ACC Tournament Preview

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The ACC was weird this season.

Miami won the league. Think about that. Miami. That, alone, is enough to leave you scratching your head.

But there’s more to it. Duke was the best team in the country heading into conference play and looks like they are right back in that conversation now that Ryan Kelly is back on the floor, but they still managed to lose four games in ACC play and don’t have a ton of depth if Kelly or Seth Curry happen to aggravate their nagging injuries. North Carolina went from being a bubble team to being the hottest team in the conference to being a team that got drubbed by Duke at home. NC State has been nothing but a disappointment given the amount of talent on their roster.

And after that, there’s not much of anything. Virginia can beat anyone in the league and lose to anyone in the league. Maryland knocked off Duke and has been really bad is just about every other game. Florida State would be abysmal if it wasn’t for Michael Snaer’s four game-winners this year.

Not quite what we expected heading into the season.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

Where: Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro)

When: March 14-17

Final: March 17th, 1:00 p.m. ET ESPN

Favorite: Duke

With all due respect to ACC regular season champ Miami, Duke was the best team in the country before Ryan Kelly was injured. They haven’t lost since Kelly came back, proving that his foot was fine with a 36 point performance in a win over Miami in his first game. Throw in the fact that the Dukies will be playing in front of a favorable crowd in Greensboro, it’s not difficult to imagine them making a run through the conference.

If there is a concern about this Duke team, it’s that they are still a bit beat up. Seth Curry doesn’t practice because of a leg injury that he’s been dealing with all season long. Kelly’s foot issues aren’t going to get any better when they have to play three games in three days. Will those nagging injuries end up costing the Blue Devils?

And if they lose?: Miami

The Hurricanes were the most dominant team in the ACC until the final two weeks of the regular season, when their defense, which was one of the best in the country, all of a sudden lost the ability to get stops. The Hurricanes have a big, veteran front line and one of the ACC’s best guard duos in Shane Larkin and Durand Scott. There’s a reason they won the league’s regulars season title, but it will be interesting to see if they can get their season turned around.

Other contenders: North Carolina has been playing much better since Roy Williams made the decision to go with a smaller lineup and play James Michael McAdoo at the center spot. It’s created mismatches for guys like Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston, and with more room to operate, Marcus Paige has suddenly found his confidence. NC State is another team to keep an eye on simply because they are insanely talented, but until they prove they can win with that talent, they are going to be a question mark.

Sleeper: Virginia

It’s difficult to trust the Cavaliers because of the number of bad teams that they’ve lost to this season. It’s also difficult to write them off because of the number of good teams that they’ve beaten this season. Joe Harris might be the nation’s best kept secret, and since UVA is playing with their tournament hopes on the line, there’s a good chance that a run can be made.

Deeper sleeper: Maryland?

Honestly, I don’t think there’s anyone outside the top five that can make a run in this event, but I’ll go with Maryland for a couple of reasons: 1) they have a lottery pick in the middle in Alex Len, and 2) they are the only team that still has bubble aspirations outside of the top five. Is that enough to make it happen?

Studs:

– Erick Green, Virginia Tech: Green was the best player in the ACC this season, so it is a shame that he was stuck playing on a Virginia Tech team that no one paid attention to all season long. He can flat out score, and given the load that he has to carry for the Hokies to be competitive, his efficiency is off the charts.

– Shane Larkin, Miami: Larkin is probably the league’s Player of the Year for teams that actually mattered in this year’s race. Just an all-around great point guard.

– Joe Harris, Virginia: Harris is a lot of fun to watch. He’s terrific using screens, he’s an excellent shooter and Tony Bennett likes to have him move around quite a bit offensively.

CBT Prediction: I think Miami will end up winning the ACC tournament, knocking off Duke in a rematch in the final where Curry and Kelly see only limited minutes.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

John Calipari lobbies for change in one-and-done rule to help athletes

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Kentucky head coach John Calipari is hoping the one-and-done rule changes so that athletes have more rights.

In a revealing interview with Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Calipari went into great detail about his thoughts behind a rule that many believe he has exploited greatly to his benefit over the last 10 years. Even though the Wildcats and Calipari have figured out the one-and-done rule to their advantage, the Hall of Fame coach still wants the rule to be abolished.

“Kids should be able to go (to the NBA) out of high school. That’s not our deal. That’s between the NBA and the Players Association,” Calipari said Friday. “Don’t put restrictions on kids.”

Calipari told Engel that he met with the NBPA last week in the hopes of the organization creating a combine for worthy high school juniors with pro potential. Calipari also wants agents more involved with high school kids.

“The players and the families need to know – here are the ones who should be thinking about the NBA, and here are the ones who should not,” Calipari said. “That’s why you need a combine.”

“If they want to go out of high school, go. If they want to go to college and then leave, let them leave when they want to leave. Why would we force a kid to stay? ‘Well – it’s good for the game?’ It’s about these kids and their families. Because let me tell you, if we (abolish one-and-done), the kids that do come to college will stay for two to three years.”

Calipari also has plenty of thoughts on the NBA G-League and how the league could potentially help young athletes with an education fund if they choose to turn pro directly out of high school. Regardless of what happens with the NBPA and the one-and-done rule, Calipari also said that his program would be fine — regardless of the rules.

Given that Calipari has operated on a different recruiting plane than everyone else in college basketball (with the exception of a few other bluebloods like Duke and Kansas) the last several years, it’s always notable when he gives his thoughts on the overall landscape of basketball.

But is Calipari actually lobbying for this? Or is this yet another way for Calipari to mold quotes into a recruiting pitch for elite players? Ultimately, it’s up to the NBPA to decide how the rules will be for future pros.

Report: NCAA allows Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale to compete on Dancing with the Stars

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After a memorable March Madness run that included two game-winning jumpers in the Final Four and an eventual national title, Notre Dame junior guard Arike Ogunbowale became a breakout national star.

Ogunbowale already appeared on Ellen while meeting her basketball idol, Kobe Bryant. Now, Ogunbowale will get the rare opportunity to appear on Dancing with the Stars — which the NCAA will allow even though Ogunbowale is still a rising senior who is scheduled to return to school next season.

Dancing with the Stars compensates its contestants and also has a prize for the winner. Under NCAA Bylaw 12.4.1, college athletes cannot be compensated based on their athletic abilities.

But the NCAA is arguing that Ogunbowale’s appearance on the show is “unrelated to her basketball abilities,” according to a statement they released regarding the decision. According to a report from Jacob Bogage of the Washington Post, the NCAA is also limiting Ogunbowale’s visibility for the show’s promotional tools.

From the Washington Post report:

The NCAA has placed restrictions on Ogunbowale that limit her involvement with the show and her potential to build her brand. She is not allowed to appear in promotional materials for the show, including commercials, according to the NCAA’s statement. She didn’t join other contestants during a group appearance on “Good Morning America” last week. Show handicappers have already wondered whether the NCAA’s limits will hurt her chances.

And the NCAA could turn down future requests by arguing that Ogunbowale is not endorsing “Dancing with the Stars” by appearing on the program, but instead is participating in a “personal growth experience” by learning how to ballroom dance, said Barbara Osborne, a professor of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina.

This is a slippery slope for the NCAA to take with this. Ogunbowale is, quite clearly, a famous basketball player. She’s on Dancing with the Stars because of her basketball abilities. The NCAA arguing anything else is just silly and embarrassing. The NCAA is also trying its best to uphold its argument about amateurism in the only way they know how.

But could this also could be a sign that the NCAA is perhaps open to the potential of allowing athletes to profit off of themselves in the future? The NCAA is currently handling a number of different court cases regarding amateurism, so it’s hard to say where all of this might go until the legal process starts to clear up.

Either way, this should be a fun experience for Ogunbowale while providing great national exposure for herself and women’s basketball. Ogunbowale might not be technically allowed to build her own brand during the show, but she’ll be gaining tons of new exposure for her basketball future — regardless of what the NCAA says in a statement.

Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab diagnosed with leukemia

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Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab announced on Saturday that he’s been battling leukemia lymphoma.

The 6-foot-11 big man from Egypt has been receiving medical treatment since the beginning of April as he took to Twitter to announce his current status.

Sameh Azab played in 15 games this season for the Tigers as he saw action for 84 total minutes. The reserve big man was a late addition in former head coach Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class at Memphis as he didn’t quality to play during his first season.

“Karim has my full support and the support of our whole team,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said in a statement earlier this month. “While we appreciate the support of the Tiger family in this matter, we would also like to protect the privacy of Karim and his family.”

South Dakota State’s Mike Daum declares for 2018 NBA Draft without an agent

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South Dakota State big man Mike Daum will enter the 2018 NBA Draft without an agent, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 redshirt junior has been a mid-major draft darling the past few seasons as Daum was one of the most productive players in the country last season. Putting up 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, Daum shot 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range during the season.

With his size and unique floor-spacing ability, Daum is going to be an interesting player to track during the NBA draft process. Teams are always looking for big men who can space the floor, and if Daum shoots well in workouts, he could wind up staying in the draft.

If Daum returns to South Dakota State, then he once again makes them a major NCAA tournament contender after the Jackrabbits won the Summit League last season.

Marquette lands Fordham grad transfer Joseph Chartouny

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Marquette pulled in a quality graduate transfer commitment on Friday as Fordham guard Joseph Chartouny pledged to the Golden Eagles.

The 6-foot-3 Chartouny was a three-year starter for the Rams as he should help offset the loss of guard Andrew Rowsey to graduation. While Chartouny isn’t nearly the perimeter threat that Rowsey was, he should be able to help significantly on the defensive end for Marquette. Chartouny put up 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game last season as he was one of the more productive all-around players in the Atlantic 10.

One of the nation’s leaders in steals the past three seasons, Chartouny has much better size to play alongside Markus Howard in the Marquette backcourt than Rowsey (5-foot-11) had. Since Howard is also 5-foot-11, Chartouny can now guard the bigger and more athletic perimeter matchup as Marquette tries to improve its porous defense from last season.

Marquette still has an open scholarship for next season as they’ve been investigating other transfer options to bolster the roster. Returning most of last season’s roster, the expectation will be for the Golden Eagles to make it back to the NCAA tournament next season.