California v Arizona

Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs ensure Arizona won’t be No. 1

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One of the fan bases that felt it had an argument for the top spot in the polls come Monday was that of the Arizona Wildcats. Given the chaos ahead of them and a 20-2 record that includes a win over No. 8 Miami (sans Reggie Johnson), why not the Wildcats?

California guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs put an end to that argument, combining to score 52 points to lead the Golden Bears to a 77-69 win in Tucson.

Crabbe, who entered the game leading the Pac-12 with an average of 19.3 points per game, shot 12-of-15 from the field and scored a game-high 31 points. A Cobbs layup with 39 seconds remaining pushed the Cal lead out to six, with a pair of free throws sealing the biggest win of the season for Mike Montgomery’s squad.

If there’s one area (besides guarding Crabbe and Cobbs) that the Wildcats will point to in the loss its free throw shooting. Arizona attempted twice as many free throws as Cal (24 to 12) but hit just 16, leaving valuable points on the board. Mark Lyons led the way with 16 points but the Wildcats shot 11-of-30 from the field in the second half with Cal’s use of a zone defense being a factor.

With the result the focus isn’t whether or not Arizona should sit atop the national polls but rather how the Pac-12 race will shake out with three teams (Oregon and UCLA) tied atop the standings at 8-3. Four of Arizona’s final seven games will be played away from McKale Center, beginning with a game in Boulder against a Colorado team that won’t lack for energy given how the first meeting between the two ended.

A major issue is the play of their young big men, who are still working to become the collective force that many believe they can be.

Brandon Ashley scored 12 points and grabbed nine rebounds against California after struggling with foul trouble on Wednesday night, but the other three member of the rotation combined for 12 points and four rebounds and Cal outscored Arizona 30-20 in the paint.

This talented group of young big men needs to become more consistent, not only if Arizona is to make some noise in the NCAA tournament but first and foremost win the Pac-12.

Arizona has a very good resume to its credit but they didn’t play like the nation’s best team in either of their games this week. The only difference between the games against Stanford and California? The Golden Bears were able to close things out.

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

Duke, Cincinnati lead Hall of Fame Tip-Off

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski gestures during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Florida State in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
(AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) Duke and Cincinnati, 2016 NCAA Tournament teams, highlight the eight-team field for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

The participants for the Nov. 19-20 event were announced Wednesday.

Also in the field are Rhode Island, Penn State, Grand Canyon, Albany, Marist and Brown.

The teams, split into two four-team brackets, will play two doubleheaders at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Duke, Cincinnati, Penn State and Rhode Island will meet in the Naismith Bracket, while the others will play in the Springfield Bracket.

The teams will play two early round games at campus sites from Nov. 11 through Nov. 16.

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.