Previewing the Midwest Regional: Is it 2009 all over again?

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Favorite: Louisville

The Cardinals have been the most impressive team in the NCAA tournament to date, and it’s all thanks to their defense. It’s simply been overwhelming, and it’s not like they are changing anything. Louisville is just doing what they do on a nightly basis. Russ Smith, Peyton Siva and Kevin Ware pressure their opponent’s back court. Luke Hancock and Chane Behanan pick off the errant passes that float out of the back court. Gorgui Dieng and Montrezl Harrell swat away anything that happens to make its way to the rim.

Louisville’s defense is streaky. Once they get one steal and a layup off of it, their confidence grows. It builds on itself and snowballs until opponents are seeing flashes of Smith and Siva when they close their eyes at night. You see, Louisville is not a great half court team. They are much better when they can score in transition. And when they do score, they are able to get right back into that press. It’s not fun to play against.

But they could also win: Michigan State

The Spartans actually matchup well with Duke on the interior. Derrick Nix is big enough that he won’t be overpowered by Mason Plumlee, which means that he’ll be able to guard Duke’s all-american center one-on-one in the post. That will make things difficult for the Blue Devils on the perimeter, as the Spartans will be able to matchup with them. The key to Michigan State making it out of the weekend, however, is going to be the health of Keith Appling’s shoulder. When he’s playing well, Michigan State is a much better team.

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Most Important Player: Point guards playing Louisville

It will be Dominic Artis and Jonathan Loyd on Friday night. On Sunday, it will either be Appling or Duke’s Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton. You know what you’re getting when you do up against this Louisville team, but that doesn’t mean that it’s possible to prepare for. You just simply cannot replicate that kind of speed, quickness or defensive tenacity. Protect the ball and have a chance. Turn it over, and go the way of Colorado State.

Story line to watch: Rewind to the 2009 tournament. No. 1 overall seed and title favorite Louisville played No. 12 seed Arizona in the Sweet 16 and blew them out, advancing to take on Michigan State in the Elite 8. In Indianapolis. In the Midwest Region. Sound familiar? Well, Michigan State won that game. Can the Cardinals reverse their fortunes this time around?

Rank ‘em:

1. Louisville
2. Michigan State
3. Duke
4. Oregon

And the winner is?: Louisville

Louisville is rolling right now, and unfortunately I just don’t see anyone in this region that has the back court play to handle the press. Oregon has turnover issues. Michigan State has turnover issues. In fact, I think that if Duke can get by the Spartans in the Sweet 16, they may actually have the best chance to take down Louisville; they’ve done it once already this season. But at the end of the day, Louisville is streaky, so you might as well ride the hot hand while it lasts.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Report: North Carolina won’t attend White House

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After capturing a national championship earlier this year, the North Carolina men’s basketball team will not be visiting the White House, a North Carolina spokesman said to Andrew Carter of the The Charlotte Observer.

Although the Tar Heels were invited to go to the White House from the staff of President Donald Trump, the team couldn’t figure out a date that worked.

“We couldn’t find a date that worked for both parties,” North Carolina team spokesman Steve Kirschner said to Carter. “We tried about eight or nine dates and between they couldn’t work out that date, we couldn’t work out that date, so – we would have liked to have gone, but not going.”

According to Carter’s report, Kirschner also said that North Carolina players, “were fine with going.”

With Trump’s recent comments towards NFL players and the national anthem and his Saturday morning tweet at Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the President with regards to athletes over the past 24 hours.

Although the timing of this may seem like North Carolina is making some sort of political statement, the school is downplaying any sort of politics by focusing on the bad timing.

Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer

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Xavier freshman forward Jared Ridder will transfer from the program to move closer to home, according to a release from the school.

The 6-foot-7 Ridder hails from Springfield, Missouri as he was regarded as a top-150 prospect by Rivals in the Class of 2017.

“After much consideration and talking with my family, I have decided that it is in my best interest to move home,” Ridder said in the release.

“Jared has indicated to the coaching staff that he has a desire to be closer to home,” Xavier head coach Chris Mack said. “While we are disappointed, we all want Jared to be happy moving forward. We wish him nothing but the best.”

A potent scorer and noted perimeter shooter at the high school level, Ridder helped MoKan win the Nike Peach Jam during the summer of 2016 playing alongside talented players like Missouri’s Michael and Jontay Porter and Oklahoma’s Trae Young. With a desire to move closer to home, could Ridder potentially land at a spot where one of his talented former teammates is playing?

Ridder averaged 24.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists during his senior season of high school ball at Kickapoo as he was a first-team, All-State selection in Missouri.

Four-star 2018 forward Ian Steere decommits from Creighton

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Creighton took a big hit to its recruiting efforts late this week as Class of 2018 forward Ian Steere is decommitting from the Bluejays, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Steere’s decommitment was first reported by Julius Kim of Elevate Hoops.

The 6-foot-8 Steere is considered a four-star prospect by Rivals as he is coming off of a very solid spring and summer playing with Team Charlotte in the Under Armour Association. A plus athlete who isn’t afraid to bang on the interior, Steere showing an improving skill level throughout the spring and summer as he could see his recruiting soar after opening things up.

According to a report from Jon Nyatawa of the World-Herald, one of the reasons that Steere is opening up his recruitment is his desire to be closer to his native North Carolina. With so many top programs looking for quality help on the interior, it’ll be interesting to see which programs jump in and try to recruit Steere the second time around.

John Wall emotional in Kentucky Hall of Fame induction speech

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John Wall was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night as he delivered an emotional speech while talking to his mother.

The first inductee into the Hall of Fame to play for current Wildcat head coach John Calipari, Wall only spent the 2009-10 season in Lexington but he became the first national player of the year to play at Kentucky before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Thanking his mother, Calipari, his family, friends and Big Blue Nation, the Washington Wizards guard gave a very moving speech, including an emotional part directed to his mother at around 4:35.

Ohio State snags third 2018 commitment in a week with four-star guard Luther Muhammad

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Ohio State continued a strong week on the recruiting trail on Friday night by landing a commitment from Class of 2018 guard Luther Muhammad.

Regarded as a four-star prospect, the 6-foot-4 Muhammad is a tough and rugged perimeter defender who can attack the basket. Also showing some ability to play on the ball as a secondary handler, Muhammad is a very solid addition to Ohio State’s recruiting class since they need to overhaul their roster under new head coach Chris Holtmann.

Muhammad is the third player to commit to the Buckeyes in the Class of 2018 this week as he joins four-star forward Jaedon LeDee and three-star guard Duane Washington in the current Ohio State recruiting class. Since Washington is a three-point threat and Muhammad is more of an off-the-bounce specialist, the two guards are a good start for Ohio State in this class as they will likely try to find a true floor leader to play with them on the perimeter.