23 Minnesota, attempting just two shots in 17 minutes of action.

3) Villanova 

Rough day for the Wildcats, who shot 27.5% from the field and committed 18 turnovers in their 55-52 loss to Providence.

Other Notable Happenings 

1) Stanford picked up its third consecutive victory, beating Oregon State 81-73 in Palo Alto. Chasson Randle scored 20 points and Josh Huestis added 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Cardinal, who have been successful in part due to their improved perimeter shooting (14-of-25 3PT on Sunday). Next up for Stanford is a trip to Arizona on Wednesday, and a win there could vault them into the Pac-12 race.

2) No. 12 Louisville closed the first half on a 37-15 run, going on to beat No. 25 Marquette 70-51. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva combined to score 32 points for the Cardinals, and as a result of Louisville’s win the top seven teams in the Big East standings are separated by just one game in the loss column.

3) Mackey McKnight scored 21 points to lead five Lehigh starters in double figures in the Mountain Hawks’ 85-76 win at Army. Lehigh remains in a tie for first place in the Patriot League with Bucknell, and with Lafayette two games back at 4-3 in the standings the two preseason favorites have some separation at the halfway point.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej

USC lands four-star 2018 guard Elijah Weaver

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USC landed an important commitment for its future on Monday night as four-star Class of 2018 guard Elijah Weaver.

Regarded as the No. 35 overall prospect in the Rivals’ national Class of 2018 rankings, the 6-foot-5 Weaver gives the Trojans a floor leader to build around for the future as he provides great size in the backcourt. Capable of playing multiple guard spots, Weaver has a lot of upside for a program that has done a very solid job of developing backcourt talent under head coach Andy Enfield.

Weaver’s commitment is also important for the Trojans because it comes despite the looming FBI investigation that the program is dealing with thanks to former assistant coach Tony Bland. USC had recently lost a four-star commitment from forward J’Raan Brooks, so the commitment of Weaver is a huge momentum boost for them as they get right back on track in the Class of 2018.

With Weaver in the mix, USC now owns three four-star pledges in the 2018 class as he joins four-star forward Taeshon Cherry and four-star guard Kevin Porter.

Jim Larranaga believes he’s ‘Coach-3’ in FBI investigation

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Despite losing key contributors Davon Reed and Kamari Murphy from last season’s NCAA tournament team, the Miami Hurricanes are expected to be a player both within the ACC and nationally this season. But instead of having the focus solely on the likes of JaQuan Newton, Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker, Jim Larrañaga’s program is also having to deal with the impact of the ongoing FBI investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball.

While no one connected to the Miami men’s basketball program was arrested last month, the program is referenced in the FBI report. On Monday, Larrañaga stated during a press conference that he believes that he is “Coach-3” in the FBI report. Larrañaga also maintained his innocence, saying that he had done nothing wrong while also being thankful that none of his assistant coaches were involved.

“It’s been a strain, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Larrañaga said according to the Palm Beach Post. “It’s something that’s there. I have to deal with it. I have the support of my wife and a wonderful family. I have the support of the university, my staff and players.”

According to the FBI report, “Coach-3” requested that payments totaling $150,000 be funneled to “Player-12” in order to ensure his commitment to their university. It has been reported that “Player-12” was 2018 five-star prospect Nassir Little, who has also stated that he had done nothing wrong. Two of the schools recruiting Little at the time, Arizona and Miami, have been entangled in the FBI investigation to varying degrees.

While Miami has not had anyone connected to its program arrested, Arizona assistant coach Emmanuel “Book” Richardson was one of the four Division I coaches were were indicted. As a result Little removed both Arizona and Miami from consideration before ultimately committing to North Carolina earlier this month.

There’s no telling what the FBI investigation will ultimately uncover, which for the schools involved could take a heavy toll not only for the 2017-18 season but for future years as well. The FBI case has been comparatively quiet since the first set of indictments, with future moves likely to be influenced by what authorities learn from the ten individuals named in the first announcement.

Miles Bridges discusses being offered money during recruiting process

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With the FBI launching an investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball last month, the entire sport has found itself under the microscope. Ten people, including four Division I assistant coaches, were arrested and there’s no telling just how long the FBI’s investigation will last or what information it will produce.

Michigan State forward Miles Bridges is considered by many to be the leading candidate for national Player of the Yeah honors, and he had the opportunity to turn pro after a good freshman season. But Bridges made the decision to return to East Lansing, and with that comes questions as to why he would do that as opposed to cashing in on his NBA potential as soon as possible.

In an interview with Brendan Quinn of The Athletic (subscription required) Bridges discussed a host of issues, including being offered money by people while going through the recruiting process.

“I mean, if you get caught, that might be the end of your career. I wanted to play in college really bad,” Bridges told Quinn. “I don’t know — materialistic things, they don’t really get to me. So when people were offering me money, I would say no right away, because I wanted to be able to live out my college experience. But really, I don’t know, it is hard, especially because I was so young at the time — 17.”

Given the ongoing investigation, high-profile players and teams will be on the receiving end of increased scrutiny even if they aren’t part of the FBI probe. It’s an unfair situation for a player like Bridges to deal with, as even in the actual cases of alleged wrongdoing the players themselves are essentially commodities whose services are being auctioned as opposed to the main characters looking to cash in.

Unfortunately, due to recent events a decision like the one made by Bridges will result in some questioning whether or not the player received something from the school or another entity/individual. And that’s a tough — and unfair — thing for a young player to have to deal with.

Broken hand sidelines North Carolina PG Joel Berry II

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North Carolina’s defense of its national title will likely begin without its most important player, as it was announced on Monday that senior point guard Joel Berry II will miss approximately four weeks due to a broken bone in his right hand.

Berry started at the point each of the last two seasons, earning Most Outstanding Player honors in April as the Tar Heels defeated Gonzaga to win the national title. As a junior, Berry averaged 14.7 points, 3.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game and started 37 of the 38 games in which he played. Berry shot 42.6 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three, with the latter percentage being the best on team amongst players who attempted at least two three-pointers per game.

Berry was named an NBC Sports Preseason Third-Team All-American in late September.

With Berry out of the lineup, North Carolina loses its floor general as well as one of their top perimeter shooters. Sophomore Seventh Woods and freshman Jalek Felton become more important options at the point as a result of Berry’s injury, and the team doesn’t lack for perimeter shooters either with Cameron Johnson, Brandon Robinson, Kenny Williams and freshman Andrew Platek all being capable of helping to pick up the slack.

North Carolina opens its regular season on November 10 against Northern Iowa.

Bill Self’s stance on Kansas/Missouri series remains unchanged

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Sunday afternoon in Kansas City, bitter rivals Kansas and Missouri got together on the basketball court for the first time since 2012, with the Showdown for Relief raising $1.75 million for recent hurricane victims. In what was an entertaining game, the Jayhawks won by the final score of 93-87 with point guard Devonté Graham leading the way for the winners with 25 points and ten rebounds.

Kansas finished the game with five players in double figures, including Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman (17 points) and center Udoka Azubuike (16). On the other side freshman Michael Porter Jr. paced four Tigers in double figures with 21 points while younger brother Jontay grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds off the bench.

However despite the excitement for the two rivals being on the same court in any capacity, Sunday’s meeting was different given the circumstances. Following the game Kansas head coach Bill Self was asked about the possibility of the two teams meeting in a regular season game, and he maintained the stance he’s held since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC.

“I’m not going to say never, but I don’t think there’s been any change in our position as far as the university goes,” Self said following Sunday’s exhibition. “I’m the spokesman, I guess, on this but trust me, I’m not the only one that feels that way.”

While it would certainly benefit college basketball if Kansas and Missouri were to renew acquaintances down the line, it is understandable that Self — and maybe some others on the Kansas side of things — would have reservations. The programs, even with the arrival of Cuonzo Martin in Columbia and the freshman class led by the aforementioned Michael Porter Jr., are in different places right now.

The Jayhawks have their sights set on a 14th consecutive Big 12 title and a run at their first national title since 2008, Missouri is looking to fast-track a rebuilding process after struggling mightily under former head coach Kim Anderson. Yet with that being said, the state of the two athletic departments during realignment likely has more to do with the teams not playing each other.

Missouri was a school with options earlier this decade before joining the SEC, but that was not the case for Kansas. Had the Big 12 broken up as some believed would be the case, where would the Jayhawks have landed? Fortunately for the school the Big 12 survived the realignment craze, losing four schools (Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, Colorado to the Pac-12 and Nebraska to the Big Ten) and adding TCU and West Virginia to get their membership number to ten.

Given that, the best bet for college basketball fans who want to see this rivalry played during the regular season may be to hope for the programs wind up in the same in-season tournament. Even better, how about the same NCAA tournament region?