Late Night Snacks: Craft’s career day leads No. 18 Ohio State past No. 4 Michigan State

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Game of the Day: Wagner 94, LIU Brooklyn 92

Most people were occupied with the Oscars, and they missed a thriller on Staten Island. A Kenneth Ortiz putback with eight tenths of a second remaining proved to be the difference as Wagner pulled into a tie for fourth place in the NEC with the Blackbirds. Jonathon Williams (20 points) and Mario Moody (19) led the way offensively for the Seahawks, while C.J. Garner paced LIU with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Why is the result important? Home-court advantage in the NEC tournament goes to the higher seeded team, and Wagner’s victory not only keeps them in the race for fourth but it also moves them to within a game of Bryant and Quinnipiac (both 10-5) in the loss column.

Important Outcomes 

1. No. 18 Ohio State 68, No. 4 Michigan State 60

After losing by 22 at Wisconsin last Sunday the Buckeyes have won two in a row, using a second half run to beat the Spartans in Columbus. Deshaun Thomas shot 4-of-16 on the afternoon but Aaron Craft picked up the slack, scoring a career-high 21 points and dishing out six assists to lead the way. Adreian Payne scored 12 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and Gary Harris scored 14 points to lead Michigan State, but the Spartans really need Keith Appling to get untracked.

2. No. 7 Michigan 71, Illinois 58 

Trey Burke scored 26 points and dished out eight assists for the Wolverines, who completed a season sweep of the Fighting Illini. Jordan Morgan played just 17 minutes and didn’t attempt a shot for the Wolverines, but the big man played an important role in the victory defensively and on the glass (six rebounds). Three Illinois players scored ten points apiece, but their 7-of-22 shooting from beyond the arc and Michigan’s 51% shooting proved to be too much to overcome.

3. No. 25 Notre Dame 62, Cincinnati 41 

Notre Dame really wasn’t challenged at home, and Mike Brey’s team is in position to play for seeding in both the Big East and NCAA tournaments at this point. The same can’t be said for the Bearcats, who have lost five of their last six with games against Connecticut and Louisville next on the schedule. Cashmere Wright played just 23 minutes and Sean Kilpatrick struggled (3-of-13 FG) for the Bearcats, who won’t be successful if those two can’t get out of their current funk.

Starred 

1. G Tony Johnson (Lafayette) 

Johnson was outstanding in the Leopards’ 79-71 win over Lehigh, scoring 29 points on 10-of-12 shooting (5-of-5 3PT) and dishing out four assists.

2. G Trey Burke (Michigan) 

Burke was one of the difference-makers in the Wolverines’ 71-58 win over Illinois, accounting for 26 points (8-of-11 FG) and eight assists with just one turnover.

3. G Rasheed Sulaimon and F Mason Plumlee (Duke) 

Both Sulaimon and Plumlee played integral roles in the Blue Devils’ 89-66 win over Boston College. Sulaimon scored a career-high 27 points (10-of-15 FG), and Plumlee added 19 points (11-of-15 FT), 15 rebounds and four assists. Plumlee also became the ninth player in school history to eclipse the 1,000-point and 1,000-rebound marks in a career.

Struggled 

1. G Cashmere Wright (Cincinnati)

Wright played just 23 minutes in the Bearcats’ 62-41 loss at No. 25 Notre Dame, missing both of his shot attempts and going scoreless. The question for Cincinnati, who has lost five of its last six games: is Wright healthy?

2. G Keith Appling (Michigan State)

Appling found the going tough against No. 18 Ohio State on Sunday, shooting 1-of-6 from the field and finishing with three points, one assist and three turnovers in the 68-60 loss.

3. Northwestern

Thanks in part to injuries the Wildcats simply don’t have the horses needed to be competitive in this season’s Big Ten. In their 74-43 loss at Purdue the Wildcats shot 28.6% from the field and were out-rebounded 41-21.

Three Facts 

1. Stony Brook wrapped up at least a share of its third America East regular season title in the last four years, winning 69-53 at Maine. Steve Pikiell’s Seawolves can clinch the title outright on Thursday night at Boston University. Stony Brook did not enjoy the same luck when it comes to travel however, as the team bus broke down on the way back from the game. They’re slated to return to the Long Island campus on Monday.

2. Two teams that helped themselves by avoiding losses that would not help their NCAA tournament resumes: Temple and Virginia. The Owls won 71-51 at Charlotte, with Scootie Randall leading the way with 18 points and six rebounds. Virginia whipped Georgia Tech 82-54, avenging a loss in Atlanta earlier this season. Also, freshman forward Mike Tobey (seven points, four rebounds) made his return after missing the last five games due to a case of mononucleosis.

3. One team that did not help itself: St. John’s. The Red Storm shot 25.9% from the field in the second half of their 63-47 loss to No. 20 Pittsburgh, dropping to 16-11 overall and 8-7 in Big East play. With two of their final three games against Notre Dame and Marquette the Red Storm will have opportunities to improve their resume before the Big East Championship, and they need to take advantage.

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

Kentucky fans flood Facebook page of official John Higgins’ company with negative reviews

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Unhappy with how John Higgins performed at his part-time job, Kentucky fans did their best trash him at his full-time gig.

The Facebook page of the referee’s Omaha-based roofing company was flooded by Big Blue Nation with negative comments and reviews after they were displeased with the official’s work in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight loss to North Carolina.

Not only did fans leave obviously fake and vulgar comments on the page, they also deluged it with one-star reviews to drive down its average significantly.

Once again, the Internet is struck by its proportionality problem. What could be considered a silly bit of online pranking by a small minority suddenly turns into an avalanche of nastiness that could do real damage to someone’s life, business and family, given the importance of social media for companies in 2017. It becomes cruel when it reaches a level like this.

When there’s so many general complaints about the state of officiating in college basketball, it’s also not helpful to do something like this to one of the referees generally considered to be one of the country’s best. It’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for prospective future officials to follow the career path if it brings this level of negative attention to you off the court.

Report: North Carolina to miss out on NCAA events through 2022 if HB2 not addressed by Thursday

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North Carolina is in danger of losing out on hosting NCAA events through 2022 if the state does not make changes to HB2, the controversial so-called “bathroom bill” by Thursday afternoon, according to the leader of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

“I have confirmed with a contact very close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now,” Scott Dupree, the head of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “If HB2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids.”

“The NCAA has already delayed the bid review process once and has waited as long as it possibly can, and now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022.”

The NCAA, as it reminded North Carolina last week, is making its determinations on hosts for events from 2018-2022 this week. There was movement last week at the North Carolina statehouse for a compromise on the bill, but that apparently stalled out, the News & Observer reported, though there remain efforts to make progress on a pact.

Should lawmakers not reach an agreement in time, the state’s flagship basketball programs will be without an NCAA tournament home-court advantage that they have often enjoyed. HB2 just this past year moved the first and second rounds out of the state and to South Carolina, where No. 2 seed Duke lost to the seventh-seeded Gamecocks in their home state.

Clearly, there’s much more to consider here than NCAA tournament implications, but it’s another reminder of the economic impact the bill has made in North Carolina. This week, The Associated Press estimated it will cost the state $3.76 billion over a 12-year period.

Baylor’s Freeman to graduate and transfer

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Baylor is losing one of its contributors over the past three seasons.

Al Freeman, a 6-foot-3 guard, will graduate and transfer to another school, the Bears announced Tuesday.

“Al has been a tremendous student-athlete and made great contributions to our program over the last four years, and we’re thrilled that he’s going to complete his degree at Baylor,” Bears coach Scott Drew said in a statement. “He’ll always be part of the Baylor family, and we’ll be rooting for him as he continues his career.”

Freeman, who redshirted his freshman year due to a broken wrist, started 57 games during his career in Waco and averaged 8.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He was a full-time starter as a sophomore, but made just 22 this past season and saw his minutes slashed.

As a graduate transfer, the Charlotte native will be immediately eligible at his next program for his final collegiate season.

Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner declares for NBA Draft

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Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner has declared for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent.

“First let me start by saying these three years at Xavier have been the best of my life,” Sumner said in a statement. “I have certainly been presented with some ups and downs but they have only served to make me a stronger person. This decision was very hard for me because of the love I have for X. After weighing my options with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft, fulfilling a lifelong dream. I want to thank Coach Mack and the rest of the staff for believing in me and giving me a chance when no one did! I’ll always be grateful for that. Xavier Nation I will always love you!”

Sumner, a 6-foot-6 point guard with dynamic athleticism and first round potential that averaged 15.0 points, but he is coming off of a torn ACL that he suffered in January. He’s likely to be a second round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

This is a big loss for the Musketeers, but it’s one that they planned for. After his eruption last season, most expected him to put his name in the draft this season.

Duke freshman Harry Giles III declares for NBA Draft

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Harry Giles III has declared for the NBA Draft after playing just one season at Duke.

“Playing in the NBA has been my goal for as long as I can remember, and I’m so excited to take the next step in that journey,” Giles said. “My time at Duke has been a dream come true. I’ve built so many strong relationships here and I have so many people to thank, from my teammates and coaches to our medical staff and strength coach. I can’t understate how proud I am to be part of the Duke Basketball program forever.”

Giles played in 26 games for the Blue Devils. He started six games and averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story with Giles. At one point considered to be the best player in the loaded Class of 2016, Giles has dealt with a pair of devastating knee injuries already. He underwent a third surgery right before the start of the season and never seemed like he was fully able to get back to being the player he was when he was in high school.

This is the right decision for Giles to make, as there is still some uncertainty regarding the health of his knees. Were his struggles due to the fact that he was tossed right into the middle of a college basketball season after having sat out for 14 straight months, or was this simply a result of knees that no longer allow him to be the player that he used to be?

He might still end up being a first round pick this year. At the very least, he’s make some guaranteed money if he can get into a camp. Maybe returning to school could have helped vault him into the lottery in 2018, but another year like this year would’ve firebombed his draft stock.

“With his uplifting personality and love for the game, Harry Giles has been a joy to coach,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He is only beginning to scratch the surface of how good he can be on the basketball court. Harry has an exciting NBA future ahead of him and we are here to fully support him as a member of our brotherhood.”

I know I’m not alone when I say I hope that Giles gets healthy and succeeds in the NBA.