Kansas survives first half and late-game scares from Western Kentucky

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Kansas entered halftime trailing by one, 31-30, to Western Kentucky, a team that finished fourth in the Sun Belt East standings. Hours after Florida Golf Coast knocked off two-seeded Georgetown, WKU flirted with becoming the first No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed.

Then Kevin Young corralled his own miss and did a reverse dunk to put Kansas up 32-31 and all was right with the world. However, Kansas did not make it easy when it regained the lead, as the Jayhawks sneaked out a 64- 57 win in a the South Region.

The Hilltoppers continued to float around, but Withey took over the second half, especially when George Fant picked up his fourth foul with 10:41 to go and when he fouled out with 5:37 to go. When Fant went out with his fourth foul he had 10 points and by the time he checked back in three minutes later, Kansas was finally starting to wear down WKU and had created some separation with a 47-42 lead.

T.J. Price hit a free throw with under seven minutes to go and it was the Hilltoppers last point for five minutes. During that time Kansas stretched the lead to 11, but bad decisions and costly turnovers helped WKU stay around until the end, as the Hilltoppers cut the lead to five twice with under two minutes to go and then cut the lead to four, 59-55 with 25 seconds to go off a Brandon Harrison three.

This isn’t a good sign for Kansas. The Jayhawks coughed the ball up 17 times. Luckily for Kansas, WKU could do nothing with the miscues, only scoring eight points off turnovers. It was a dismal night shooting for the Hilltoppers, shooting 7-for-37 in the second half and 3-for-20 from deep — WKU went over 35 minutes without hitting a three.

Kansas’ region features some dangerous teams, starting with Sunday’s matchup against Roy Williams and North Carolina. The Tar Heels shot 11-for-21 from three in their win over Villanova. Michigan is also in the South Region and could put on points in a hurry. It will be hard to expect both those teams will struggle offensively like Western Kentucky did. And then there is defenses like VCU and Florida.

You have to imagine VCU, a team they could meet in the Sweet 16, would take full advantage of 17 Jayhawk turnovers. Then if the top two seeds remaining in the South meet in the Elite Eight, Kansas is matched against one of the best scoring defenses in the country, Florida.

Kansas avoided being on the wrong side of history, but didn’t make it look easy. And it only gets tougher from here.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.

Report: Nike, Adidas and Under Armour all pass on sponsoring Lonzo Ball

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Lonzo Ball will enter his rookie season in the NBA without a sponsorship deal from Nike, Adidas or Under Armour, only his family’s Big Baller Brand apparel.

That, according to a report from ESPN, is due to his father LaVar’s insistence that Lonzo not sign with one of the three major apparel companies unless they opted to sign a licensing deal for Big Baller Brand merchandise instead of outfitting Lonzo with their own gear.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”

LaVar had been representing his son in the negotiations, and is now expected to reach out to other shoe brands, including Chinese apparel companies like Li-Nang.

Big Baller Brand is a startup apparel company launched by LaVar Ball. They sell t-shirts, sweatshirts and hats, with most of their products costing at least $50.

Lonzo declared for the NBA Draft after an all-american season that saw him and the UCLA Bruins flame out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16. UCLA lost to Kentucky in that game, and Lonzo had a quiet night while his point guard counterpart, De’Aaron Fox, went off for 39 points.

Lonzo is a likely top three pick in the NBA Draft and, potentially, could still end up going No. 1. He has two younger brothers as well. LiAngelo will be a freshman with the Bruins next season while LaMelo just finished his sophomore season in high school. Both will attend UCLA.