Hold on to your hats, it’s Louisville vs. Michigan on Monday!

15 Comments

No Cinderellas in the title game this year. It’s going to be all Big Time, all the way.

Let’s recap:

Rick Pitino is one of the most well-known college basketball coaches in the nation. He’s on his way into the hall of fame, his horse just punched its ticket to the Kentucky Derby, and his son was just hired to be the head coach at Minnesota. If it weren’t for that whole “player suffering a horrifying leg injury on live TV” thing, you’d think the elder Coach Pitino is living a truly charmed life right now.

John Beilein may not have as much obvious personal success going for him as Pitino, but check out his roster and you know fortune has smiled on him. He’s got the sons of NBA players like Tim Hardaway, Tito Horford and Glenn Robinson ready to go, alongside Player of the Year Trey Burke and some tall guy named Mitch McGary who seems to have blossomed of late.

MORE: The agony of Wichita State’s missed chance

Finding storylines in Atlanta will be like shooting fish in a barrel, so let’s take a brief look at the down and dirty of the matchups.

Frontcourt: Louisville has Gorgui Dieng (10.2 points, 2.5 blocks per game), Chane Behanan (9.6 ppg) and Wayne Blackshear (7.6 ppg) going up against Glenn Robinson III (11 ppg) and Mitch McGary (7.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg). In the Final Four, Michigan’s starting frontcourt showed a more deft scoring touch, and if McGary keeps playing the way he has over the past two games, this matchup tilts easily in Michigan’s favor. Dieng’s shot-blocking prowess would seem to be a factor until you consider that McGary handled Jeff Withey just fine in the Sweet Sixteen.

MORE: How McGary moved Michigan to the title game

Backcourt: Here’s where the real fireworks happen. Burke vs. Siva is an intriguing point guard matchup, as we all will watch breathlessly to see if the basket-challenged Siva can put the clamps on premium scorer Burke. Tim Hardaway, Jr. going up against the lightning-quick Russ Smith will be something to see, as well. Things get a bit murkier on the wing, where Nik Stauskas may see more of Luke Hancock instead of Blackshear. If Smith can keep from doing anything too Russdiculous, this one is close.

Bench: Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert have put in important minutes for Michigan, and held their own pretty well. Louisville, on the other hand, has a couple of guys who have gone off recently, in Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock. Now, Hancock played 31 minutes in Atlanta already, so his bench status is a bit of a technicality on some nights, but we have to give the edge to the Cards.

On sheer talent, this is Michigan’s game. On experience and coaching savvy, it’s Louisville all the way.

MORE: Louisville’s unsung heroes thwart Shockers

In terms of style, Michigan has shown an ability to play at any speed. The Wolverines wrecked VCU, which plays a style very similar to what Louisville does, and they’ve run with Kansas, banged with Florida and carved up the Syracuse zone. Louisville has won 15 straight and seems to be able to force the tempo of the game to their own pace. That’s where the true yin-yang of this whole final coalesces. Fortunately, I don’t know which style will win – not knowing is what makes it so intriguing.

Hold on to your hats (especially you, Tim Hardaway, Sr.!) this is going to be an epic title game.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Sex assault count dropped against ex-Creighton player Watson

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped a first-degree sexual assault charge against former Creighton point guard Maurice Watson after questions arose about the accuser’s story.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced Friday that his office had dropped the felony charge, filed earlier this year when a 19-year-old woman accused Watson of assaulting her early Feb. 4 at a party in an Omaha home. Watson has denied that allegation.

The 24-year-old Watson pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor assault for an encounter the same night with a different Creighton student, who said Watson touched her thigh and tried to make her touch his genitals. Watson was sentenced to the five days he’d already served in jail.

Watson was a senior when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in January, just days before the party.

Storm damage forces Paradise Jam out of Virgin Islands

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MIAMI (AP) — The Paradise Jam basketball tournament will not be played in the U.S. Virgin Islands this year because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

The tournament will be played in the U.S., with a new site expected to be announced by Sept. 29.

The Paradise Jam field this year includes Wake Forest, Colorado, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Liberty, Mercer and Quinnipiac, and each of those schools was given the chance to bid for the right to host the tournament.

Tournament officials say they looked at multiple other options, such as moving to another island and using a cruise ship for accommodations, before deciding to move the event to the U.S.

For now, the tournament is scheduled to be played from Nov. 17-20.

Kentucky lands commitment from five-star point guard

Immanuel Quickley (USA Basketball)
1 Comment

Kentucky landed a commitment from Immanuel Quickley on Friday night, a top ten prospect and arguably the best point guard in the Class of 2018.

Quickley picked the Wildcats over Kansas, who he visited earlier this month, and Miami, who he was scheduled to visit before Hurricane Irma struck south Florida.

The 6-foot-3 point guard is the first commitment in the class of head coach John Calipari, and it really comes as no surprise. He’s been considered a Kentucky lean for months, and Quickley played for Calipari on the USA U19 team during the 2017 FIBA World Cup.

While Quickley has the size and the build – he’s 180 pounds with broad shoulders and long arms – of some of Kentucky’s former elite point guards, he’s not the same kind of point guard as, say, De’Aaron Fox or John Wall. He’s more of a smooth athlete than an explosive one, and while his long strides allow him to get out into transition, he’s not the finisher at the rim that those two were. What he is, however, is an intelligent player. He’s good in ball-screens, he’s an excellent passer and facilitator and he is a good enough shooter that he forces defenses to stay honest. He also has the potential to be a plus defender given his physical tools and the fact that he’ll try on that end of the floor.

Where this commitment gets interesting is the current point guard in Kentucky’s back court, Quade Green. Green was a five-star recruit in his own right, but he’s not quite built as a potential one-and-done prospect. Calipari has maneuvered through two point guards in the past, and each of the last five national champions have played major minutes with two point guards on the floor at the same time, but if Green is back next season that will be something to monitor.

That, however, is a long ways away.

What matters now is that Kentucky has gotten this commitment out of the way, and it paves the way for them to also receive a commitment from Zion Williamson. There has long been talk of those two attending college together, and with Quickley on the board, that likely keeps Kentucky in the driver’s seat as they pursue the South Carolina native.

If Kentucky can also wrangle a commitment out of R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the 2018 recruiting class, that would likely be the end of the discussion of whether or not Duke has surpassed the Wildcats on the recruiting trail.

Five-star forward King picks Oregon

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Oregon has nabbed one of the top players in the 2018 class.

Louis King, a top-20 forward, committed to Dana Altman and the Ducks on Thursday via a video on social media.

“It’s been a tough, strenuous process,” King said, “but today makes all of that worth it. I’ve been blessed with great opportunities.”

The 6-foot-8 New Jersey native selected Oregon over other finalists Seton Hall, NC State, Purdue and Kansas.

“I would like to thank each of them for all the time and effort they put into my recruitment,” King said. “I would like to thank my coaches and my teammates that have pushed me and helped get me to this point in my career. My friends for all their love and support, but most of all I would like to thank my family, who has been by my side through it all.”

King is Altman’s second commit in 2018, joining four-star big man Miles Norris, a top-75 recruit in the class. It’s the beginning of what could be an absolutely dynamic class for Oregon, which still has two scholarships remaining.

“Out of all of my schools I felt like it was best for me and my family,” King said to MADE Hoops. “Coach Altman said that I would have the ball in my hands throughout the season. When I get there, it will be an easy adjustment for me with how I handle rock and get my teammates open. Our goal is to win a national championship next year.”

 

Four-star forward Miller Kopp commits to Northwestern

Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images
Leave a comment

Northwestern has a second four-star recruit in its 2018 class.

The Wildcats received a commitment from Miller Kopp, a 6-foot-6 forward, on Thursday, he announced via social media.

“I built a really strong relationship with (coach) Chris Collins and I fell in love with the campus,” Kopp told Scout. “I knew it would be a nice campus and have that stuff, but I think me and him are wired the same way. II think that his personality fits mine and I think we complement each other. I’m definitely excited to be able to go to a program on the rise and be able to make some history.”

Kopp picked the Wildcats over offers from Georgetown, Butler, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. The Houston native is ranked in the top-100 of his class by most recruiting services.

He gives Collins and the Wildcats an exceedingly strong 2018 class, which already featured four-star guard Pete Nance of Ohio along with three-star recruits Jordan Lathon and Ryan Young. It represents a major leap forward for Northwestern. It would appear that the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament appearance last March has brought momentum to the recruiting trail.