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Remember that dominant Florida team everybody was drooling over on Monday? Yeah, they lost last night, to Arkansas, by 11.

It was ugly.

You know what wasn’t ugly? The Michigan-Ohio State game.

It was beautiful.

But enough of my thoughts.

Let’s hit the links.

Wednesday’s Top games:
7:00 p.m. – St. Bonaventure’s @ No. 14 Butler
7:00 p.m. – No. 17 Cincinnati @ Providence
7:00 p.m. – No. 18 Minnesota @ No. 12 Michigan State
7:00 p.m. – Baylor @ No. 22 Oklahoma State
7:00 p.m. – No. 24 Marquette @ South Florida
7:00 p.m. – Charlotte @ Temple
7:00 p.m. – Delaware @ Towson
7:00 p.m. – Southern Miss @ Central Florida
7:00 p.m. – Connecticut @ St. John’s
7:05 p.m. – No. 16 Creighton @ Indiana State
7:30 p.m. – No. 11 Louisville @ Rutgers
8:00 p.m. – Memphis @ SMU
9:00 p.m. – No. 5 Kansas @ TCU
9:00 p.m. – Stanford @ No. 7 Arizona
9:00 p.m. – Air force @ No. 15 New Mexico
9:00 p.m. – Iowa @ Wisconsin
10:00 p.m. – Colorado State @ Nevada
11:00 p.m. – Boise State @ San Diego State
 
 
Read of the Day:
Old Dominion announced the firing of 12-year head coach Blaine Taylor yesterday. Taylor was instrumental in the growth of the Monarchs’ program and guided them to four NCAA tournament appearances. His firing comes as the team is struggling through a 2-20 season, and drinking problems from his past may have played a part. But the Universities handling of the situation makes this story both awkward and sad. Make sure you read this article from David Teel. (Newport News Daily-Press)

Read of the Day:
So ummm, Bill Simonson of MLive.com puts Indiana on blast. No, not the Hoosiers. The entire state. Yeah, it’s pretty outlandish. But speaking of the Hoosiers, Simonson believes the referees favor Crean and the Hoosiers and that Big-Ten referees hold personal grudges on certain coaches and take it out on them at Assembly Hall. Read this, but make sure you have your popcorn ready. (MLive.com)
 
 
Top Stories:
Tim Hardaway, Jr., No. 3 Michigan outlast No. 10 Ohio State in overtime thriller: It was billed as the top game of the night and it certainly delivered. Tim Hardaway Jr. hit three big 3-pointers in the second half and helped the Wolverines knock off the Buckeyes in overtime.

If Ohio State-Michigan taught us anything, it’s that college hoops is still great: College hoops is in a down year, right? There are not great teams, correct? Umm. Did you see the Ohio State vs. Michigan game last night? That was fantastic basketball.

VIDEO: Michael Snaer hits another buzzer-beater: For the third time in the last two weeks — and the fifth time in the past two seasons — Florida State star Michael Snaer hit a buzzer-beating game-winner in ACC play.

No. 2 Florida gets whooped by Arkansas, 80-69: Florida looked unstoppable heading in to the game last night against lowly Arkansas. Turns out Arkansas can shoot the ball pretty well, and things can go downhill when you are careless with the basketball. The Gators found out the hard way.

Wichita State loses third in a row, falls to 9-point underdog Southern Illinois: It seems like eons ago when we proclaimed that Wichita State had the goods to dethrone Creighton from the top of the MVC. And just like that, the Shockers find themselves out of the top-25 and losers of three straight.

Dick Vitale, Brad Nessler, Jay Bilas to be international voices of Final Four: Dick Vitale has had a storied broadcast career, but has never been able to call a Final Four on National Championship game. Things will change in 2013.

New Orleans chosen as host for Sun Belt Tournament through 2016: The city of New Orleans, fresh off hosting the 2012 Final Four and the 2013 Super Bowl, has been chosen as the host site for the Sun Belt men’s and women’s championship through 2016, the conference announced Tuesday. Hot Springs, Ark., had been the host site since 2009.
 
 
Hoops Housekeeping:
– Northern Illinois freshman Akeem Springs has left the program due to “personal and basketball reasons”. (Hustle Belt)

– Tennessee forward Kenny Hall was arrested on Tuesday on charges of driving with a suspended license. Hall was pulled over at 5:05 a.m. for going 70 mph in a 55-mph zone. (The Tennessean)

– Montana forward Kevin Henderson has been suspended one game as a result of his DUI arrest on Sunday. (The Missoulian)

– The status of NC-State guard Lorenzo Brown for the Wolfpack’s Thursday night game against Duke is still uncertain. (Fayetteville Observer)
 
 
Observations & Insight:
– A phenomenal list of the top-12 most watchable teams in the country. The Belmont Bruins are once again one of the most watchable teams in the country. The only problem is that they’re rarely on television. (Deadspin)

– You can cross Florida off the list of teams that still have a chance to finish undefeated in conference play. They were the favorites, too. (Eye on College Basketball)

– The latest installment of Andy Glockner’s Bubble Watch. You know what to do with this. (Sports Illustrated)

– On Monday, Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel wrote that he honestly believed that the Florida Gators could beat the Orlando Magic, a bad pro team. On Tuesday, Florida lost to Arkansas, a bad SEC team, by 11. Bianchi’s Wednesday column should be rather entertaining. Here is his Monday column. (Orlando Sentinel)

– Some interesting numbers that shed light on just how much money Brad Stevens has earned as a result of Butler’s recent success. (USA Today)

– Jason Lisk explains why you shouldn’t worry about the RPI rankings when filling out your brackets. (The Big Lead)

– Kansas senator Michael O’Donnell has created a proposal that would force Wichita State and Kansas to play each other. Kansas State also included. I kinda like this. (Wichita Eagle)

– A great story about how Butler’s Erik Fromm uses the memories of his late father, who lost his battle with cancer this past weekend, to get him this difficult time. (Indianapolis Star)

– Did the NCAA approve the attorney expenses of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro? That what it looks like. I hope it isn’t true, but this is the NCAA were talking about. So it probably is. (USA Today)

– A solid-read on Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, who has become one of the top players in the Big East this season. The Bearcats face Providence tonight, a school that Kilpatrick nearly attended. (Friar Basketball)

– UConn’s Ryan Boatright doesn’t watch ESPN much anymore because the “Journey to the Tourney” commercial reminds him that the Huskies aren’t eligible for the postseason this year. Daggonit. (New Haven Register)

– A nice profile piece on Otto Porter, who continues to carry th Georgetown Hoyas on his broad shoulders. (Washington Post)

– If you need help reading between the lines of the Blaine Taylor firing, I suggest you read this. (Mid-Major Madness)

– The Drexel Dragons have not lived up to expectations this season, but are trying to right the ship having won four of their last six games. On Thursday they play Old Dominion in the first game since the firing of Blaine Taylor. What are the chances the Drexel Dragons get derailed by an empowered 2-20 Monarchs team? (Philahoops.com)

– UConn legend Taliek Brown is back in Storrs finishing up his undergraduate degree. Brown was the lead guard on the 2003-2004 National Championship team. He’s also famous for sinking a 40-footer in double-overtime against Pittsburgh in the 2002 Big East Championship game. (Hartford Courant)

– To storm or not to storm, that is the question. The SEC issues fines to schools that have students storm the court. Some coaches like, some players love it. Others want it gone from the game. (USA Today)

– Midseason awards are tough to pick, but in the ACC, it’s a no-brainer for Coach of the Year. (Wilmington Star-News)
 
 
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VIDEO: Presbyterian’s Toss for Tots night earns technical foul for charity

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Presbyterian College held an cool and unique fundraiser this week.

In a game against Toccoa Falls, the Blue Hose held what will now be an annual Toss for Tots event. It was simple: after the first basket of their game on Thursday night, fans in attendance were asked to throw a stuffed animal onto the court, with every stuffed animal earmarked for a local elementary school.

Presbyterian ate the technical foul for the cause:

In total, 108 stuffed animals were “donated”.

The program had partnered with Bailey Elementary School, where there are 103 students. On Friday, the team delivered every student at the school one of the stuffed animals for Christmas. Head coach Dustin Kerns told NBC Sports that the team spent some times with the kids today as well, reading to the team and putting a smile on their face.

“Proud of our team,” Kerns, who is in his first year with the program, said. The win against Toccoa Falls was the fifth in a row for the Blue Hose, the first time the program has accomplished that since going to the Division I level. They are not 6-5 on the season after winning five games a year ago. “It was fun seeing out program give back.”

Presbyterian Sports Information Dept
Presbyterian Sports Information Dept

Rape charges will not be filed after last year’s incident in Kansas basketball dorm

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The Douglas County District Attorney’s office will not file sexual assault charges stemming from a report that a 16-year old girl was raped nearly a year ago in the Kansas basketball dorm.

“After an exhaustive review of all available reports, evidence and testimony, our office has determined there is not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt a sexual assault occurred,” District Attorney Charles Branson told the Lawrence Journal-World. “Unless additional evidence or reports come to light there is insufficient evidence to prove a crime was committed.”

What’s more, a suspect in the investigation was never actually identified, the paper reported. All five witnesses in the rape report were members of the men’s basketball team. The incident allegedly occurred in McCarthy Hall, which is a dorm where 40 Kansas students live, including all members of the men’s basketball team.

No. 8 Kentucky maturing, more challenges ahead for freshmen

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky coach John Calipari hasn’t hidden his frustration about the learning curve of his latest group of talented freshmen.

And while the No. 8 Wildcats are starting play better, they’re bracing for more challenges ahead.

Kentucky has struggled to put away opponents such as Utah Valley, Vermont, Troy and Harvard, efforts that players and Calipari acknowledge have contributed to a perceived lack of national respect. On the other hand, their lone loss — a 65-61 setback to Kansas — showed their ability to compete with college basketball’s heavyweights.

“It was one of the big games they got to see,” sophomore forward Wenyen Gabriel said. “The feeling and high intensity of the game, people watching, the fight in a big game like that, it really started to hit. Some players really started to get rolling off of that.

“We’re starting to get better as a team, individuals are getting better and we’re trending upward and trying to stay on that path.”

Kentucky (8-1) has begun running away from opponents, a promising trend it hopes to continue against upcoming Power Five conference foes.

Saturday’s home game against Virginia Tech (9-1) opens a daunting year-ending stretch for the Wildcats that includes next weekend’s matchup against UCLA in New Orleans; their annual in-state rivalry showdown against Louisville on Dec. 29; and their Southeastern Conference opener against Georgia on New Year’s Eve.

Though Calipari still hopes February will reveal Kentucky’s true strengths, he’s eager to see how the Wildcats stack up against the Atlantic Coast Conference Hokies, who lead the nation in scoring at 96.2 points per game and rank second in 3-point shooting at 47 percent.

“They have three or four guys that can absolutely make 3s,” Calipari said Friday while listing other Tech strengths. “They’re looking for layups and kicking it out for 3s and they’re getting to the line because of it.

“They’re not afraid. They go on the road in big games. Their home games are craziness. This is plugged into our schedule at a time where we need to learn about us, and we will.”

After a busy November without much practice time, Kentucky has welcomed a lighter December schedule that has allowed the Wildcats more time for workouts and to build chemistry.

The Wildcats have a long way to go, but games such as last week’s 93-76 win over Monmouth are encouraging for Kentucky fans.

Besides continuing their solid shooting — the Wildcats rank 22nd at nearly 51 percent — redshirt freshman guard Hamidou Diallo (23 points) and forward PJ Washington (20) posted career scoring highs against Monmouth. Kentucky also succeeded with a smaller lineup and has been effective playing a zone defense, which Calipari disdains but has used because of his team’s length.

“They’re as long as anybody in the country,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said of Kentucky. “We’ll have to work really hard to get the same shots we’ve been getting.”

Kentucky remains short-handed with freshman forward Jarred Vanderbilt (foot) and guard Jemarl Baker (knee) sidelined by injuries. But the Wildcats appear to be developing depth.

They faced Monmouth without sophomore forward Sacha Killeya-Jones (sprained ankle) before starting guard Quade Green left in the second half after being poked in the eye. Both will be available against the Hokies and return knowing that the bench can fill the void after it combined for a season-high 27 points.

Granted, Monmouth is not a barometer for success against the likes of Tech, UCLA or Louisville. But considering Kentucky’s early struggles, any growth is welcome.

“We think highly of ourselves as a team,” Gabriel added. “I think we deserve more credit than we’re getting, so we’re going to go out there and try to earn it.”

Arizona State rising fast beyond the desert

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona State has taken college basketball by devilish hurricane, running and gunning its way into the national consciousness while igniting an often-blase local fan base.

Even the Sun Devils’ rivals down south have taken notice.

“Bobby Hurley, he’s en route right now to be one of the coaches talked about for national coach of the year because of what he’s done with their program,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said of the coach of his biggest rival. “He’s played a tough nonconference schedule. It shows some guts to play who they play. Their results speak really clearly. They might be underrated where they’re at right now.”

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, at least not yet.

The Sun Devils were expected to be better in Hurley’s third season in the desert. They returned three senior guards and finally got them some front-court help with the addition of Romello White and De’Quon Lake.

Kodi Justice, ASU’s 6-foot-5 guard, would no longer have to guard 7-footers. Arizona State would be better defensively and on the glass. The guards would not have to carry the entire load.

Even so, the Sun Devils were projected to be at the middle of the Pac-12, picked to finish sixth.

The big jump was supposed to be next season, when a trio of transfers will be eligible and could possibly lead the Sun Devils to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014.

This breakneck band of Devils spun the narrative forward a year early.

Playing with a confidence bordering on cocky and with an offensive freedom afforded them by their coach, the Sun Devils have pushed their way into the national spotlight.

They made a blip by beating Xavier, No. 15 at the time but now No. 10 in the AP Top 25 . Blew the Musketeers away, actually, turning a 15-point first-half deficit into a 102-86 rout with an onslaught of fast breaks and 3-pointers.

Arizona State next moved into the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2008-09, coming in at No. 20 after the win over Xavier. The Sun Devils climbed four spots the next week.

The catapult launched last Sunday: Arizona State 95, No. 2 Kansas 85. At Allen Fieldhouse.

One of the biggest wins in program history led to another bit of history: A No. 5 ranking this week, ASU’s highest since reaching No. 3 in 1980-81. The Sun Devils even garnered the first No. 1 votes as a program. Five of ’em, actually.

Now Arizona State is 9-0 and being mentioned as a possible national-title contender. Yeah, really.

“I knew the success was going to be better, but you don’t expect necessarily when you look at a schedule to run the table up to this point, and beat the type of teams we’ve beaten,” Hurley said. “So you just appreciate it and then you kind of move on and get ready for the next battle.”

Arizona State’s success starts with its quartet of fearless guards, turning Arizona State into “Guard U.”

With carte blanche from Hurley to shoot from anywhere at almost any time, they’ve gone from carrying the load last season to ferrying the Sun Devils closer to college basketball’s upper echelon.

Tra Holder has transformed himself from steady freshman to unquestioned, sometimes nasty senior floor leader. He scored 40 points against Xavier and leads Arizona State with 21.2 points per game. He also grabs 5.6 rebounds, dishes out 5.2 assists and won consecutive Pac-12 player of the week honors, a first by a Sun Devil since James Harden in 2008.

Shannon Evans II followed Hurley from Buffalo, had to sit out a season as a transfer and was solid as a junior, averaging 15 points per game. The 6-1 guard had become go-to guy 1-A this season, second on the team with 19 points while matching Holder in assists. Big shots? He’s go those, too, including a clutch 3 to kill a Kansas rally in one of the loudest atmospheres in the game.

Justice plays with Pete Maravichian flair, has a range that seems to extend to the opposing team’s free-throw line.

Then there’s Remy Martin. The freshman guard is more spiced rum than cognac, playing with a confidence and intensity well beyond his years.

Martin treats irritation by the opposing team’s point guard as the highest honor, often nodding his bouncy hair in approval when he officially finds his way under their skin. He was the spark off the bench against Kansas, finishing with 21 points and five steals.

“They are now freed up to be who they are more,” Hurley said. “I think they would have shown that on a more regular basis last year if I had done my job a little better and sooner and gotten them some help.”

That help is here and the Sun Devils are running and gunning with it.

Follow John Marshall on Twitter @jmarshallap

Oklahoma State dismisses two players

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STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma State has dismissed junior Davon Dillard and freshman Zack Dawson from the team for failing to meet unspecified standards set by the program.

Coach Mike Boynton says he could not “make compromises in our core values when it comes to individual players.” Dillard and Dawson were suspended before the season for reasons the school has not disclosed. Dawson missed one game and Dillard missed the first five.

Oklahoma State (7-2) faces No. 19 Florida State (9-0) in Sunrise, Florida, on Saturday.