Saturday’s Pregame Shootaround: Villanova and Iowa Battle 4 Atlantis

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GAME OF THE DAY: Villanova vs. No. 23 Iowa (9:30 p.m., NBCSN)  

Saturday’s best game features two undefeated teams as the No. 23 Hawkeyes (7-0) will face the Wildcats (6-0) for the championship of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Villanova upset Kansas last night to make the championship game while Iowa knocked off UTEP. It appears as though Villanova head coach Jay Wright has some of the grit and toughness of past Wildcat teams and it will be interesting to see how they matchup with a deep Iowa team that has a lot of experience.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: UTEP vs. No. 2 Kansas (7:00 p.m., NBCSN)

In the third-place matchup of the Battle 4 Atlantis, UTEP (4-3) meets up with the No. 2 Jayhawks (5-1), who suffered their first defeat of the season in Friday night’s semifinal loss to Villanova. Although UTEP fell to Iowa in the other semifinal, they will surely get a boost knowing that they get to face the No. 2 team in the country, so although Tim Floyd’s team won’t win the Battle 4 Atlantis, they can at least get a shot at playing a top team tonight. The Miners have the size to matchup with the Jayhawks at most positions, but Kansas has superior athleticism.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: Eastern Kentucky vs. North Carolina State, 8:00 p.m. (ESPN3)

There aren’t many games going on tonight, but one to keep an eye on for a potential upset is Eastern Kentucky visiting North Carolina State. The Colonels are a potent 6-1 team without a true road test, but with four double-digit scorers led by guard Glenn Cosey. Cosey has scored 20 points in four straight games and is averaging 19.6 points a game this season while he would also act as Eastern Kentucky’s closer, having going 41-for-44 from the free throw line this season. The Wolfpack have a lot of talent, but lost at home earlier this season in overtime to North Carolina Central, so they can slip-up from time-to-time. North Carolina State rebounded nicely after that loss with a 20-point win over Dunk City, but Eastern Kentucky can score enough to potentially upset the Wolfpack on the road if North Carolina State gets to a slow start.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: New Mexico State vs. Colorado State 6:00 p.m. (ROOT)

The Aggies have won seven straight games since dropping their season opener to Western Michigan and they’ll be tested today as they face host Colorado State in the Colorado State Challenge. With the WAC being down this season after conference re-alignment completely changed the look of the conference, New Mexico State has a chance to test itself in the next four games as they face the Rams, in-state rival New Mexico, Gonzaga and Arizona in their next four games. Colorado State finds itself at 5-2 on the season and is hoping to win their own challenge as they continue to figure out their rotation after last season’s Round of 32 appearance.

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW: 

1) After a surprising 6-1 start, Penn State faces Ole Miss (5-0) in the Barclays Center Classic today. The Nittany Lions knocked off St. John’s in overtime to advance to face Ole Miss and will look to build on their strong start.

2) Virginia had a nice win over SMU last night in the Corpus Christi Classic and now they face undefeated Missouri State. The Bears knocked off Texas A&M and are 6-0 this season as they’ll be a team to watch in the always tough Missouri Valley Conference.

3) BYU and Utah State will square off tonight in a neutral site contest in Salt Lake City in what should be a really good game. The Cougars have lost two of their last three games — to Top 25 teams Iowa State and Wichita State — and will look to right the ship against 5-0 Utah State. Utah State started the season with a solid victory over USC and also own a big win over Mississippi State early this season.

4) If you’re up for some late-night hoops, TCU and Harvard will meet for the Great Alaska Shootout title tonight. TCU has made a nice run to the title game with a win over host Alaska Anchorage and Tulsa after starting the season 0-2. Harvard is one of the premier mid-major teams in the country and a win at the Great Alaska Shootout would look positive for potential seeding purposes in the NCAA Tournament.

5) In the consolation of the Corpus Christi Challenge, nonconference in-state rivals SMU and Texas A&M meet. This game doesn’t have many implications on the floor except for being a solid match-up of high-major teams at this point in the season. Texas A&M hasn’t had a lot of tests this season, but blew a halftime lead over Missouri State yesterday, so it will be interesting to see how they bounce back.

THE TOP 25: 

  • UTEP vs. No. 2 Kansas, 7:00 p.m. (NBCSN)
  • North Dakota vs. No. 14 Oregon, 6:30 p.m. (PAC 12)
  • Villanova vs. No. 23 Iowa, 9:30 p.m. (NBCSN)

NOTABLES: 

  • Lipscomb vs. Georgetown, 12:00 p.m. (FSN)
  • Xavier vs. USC 1:00 p.m. (AXS)
  • St. John’s vs. Georgia Tech 2:00 p.m.
  • San Diego vs. New Mexico 3:00 p.m. (ROOT)
  • Tennessee vs. Wake Forest 3:30 p.m. (AXS)
  • Rhode Island at George Mason 4:00 p.m.
  • Penn State vs. Ole Miss 4:30 p.m.
  • New Mexico St. vs. Colorado State 6:00 p.m. (ROOT
  • SMU vs. Texas A&M 6:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
  • BYU vs. Utah State 9:00 p.m.
  • Virginia vs. Missouri State 9:00 p.m. (CBSSN)
  • TCU vs. Harvard 12:30 a.m. (CBSSN)

Brad Underwood pokes fun at his version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’

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On Thursday afternoon, Brad Underwood, the new head coach of Illinois, was invited to Wrigley Field to throw out the first pitch and sing ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’ during the seventh inning stretch.

While the ceremonial first pitch went well, his rendition of the ballpark classic did not go as smoothly.

Underwood was at least able to poke fun at his vocals following his performance.

“I’d rather coach naked than sing in front of 40,000,” Underwood said afterward. “There’s a reason my wife won’t let me sing in church.”

Underwood took over Illinois in mid-March following a one-year stint at Oklahoma State. He had previously led Stephen F. Austin to three NCAA Tournament appearances in as many seasons.

 

AAC plan men’s basketball tourney at new Texas arena in ’20

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The American Athletic Conference will hold its men’s basketball tournament in a new arena in North Texas in 2020.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that Dickies Arena in Fort Worth has been selected to host the tournament for three years, starting in March 2020. That is only four months after the facility is scheduled to open.

On the same day of a groundbreaking ceremony for the 14,000-seat arena last April, the NCAA announced that first- and second-round games of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would be held there. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are scheduled there from 2020-22.

The closest AAC school to the new arena is SMU, with its campus in Dallas about 40 miles away.

Orlando will host the 2018 AAC tournament, which moves to Memphis in 2019.

After hearing, UNC now awaits NCAA ruling in academic case

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North Carolina has wrapped up a two-day hearing with an NCAA infractions committee panel that will decide whether the school faces penalties tied to its multi-year academic scandal.

Now the case goes into yet another holding pattern.

School officials spent much of Wednesday in a closed-door meeting with committee members in Nashville, Tennessee. They returned Thursday morning for a second session lasting about 4½ hours with the panel that will determine whether UNC faces penalties such as fines, probation or vacated wins and championships.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn confirmed the hearing was complete but both sides were mum afterward.

Osburn didn’t comment further because the panel must deliberate before issuing a ruling, which typically comes weeks to months after a hearing. UNC athletics spokesman Steve Kirschner said the school wouldn’t have any comments about the hearing either.

Getting through the hearing process was a major step toward resolution in a delay-filled case tied to irregular courses, though there’s still the potential for the case to linger beyond a ruling if UNC decides to appeal or pursue legal action. The school faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control.

The focus is independent study-style courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The courses were misidentified as lecture classes that didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for typically high grades.

In a 2014 investigation, former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

The case grew as an offshoot of a 2010 probe of the football program that resulted in sanctions in March 2012. The NCAA reopened an investigation in summer 2014, filed charges in a May 2015, revised them in April 2016 and then again in December.

Most notably, the NCAA originally treated some of the academic issues as improper benefits by saying athletes received access to the courses and other assistance generally unavailable to non-athletes. The NCAA removed that charge in the second Notice of Allegations (NOA), then revamped and re-inserted it into the third NOA.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority and that the NCAA was overreaching in what should be an academic matter .

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC has argued non-athletes had access to the courses and athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It has also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

UNC chancellor Carol Folt, athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell attended both hearing days. Football coach Larry Fedora, who wasn’t at UNC at the time in question, attended Wednesday’s session.

None of the coaches are charged with a violation. But football and men’s basketball are referenced in the broad-based improper benefits charge tied to athlete access to the irregular courses, while women’s basketball is tied to a charge focused on a former professor and academic counselor Jan Boxill providing improper assistance on assignments.

Boxill and Deborah Crowder, who is also charged individually in the case, attended Wednesday with their attorneys but didn’t return Thursday. Crowder is a former AFAM office administrator who enrolled students, distributed assignments and graded many of the papers in irregular courses.

The infractions panel is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Kansas’ forward Dedric Lawson accused of walking out on $88 bar tab

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Dedric Lawson has been accused of walking out on an $88 bar tab, according to a police report obtained by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

Here’s what allegedly happened: He was at a bar in Overton Square in Memphis at 1:30 a.m. when he was handed a bill for more than $88 by a waitress. That waitress, who said she went to high school with Lawson, told police that he walked out of the bar and got into a Nissan Maxima and left without paying the bill.

Dedric has denied the allegation. Appearing on 92.9 FM, an ESPN radio station in Memphis, he said that he ordered two drinks worth a total of $10.50 and gave the waitress $12, but she wanted him to pay for drinks that were ordered by other people for other people. He did not order or drink those drinks, Lawson said, so he did not want to pay for them.

Lawson transferred from Memphis to Kansas this offseason. He was suspended by the Jayhawks for an altercation in practice last month and left home from the team’s trip to Italy earlier this month. He averaged 19.9 points and 9.2 boards for the Tigers last season, and will be sitting out this year as a transfer at Kansas.

Late on Wednesday, another former Tiger, Joe Jackson, was arrested on felony drug and gun charges.

College programs in Barcelona safe after terror attack

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August is the time that college basketball programs take their overseas trips, and one of the most popular destinations for that travel is Barcelona.

On Thursday evening, tragedy struck in one of the city’s most popular tourist locations, as a van driven down Las Ramblas struck pedestrians. Local authorities have confirmed there are fatalities and are terming the incident a “terror attack”.

RELATED: NBC News has the latest on the incident

At least five programs are currently in Barcelona: Clemson, Arizona, Oregon State, Grand Canyon and Tulane. All five programs have released statements confirming that all members of the traveling parties are safe and accounted for.

The attack occurred right outside Clemson’s hotel. The team is currently on lockdown.

According to Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle, the attack “happened directly in front of our hotel while we were having a team meal in the restaurant.”