30 consecutive hours of basketball capped by the Champions Classic. It doesn’t get better than that.
You can read our full preview of the Champions Classic right here. This post isn’t about previewing. It’s about predicting. Each of our writers take a stab at who will win tonight’s matchups: No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Michigan State and No. 4 Duke vs. No. 5 Kansas.
Michigan State 75, Kentucky 71: I’m riding with Michigan State’s experience in this one. I love Gary Harris, I think Branden Dawson will be able to hold his own against Julius Randle, and I just have a feeling that the moment just might be too big for some of Kentucky’s youngsters.
Duke 81, Kansas 71: Duke can spread the floor out against Kansas the exact same way that Iowa State did last season, and if you remember, Iowa State nearly beat Kansas twice. The biggest difference? Iowa State was good, Duke is awesome.
Michigan State 78, Kentucky 74: At this point in the season I’ll take the “old” men, with the Spartans have a little more experience in games like this.
Kansas 86, Duke 79: Love Parker and Wiggins, but on this night I see Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden having big performances.
Kentucky 73, Michigan State 67: With the way Julius Randle is playing at the moment, I just don’t see how Kentucky loses to Michigan State.
Duke 82, Kansas 74: Kansas has a ton of talent for a late season run, but Duke is meshing well early and their offense can really move the ball at times and play unselfish ball.
Michigan State 75, Kentucky 68: Kentucky is the most talented team in the country, but the youngsters need to get punched in the mouth once as a “welcome to college basketball” moment; Michigan State’s experience does that tonight.
Kansas 80, Duke 77: Naadir Tharpe’s return to the lineup makes Andrew Wiggins better and more comfortable in his second game.
Michigan State 75, Kentucky 70: Kentucky entered the season as the best team, but the Wildcats are running into a veteran Michigan State team. Also, let’s put a nice, quick end to the ‘is Kentucky going undefeated?’ storyline.
Duke 81, Kansas 72: Yes, the Jayhawks have Naadir Tharpe back. Yes, KU has the better frontline. But I’ll take the chance, and I’ll go with Duke and Jabari Parker back in his hometown.
Virginia announced the departure of two players Wednesday.
Marial Shayok and Jerred Shayok will both transfer out of the program, the school said.
“Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future.”
Shayok, a a 6-foot-5 junior, played 20.9 minutes per game last season for the Cavaliers, averaging 8.9 points and 2.4 rebounds per game while shooting 44.5 percent from the floor. The Ottawa native started 23 games in three seasons with Virginia.
Reuter played a minimal role for the Cavaliers, averaging just 10.8 minutes and 3.8 rebounds per game.
Wake’s Collins declares for NBA draft without hiring agent
There may be an overwhelming assumption on where Michael Porter, Jr. – and his father – will ultimately end up, but the five-star recruit is said publicly that he see his re-recruitment process through.
Porter, Jr. said in a teleconference Wednesday that he will ask for his release from Washington, and his father, a former Huskies assistant, has been offered a job at Missouri by new Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin.
“Right now I’m just trying to take it slow with my family and weigh my options,” Porter Jr. said, according to the Kansas City Star. “I plan to get my (national letter of intent) from Washington back and just go from there, not saying that I’m not going to Washington anymore, but I just want to get it back and weigh my options.”
The Wildcats coach has received a two-year extension, keeping him under contract in Lexington through the 2024 season, the school announced Wednesday.
The contract will pay Calipari $7.75 million next season and increase to $8 million per season thereafter.
“John has achieved consistent championship-level performance at Kentucky,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “No one in America is better suited for everything that comes with being the coach here. Not only has he attained incredible success on the court, he is also a leader in our community and in college basketball.
“We have been blessed to have him and Ellen here for the last eight years and we are blessed they will continue to call Kentucky home.”
Not only does the deal extend Calipari, but it continues to keep Kentucky competitive with the NBA, which would seem to be the only outlet that would even potentially tempt Calipari away from Kentucky. An NBA franchise would have to make him among the highest-paid coaches in the league to even match Kentucky financially.
Of course, given that Calipari has spurned interest from the league since returning to college in 2000, it seems unlikely that financial considerations would be the lone or heaviest variable in making a decision to move on.
Certainly, Calipari has an excellent thing going at Kentucky as the premier recruiting program in the country that has enjoyed serious success on the court, culminating in a 2012 national title and a 38-0 start to the 2015 season before a loss in the Final Four.
“The last eight years at the University of Kentucky have been a terrific ride,” Calipari said in a statement. “This extension shows our full commitment to each other. I believe this school is the gold standard and I’m so thankful and blessed that this university has given me this opportunity at this point in my career.”
The Wildcats face UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday.
Louisville’s Mitchell declaring for draft, won’t hire an agent
Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell is the latest to decide to see what the NBA might offer.
“I have decided to test the waters and not hire an agent!” Mitchell wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday. “I am excited to work out this summer for teams and hopefully participate in the NBA combine! I want it to be clear I have not decided to leave Louisville!”
Mitchell, who is expected to be joined by dozens of players, is taking advantage of new NCAA rules that allow him to work out for teams and attend the NBA draft combine before making a decision on whether to remain in the draft and return to school.
Players have until May 24 to withdraw from the draft and return to school.
Mitchell averaged 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a sophomore, shooting 40.8 percent overall and 35.4 percent on 3-point attempts.
The 6-foot-3 guard is projected as a potential first-round pick, but should he return, the Cardinals would project as one of the top teams in the country with nearly the entire core returning from this year’s 25-9 squad.