Andrew Wiggins won’t be The One at Kansas this season

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.

In The Matrix, Neo might have been The One, but he needed Morpheus, Trinity and Tank to show him the way and watch his back while he learned Kung Fu.

Andrew Wiggins will have that same luxury at Kansas this year. Bill Self will make sure his star takes the crimson and blue pill so he can walk the fine line between artistry and hard work. Wiggins’ teammates will help carry the load. It’s the only way the Jayhawks can lock down yet another Big 12 title, and possibly another trip to the Final Four.

The team concept is vital. It’s a lesson other Big 12 teams have learned the hard way in recent seasons. Remember Michael Beasley at K-State? His single season was a marvel of individual effort, but Kansas won the 2008 league (and national) title in spite of Beasley’s 28 double-doubles. One year prior, Kevin Durant was transcendent at Texas, winning national player of the year honors, but even the Durantula couldn’t wrest the Big 12 trophy from Bill Self’s hands all by his lonesome.

So what’s to keep the same fate from befalling Andrew Wiggins? The Canadian wunderkind has the inside track on the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick and the Naismith Award, and most pundits favor him to be one of the game’s all-time greats over the next two decades. That’s a lot of expectation on one guy.

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Wayne Selden, also a freshman, will be Wiggins’ superstar wingman. (youtube.com screencap)

Here’s the thing – Kansas doesn’t do the one man show. Take a look at the talent arrayed around Wiggins, and you’ll see the makings of a national title contender, though maybe not one as flashy as the one John Calipari has built at Kentucky. Junior Naadir Tharpe will become the primary ballhandler, and he’ll share the backcourt with Wayne Selden, a freshman who would be the team’s most notable player if not for a certain Canadian.

(MORE: Read NBCSports.com’s Big 12 Preview)

In the frontcourt, Self has another newbie in Joel Embiid, an experienced transfer in Memphis’ Tarik Black, and the hard-won wisdom of sophomore Perry Ellis, who learned patience in his own unpredictable freshman campaign.

“I had a lot of ups and downs,” Ellis told NBCSports.com via phone. “I realized I still had a lot to learn about the game. Just by becoming more mentally tough and learning little aspects of the game that coach was teaching.”

Bill Self has never asked one player to carry his squad. His dalliances with one-and-done talent in the past have driven home the point: no one man, no matter how talented, can do the whole job. Xavier Henry needed his teammates to pick up the slack while he learned how to be aggressive and hit the mid-range jumper. Josh Selby had to sit out nine games of his freshman season, and never really became a star as he was expected to. Ben McLemore was Self’s biggest success to date, but last season was hardly a solo performance by the eventual lottery pick.

Wiggins is a different sort of superstar – he can, and likely will, take over games on his own – but he’ll have the support system he needs if things don’t go as planned. Ellis, a blue-chip recruit in his own right, knows that those days will come. He’ll have advice for Wiggins, Selden and especially freshman big man Embiid when things get tough.

“He’ll get down sometimes,” Ellis said. “I went through that too my freshman year. I can relate to him on that. Jeff (Withey) and them would take me under their wing when I wasn’t doing well or got down on myself. That’s what I’m really trying to help them with. When things aren’t going well, just keep competing.”

Wiggins is hard to nail down. He’s the sort of player who can thrive anywhere on the court. He’ll explode eyeballs if his teammates can do the little things that create space for a superstar – setting picks, knocking down zone-busting shots, sealing off defenders in the paint – and that’s the kind of thing Bill Self teams excel at. Ellis pointed out that some of the bench players who will see their time dwindle as the stars take the court will have vital roles to play.

“Andrew White and Brannen Green are good shooters. In practice, we’ve been meshing real well, with guys knocking in shots, or I can get it in the post and kick it back out. I think that will be great for us.”

If you look at Kansas teams of the past, there’s always talent. That’s a given. But Bill Self’s Final Four teams, including his national title winners of 2008, haven’t yet produced a bona fide NBA superstar. With a consensus stud on the roster this season, it’ll be up to the head coach to make sure his supporting cast is never standing and watching as Wiggins defies gravity. Ellis, who struggled to learn his role as McLemore lit up the scoreboard, knows that hard work pays off, even if you’re not the star every night.

“The game started really slowing down for me,” Ellis said. “I realized that my freshman season. It’s a long season but I turned it around at the end.”

Self’s troops, though young, should be primed to hear that wisdom. Even the younger players on the team ooze maturity. Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News – the polar opposite of an attention-hungry internet troll – lobbed a stunning compliment at one of the other freshmen earlier this season.

Wayne Selden does not relent. I’ll say this as directly as possible: Selden is the hardest-practicing freshman I’ve encountered in more than a quarter-century on the college basketball beat.

Wiggins’s athleticism will permit him to do some things college opponents can’t prevent. But those same young men simply won’t want to get in Selden’s way.

Kansas will certainly never turn up its nose at the uber-talented. But a decade’s worth of league titles won over an opponent’s superstar or two ought to prove that Bill Self’s Jayhawks will always win with more than one man, even when that man is the amazing Andrew Wiggins.

Michael Porter Jr. to undergo surgery, expected to miss season

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Michael Porter, Jr. will undergo surgery on Tuesday, Nov. 21, that will cause him to miss the rest of the season, the school announced on Tuesday.

The procedure is a microdiscectomy of the L3-L4 spinal discs.

Toledo’s Taylor Adway dishes up Thanksgiving for program, gives leftovers to local church

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Thanksgiving dinner, on the road, at the team hotel, wasn’t going to cut it for Toledo junior big man Taylor Adway.

Like many players away from their families during the holidays, Adway wanted a home-cooked meal. As the unofficial chef of the Rockets, Adway hatched a plan with Toledo head coach Tod Kowalczyk: he wanted to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the entire men’s basketball program before they departed for a mid-week road trip.

Cooking for 15 players, team managers and five coaches and their families seemed like a daunting Thanksgiving feast for even the most seasoned chef.

Facing four days of cooking for over 30 people, Adway’s roommate, Deshaun Cole, a manager at Toledo, even offered the idea of a pair of HoneyBaked Hams to alleviate some of the burden. Adway shunned his roommate’s last-ditch offer for fresh-and-ready ham. The HoneyBaked Ham was the easy way out.

“I’m, like, no I want to cook these hams. When people eat it, I want them to know that it’s good and that Taylor made it. ‘That ham was good.’ Cooking relieves stress. I get joy from cooking. That’s why I didn’t want to buy nothing already made. I wanted to make everything,” Adway said to NBCSports.com.

After four days of hard labor in the kitchen, Adway put together an unbelievable spread for his coaches and teammates — all of it from scratch — including the first turkey he ever made completely on his own. The meal included:

  • smoked turkey with dressing
  • two hams — one pineapple citrus, one honey-glazed brown sugar
  • two pans of macaroni and cheese
  • sweet potatoes
  • greens
  • fried sweet corn
  • potatoes with string beans
  • cranberry sauce
  • toasted Hawaiian rolls

“A lot of the times, the guys will throw in five bucks and he’ll go and do a variety of different meals and just cook for the whole team,” Kowalczyk said of Adway. “And he just does that on his own at the spur of the moment without coaches asking him to do anything. He just loves to do it. And he’s really, really good at it. Really good at it. The meal that we had last night was amazing.”

Toledo’s players did a smaller-scale Thanksgiving on their own last year where they collected money before Adway cooked. For this year’s feast, Adway thought it would be smart to include the whole program. Not only would the meal bring more people together, it would be considered a “team meal.” The school and coaching staff could help pay for the groceries without NCAA interference.

Going grocery shopping last Wednesday with Director of Operations Justin Ingram, Adway started preparing the feast last Thursday, finishing everything up by Sunday morning. While Adway prepared everything in his kitchen, he called home to speak with his dad, Tony, for advice on handling things. Taylor learned his way around the kitchen from as young as seven years old thanks to his father’s love of cooking and grilling.

“He’s my foundation when it comes to cooking. Now that I’m older and I have my own place with my own kitchen and my own groceries, I try to do things my way. But everything kind of stems back to everything he taught me,” Adway said of his father. “When I was cooking Thanksgiving, I was constantly calling him, asking for advice. I just try to add my own spin to things. I want it to come off as Taylor’s recipe.”

Tony is so good with family recipes that he can often taste minor differences from his cooking and Taylor’s. Sometimes Tony will even point out specific ingredients his son might have used to alter the recipe. Family is a big reason why Taylor has grown comfortable making food. Adway comes from a big family that regularly spends holidays at his Great Aunt Esther’s, as everyone gathers together to eat, play games, laugh and watch football.

When his basketball career is complete, Adway wants to get into coaching, with the hope that he can also open his own restaurant. That means high school coaching is likely more feasible for achieving both goals since it involves less travel.

“I want to continue to play basketball after college, make money, and then save up and open up a restaurant called Triple T’s. Tony, which is my dad. Tyler, which is my brother. And, Tarmika, which is my mother,” Adway said.

“I get joy from making big meals and making new things. Big meals, usually I’m cooking for a lot of people. I just like cooking for people and they’re enjoying my food. And new things, like making stuff that I never made before, and it winds up being good. My confidence with cooking just gets higher and higher.”

Adway doesn’t adhere to traditional methods when it comes to cooking. While he watched Emeril Lagasse growing up, and still enjoys celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri, Adway often sees a video of a recipe and stores it away to try at another moment. Scrolling on Instagram or Facebook will lead Adway to videos of things he wants to cook. One time, Adway took white rice with broccoli, chicken and steak and cooked it inside of a carved-out pineapple. Adway has also made everything from homemade french toast to lasagna and is an expert handling a grill. During the summer on campus, Adway sent group messages to teammates, asking what they wanted to eat. After receiving responses, Adway collected the money he needed for groceries and cooked for his teammates before gatherings.

“I know he’s really good with ribs and chicken on the grill. He’s fantastic on the barbeque,” Kowalczyk said. “He’s great in the kitchen but I think his passion is probably more on the grill side of it. He learned that all from his dad.”

Kowalczyk did assist Adway with some of the Thanksgiving spread for Toledo last weekend, challenging him to see who could make a better turkey and dressing. It was the only assistance that Adway had for the general meal, which also included a dessert table.

“To make it fun, we made it a little bit competitive. We had a turkey contest between myself and him — as well as stuffing. He did everything, I just did turkey and stuffing. His stuff was a lot better than mine. And I think I’m pretty good at it,” Kowalczyk said.

“He didn’t want to give it to me for the stuffing, but I asked my teammates, and everybody was saying mine was better. So, I got him on the cook-off this time,” Adway said.

Although leftovers are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving, the team knew they’d be gone for the next five-to-six days.

While Adway and Cole might not have agreed on the preparation of the ham, the roommates were united in deciding to donate the leftovers to a homeless shelter.

They delivered their Thanksgiving food to the St. Paul Community Church on Monday evening.

Toledo’s Taylor Adway and Deshaun Cole deliver food to a homeless shelter.

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Grayson Allen takes the early lead

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Today, we are rolling out the first installment of the annual NBC Sports College Basketball Player of the Year Power Rankings.

As always, these rankings are quite subjective and based on a consensus of all of my opinions.

Things that are relevant in this discussion:

  • Is the player on a team that can win? Whether it’s getting to the Final Four or winning their league, I can’t nominate a player for a postseason award if they are on a bad team.
  • Does that player put up impressive numbers, whether they are counting stats or advanced metrics?
  • How did he play in big games? Were there any moments that stand out from his season? College football has a Heisman moment. College basketball has about 284 Player of the Year awards, but the principle remains the same.

If your favorite player doesn’t check those three boxes, it’s hard for me to justify putting him on, or ranking him higher, on this list.

Take Allonzo Trier, for example. He’s been on fire for three games. He’s also chewed up three teams that have no business being on the same court as the Wildcats. The three guys above him? They all went nuts in one of the five most impressive wins we’ve seen this season.

Hopefully, that will help dissuade some of the anger lists like this create, (Ha! Right.) o let’s commence with the small sample size fun!

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POWER RANKINGS

1. GRAYSON ALLEN, Duke: Through five games this season, Allen is averaging 18.4 points, 3.4 boards and 3.2 assists. His last two games have been fairly unimpressive; 15 points combined against Furman and Southern while shooting 5-for-18 from the floor and 1-for-10 from three. He’s come back down to earth after the performance he had against Michigan State, when he went for 37 points – 23 in the second half – and hit seven threes as the Blue Devils picked off the Spartans without Marvin Bagley III healthy.

The last two years, a performance in the Champions Classic has vaulted a player atop the National Player of the Year race, and he remained there throughout the year. In 2016, it was Denzel Valentine’s triple-double against Kansas, and while he briefly ceded his lead to Buddy Hield when he got injured early in league play, Valentine did eventually earn a split of the Player of the Year awards; he was the NBC Sports Player of the Year.

Last season, it was Frank Mason that put together a run like that. He hit the game-winner to beat Duke in Madison Square Garden and never looked back. After he did this, is Allen next?:

2. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier: Monday night’s 36-point win over Hampton was the first time this season that Bluiett failed to score at least 25 points in a game; he had 21 on 7-for-9 shooting. It was also the first time that he didn’t make at least three threes in a game; he only shot three and hit two of them. On the season, Bluiett is now averaging 24.3 points while shooting 62.5 percent from the floor, 55.6 percent from three and 22-for-23 from the free throw line.

That’s efficiency.

But the biggest reason Bluiett is No. 2 on this list is for his performance at Wisconsin. He struggled to find a rhythm in that game but still managed to score 25 points and make some massive shots in the second half, including a pair of threes within the span of a minute that broke a tie and sealed Xavier’s win.

3. JORDAN MURPHY, Minnesota: We’re only four games into the season, but Murphy is emerging as the guy that might be able to challenge Miles Bridges for National Player of the Year. He has four double-doubles this season, has yet to score fewer than 18 points in any games, is averaging 24.8 points and went for 23 points, 14 boards, three blocks and two assists as the Golden Gophers went into the Dunkin Donuts Center and knocked off a good Providence team by 12 points.

If you thought that Murphy was going to be Minnesota’s best player and the strength of that team was going to be their front court, you are a lying liar that’s full of lies.

4. ALLONZO TRIER, Arizona: No player in college basketball has had a hotter start to the college basketball season than Trier. Through three games, he’s leading the nation in scoring at 30 points while shooting 70 percent from the floor and 58.8 percent from three. He has 90 points in three games and it’s taken him 40 shots to get there. It’s early, but his offensive rating is 150.9, according to KenPom. That’s insane.

5. MILES BRIDGES, Michigan State: So this is how tough it is to be Miles Bridges this season: The Spartans are 2-1 on the season with a pair of blowout wins and a loss to the No. 1 team in the country when the No. 1 player in these rankings went for 37 points. Bridges, in those three games, is averaging 19.7 points, 7.0 boards, 2.7 blocks and 2.0 assists while shooting 41.2 percent from three on nearly six 3PAs per game.

And it feels like he hasn’t done much of anything through the first two weeks of the season. Sometimes the burden of expectation can be heavy.

Miles Bridges (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

6. MANU LECOMTE, Baylor: In a league that suddenly looks very deep in the back court, Lecomte has been the Big 12’s best player to date. He’s averaging 21.5 points and 3.8 assists through four games and just had his best performance on Monday night, putting 24 points and five assists on Wisconsin to advance to the Hall Of Fame Classic title game.

7. KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders have a bonafide star in senior lead guard Keenan Evans, who was the best player on the floor as Texas Tech knocked off Boston College (Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman) and Northwestern (Bryant McIntosh and Scottie Lindsay) to win the Hall Of Fame Classic at Mohegan Sun this weekend. He averaged 27 points in the two games while the three players  mentioned combined to shoot 11-for-34 from the floor.

8. JORDAN MCLAUGHLIN, USC: The USC program has struggled early on this season, as they are trying to find a way to get minutes for the 10 guys on their roster that deserve minutes while navigating the waters of an FBI investigation. They are still without De’Anthony Melton, who plays a role on that team that no one else can play. And when it looked like that would cost them a win at Vanderbilt, McLaughlin stepped up and ended any talk of that nonsense.

If the 37 points that Allen put on Michigan State wasn’t the most impressive individual performance of the season, McLaughlin’s 35 points in Memorial Gymnasium was. He put his team on his back and willed them to a win they weren’t going to get any other way:

9. BONZIE COLSON, Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are 4-0 on the season and Colson is averaging 20.8 points, 10.8 boards and 3.0 blocks. They still haven’t really beaten anyone yet. Here’s to hoping we get to see Colson go up against Wichita State in the Maui finals.

10. KHYRI THOMAS and MARCUS FOSTER, Creighton: It’s hard to pick between the two here, so for now I’ll just list them both. Creighton has been one of the most surprising teams in the country, winning games at Northwestern and against UCLA on a neutral floor already this season. Thomas is the better defender of the two and has clearly improved his ability to play on the ball; in the past he’s been nothing but a 3-and-D guy. But Foster has been Creighton’s best scorer and is their most dangerous offensive weapon. One will emerge as their Player of the Year candidate before too long, but for now they both deserve the mention.

LSU rallies late for 77-75 win over Michigan in Maui

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LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Tremont Waters hit a step-back jumper, got back into his defensive and poked the ball free near midcourt. He dove to the floor, grabbed the ball and, in one motion, heaved it blindly over his head toward teammate Skylar Mays, alone at the other end.

Impressive stuff from a freshman, even one considered among the nation’s top point guard.

Waters scored 21 points and set up the go-ahead basket with his spectacular no-look assist, helping LSU rally for a 77-75 victory in the Maui Invitational on Monday night.

“Tremont Waters just made some incredible plays,” Michigan coach John Beilein said.

LSU (3-0) trailed by nine with about 5 minutes left, but chipped away at the lead to get within reach. Waters tied it with a step-back jumper and followed with his highlight-reel, steal-and-assist to Mays for a dunk and a 76-74 lead with 1:14 left.

Waters hit 1 of 2 free throws with 5.8 seconds after Michigan’s Charles Matthews went 1 for 2 at the line, giving the Wolverines (3-1) a final chance. Matthews, who had 28 points, got a shot from the wing off, but it came up short, sending LSU’s players racing off the bench in cheers.

Aaron Epps had 14 points for the Tigers, who move on to face No. 13 Notre Dame in Tuesday’s semifinals.

Moritz Wagner had 24 points for Michigan.

“Obviously, you could tell by the way we reacted, that was a huge win for us, huge,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “I’m so proud of our players. We turned the page on our program tonight.”

LSU and Michigan are in rebuilding years, the Tigers after Wade replaced Johnny Jones, the Wolverines after losing a trio of stars.

LSU opened the season with a pair of walkover victories against Alcorn State and Samford. Michigan had a pair of lopsided wins sandwiched around a tight victory over Central Michigan.

The Tigers struggled defensively a year ago under Jones, but were more active early in their Maui opener, harassing the Wolverines into difficult shots.

Wagner and Matthews were able to find some holes in LSU’s defense, helping the Wolverines to keep it close in the first half.

The Tigers shot well — 12 for 22 — but struggled holding onto the ball, turning it over 11 times. LSU led 31-29 at halftime on a buzzer-beating finger roll by Mays.

Once the tight first half ended, the second turned into an offensive show, with the Tigers and Wolverines trading made baskets nearly every trip.

LSU’s Brandon Sampson had a thunderous dunk over a defender and Waters followed with a power-spinning, how-did-he-do-that layup as he was falling to the floor.

Wagner and Matthews kept dropping in jump shots for Michigan to stay close.

LSU went up seven, but Michigan went on a 10-0 run to go up 58-53. Michigan tried to run away with it, but the Tigers kept hanging around, pulling within 73-72 on Epps’ 3-pointer with 2 minutes left to set up Waters’ final flourish.

“He’s a great player, great team,” Matthews said. “Felt like we had great defensive execution, so I give credit to them, but I feel like we did a good job.”

THE TAKEAWAY

LSU showed a lot of determination for a young team, rallying late against a solid Michigan team when it could have folded.

The Wolverines had a trip to the semifinals in their grasp, but didn’t make enough plays down the stretch.

UP NEXT

LSU faces No. 13 Notre Dame in Tuesday’s semifinals

Michigan plays Chaminade in the loser’s bracket on Tuesday.

Berry scores 29 points as No. 9 UNC beats Stanford 96-72

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STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — Joel Berry II had no intentions of repeating his poor shooting performance from the last game.

He showed up at Maples Pavilion more than a half-hour before his teammates for Monday’s shootaround, putting up some 200 extra shots from all over the floor — and it worked wonderfully.

Berry scored 29 points, Kenny Williams posted career highs with 20 points and six 3-pointers, and No. 9 North Carolina beat Stanford 96-72 on Monday night in a matchup of Roy Williams against his former player-turned coach, Jerod Haase.

“I just wanted to bounce back from not shooting as well last game,” said Berry, who shot 1 for 11 last week against Bucknell. “That’s why when I hit the shots I was just smiling just because I expected to hit those shots.”

Luke Maye added 12 points, nine rebounds and five assists for the defending champion Tar Heels (3-0), who improved to 11-0 against the Cardinal.

Reid Travis scored 21 points to lead Stanford (3-2), while Isaac White added 20.

Second-year Cardinal coach Haase played for 15th-year UNC coach Williams at Kansas and also coached under him at North Carolina from 2003-2012. They were all smiles together in recent days leading up to the sold-out, nationally televised game and reunion at Maples Pavilion.

“It was a lot of personal things today. This was an emotional day for me, this morning talking about Jerod,” Roy Williams said. “It was emotional when I got up on the bench and started down here and then I saw Jerod. I don’t think I looked at him a single time during the game.”

Berry shot 10 for 19 with five 3-pointers and Williams went 7 of 11 and 6 for 8 on 3s. Williams made North Carolina’s first five field goals on seven shots as the rest of the team missed its initial six attempts until Brandon Huffman’s dunk at the 12:54 mark of the first half.

After falling behind 11-6, the Tar Heels answered with a 24-4 run to take control and led 50-36 at halftime.

Stanford was picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 and held its first four opponents to an average of 67 points while scoring 75.3. The Tar Heels topped 90 points for the second time in three games.

“Once the game starts I do think I kind of lose myself in the game and Coach Williams probably does, too,” Haase said. “Having Carolina in the building is a special deal.”

Stanford is short-handed as Dorian Pickens and Marcus Sheffield nurse foot injuries, putting three freshmen in the starting lineup.

Berry and Williams shouldered the load after the North Carolina bench contributed 26 points in a 93-81 victory against Bucknell last Wednesday.

MISSED FREE THROWS

Stanford’s struggles at the free-throw line contributed to the Cardinal losing this one.

His team down 55-44, Travis missed two free throws with 16:09 remaining in the game, Theo Pinson immediately hit a jumper on the other end, and Stanford wound up 17 for 28 (60.7 percent) from the line.

“It’s disappointing when we’ve got a run like that,” Travis said.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels hadn’t visited Stanford since Dec. 3, 1983, earning an 88-75 victory in the championship game of the Stanford Invitational despite Michael Jordan fouling out in just eight minutes and scoring four points in Dean Smith’s 500th win. … UNC improved to 2-0 in games vs. Stanford at Maples Pavilion.

Stanford: The Cardinal faced their first ranked opponent after going 0-8 in such games last season. No. 3 Kansas also is on the schedule for a Dec. 21 game at Sacramento’s second-year Golden 1 Center. Haase dropped to 2-17 against ranked opponents as a coach. He is one of only three to play for Williams and later coach against him. Williams is now 3-1 coaching against Haase — previously at UAB — while also having coached against former players Wes Miller and Rex Walters. … This marked the first men’s basketball sellout at 7,233-seat Maples since Oregon’s visit on March 1, 2015.

UP NEXT

North Carolina: Plays Thursday against Terry Porter’s Portland team at the PK80 Invitational for Phil Knight’s 80th birthday in Portland.

Stanford: The Cardinal face another tough task in No. 7 Florida at the PK80 event Thursday.