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Sunday’s Pregame Shootaround: Memphis and Oklahoma State meet in Old Spice Classic title game

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 21 Memphis (7:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Twelve days ago, Marcus Smart went off for a career-high 39 points, reasserting his place in the player of the year conversation, in Oklahoma State’s 101-80 rout of Memphis. The Cowboys and Tigers meet in the Old Spice Classic title game on Sunday night. In the semifinals, the Cowboys held on to defeat Butler with a blocked shot from Michael Cobbins. The Tigers hung tough and erased a second half deficit to defeat LSU to help set up Sunday’s rematch.

Does Marcus Smart go off on Memphis again? Or does Josh Pastner and his Tigers win the big game and silence critics?

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 25 Marquette vs. San Diego State (9:30 p.m., ESPN2)

San Diego State looks to close out the Wooden Legacy with its second consecutive win over a top 25 team. On Friday night, the Aztecs jumped out to an early lead and prevented a comeback attempt to knock off No. 20 Creighton. Marquette previously lost to Ohio State and on the road against Arizona State. Sunday night’s game is made more important with a game against Wisconsin next weekend.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 12 Wichita State vs. Saint Louis (1 p.m., CBSSN)

It’s going to be a defensive battle between the Shockers and Billikens. Wichita State is coming off a CBE Classic win over BYU, holding the Cougars to 62 points. Wichita State will have to face a tough defense of its own against a Saint Louis team that is forcing opponents to shoot less than 40 percent from the field. Emotions will be high inside Chaifetz Arena as the Billikens will honor Rick Majerus, who died one-year ago today.

MID-MAJOR GAME OF THE DAY: Iona vs. Florida Gulf Coast (2 p.m., ESPN3)

Both these teams qualified for the NCAA tournament last season — being slate as No. 15 seeds — and each team is projected to contend in their respective conferences again this season. Iona comes in a .500 while Florida Gulf Coast suffered its second loss of the season against North Carolina State on Tuesday.

FOUR THINGS TO KNOW: 

1) LSU lost to UMass during the Tip-Off Marathon and then again to Memphis on Friday. The Tigers are matched up with Butler in the Old Spice Classic third-place game. Sunday afternoon offers another opportunity for LSU to land a quality out-of-conference victory.

2) Two weeks ago, Belmont went into Chapel Hill and shocked the Tar Heels. The Bruins host another challenging opponent in VCU on Sunday, as Havoc tries to get back on track after two losses in Puerto Rico last week.

3) Kentucky’s December schedule features games against Baylor, Boise State, North Carolina, Belmont and Louisville. The Wildcats kick off the month against Providence at the Barclays Center.

4) North Carolina has had an up-and-down two weeks. Tar Heels lost to Belmont at home then struggled against Richmond before coming back and dominating Louisville. UNC is back in action on Sunday against a solid UAB team. Following Sunday’s game, North Carolina prepares for No. 1 Michigan State on Wednesday night in East Lansing.

THE TOP 25: 

  • Providence vs. No. 3 Kentucky (8:30 p.m.)
  • Coppin State vs. No. 11 Gonzaga (8 p.m.)
  • Cal Poly vs. No. 14 Oregon (10 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
  • No. 16 North Carolina vs. UAB (6 p.m.)
  • Hardin-Simmons vs. No. 16 Baylor (3 p.m.)
  • George Washington vs. No. 20 Creighton (6:30 p.m., ESPNU)

NOTABLES: 

  • Cornell vs. Notre Dame (1 p.m., ESPN3)
  • Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Seton Hall (2 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
  • Stephen F. Austin vs. High Point (2 p.m.)
  • Norfolk State vs. LIU Brooklyn (2 p.m.)
  • Butler vs. LSU (2 p.m., ESPNU)
  • Miami (FL) vs. Arizona State (2 p.m., ESPN3)
  • Oregon State vs. DePaul (4 .m., Fox Sports 1)
  • VCU vs. Belmont (5 p.m., ESPN3)

VIDEO: Kansas’ Carlton Bragg misses breakaway dunk

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There are few things more exciting in sports than a player dunking on a fast break.

There are few things funnier than a player flubbing that dunk.

Kansas’ Carlton Bragg proved that second point Monday in the second half of the No. 1 Jayhawks’ game at Allen Fieldhouse against Oklahoma.

There’s a strange beauty in that, isn’t there?

Motley plays big in No. 11 Baylor’s win over No. 10 West Virginia

Baylor forward Johnathan Motley (5) reacts to a play against Texas in first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in Waco, Texas. Baylor won 74-64. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald via AP)
Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald via AP
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Even as Baylor has floundered some down the stretch, the Bears have been able to count on Johnathan Motley being a monster. The 6-foot-10 forward has been putting up numbers and shooting up draft boards.

Against No. 10 West Virginia, he showed off all his skills – and it resulted in a win, as the 11th-ranked Bears topped the Mountaineers, 71-62, in Waco on Monday in a much-needed victory.

Motley was superb once again, going for 23 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and two assists in 35 minutes. He shot it well from the field, going 6 of 12, but was a perfect 11 of 11 from the free-throw line. It was a big-time performance, especially with point guard Manu Lecomte out with an ankle injury.

Monday was nothing particularly special in terms of performance from Motley as he’s been consistently great during Big 12 play. He had 27 and 11 against Iowa State and 21 and 16 against Oklahoma just last week alone. He’s been overshadowed some by Baylor’s early season success – the story was the Bears and coach Scott Drew, not Motley – and that Frank Mason is not only the no-doubt Big 12 player of the year, but maybe the frontrunner for the national award as well.

He’s been really, really good.

Motley is averaging just short of a double-double with 17.3 points and 9.8 rebounds along with 1.0 blocks per game. He’s not the double-double machine of Caleb Swanigan, but he’s got nine during Big 12 play. He also put up 32 points and 20 rebounds against Texas. There aren’t many better performances than that around the country.

Against the Mountaineers, Motley struggled some early, going 1 of 5 from the field with just four points in the first half. He made five of his next seven shots, though, and made nine second-half free throws to score 19 after the break to get Baylor in the win column after a three-losses-in-four-games stretch.

Jo Lual-Acuil rightfully gets a ton of credit for being the anchor of Baylor’s defense, but pairing the 7-footer with Motley is what makes the Bears’ defense so stout. Teams have an effective field goal percentage of just 44.8 against the Bears and are making just 43.8 percent of their shots inside the arc. The length of Lual-Acuil and Motley is a huge reason why.

The game was somewhat rare for West Virginia as the Mountaineers forced 18 turnovers, which was at a rate of 26.5 percent (better than their Big 12 average), and still lost. Some of it certainly can be attributed to the absence of forward Esa Ahmad, who was out with a back injury, but 3 of 15 shooting from 3-point range was a killer overall.

West Virginia and Baylor are jockeying with Iowa State for second place in the Big 12, but if everyone holds serve, it’ll be a three-way tie in the country’s toughest conference. If the Cyclones can win in Morgantown on Friday, though, Steve Prohm’s group will claim the spot outright. If West Virginia wins, the most likely scenario (assuming Baylor beats Texas) puts the Mountaineers second, Baylor third and Iowa State fourth for the tournament in Kansas City next week.

No. 23 Virginia holds No. 5 North Carolina to 43 points in statement win

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - FEBRUARY 27: Kyle Guy #5 of the Virginia Cavaliers shoots the ball during Virginia's game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at John Paul Jones Arena on February 27, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)
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What a difference a week makes.

Just eight days ago, down in Chapel Hill, North Carolina handed Virginia the kind of whooping that changes the narrative of a season. The final score was 65-41, but that really doesn’t do it justice. At one point late in the second half, the Wahoos were trailing 63-36.

The story was totally different on Monday night.

Despite digging themselves a 7-0 hole in the first two minutes of the game, No. 23 Virginia knocked off No. 5 North Carolina, 53-43, in a revenge game. The Tar Heels haven’t been held to 43 points or less in a game since Feb. 24th, 1979, and that game came before the shot clock was introduced to college basketball. Dean Smith’s Tar Heels stalled for the entire first half, taking just two shots and heading into half time down 7-0.

They would eventually lose 47-40:

The previous low for points scored by a Roy Williams-coached UNC team was 45 points when they lost 57-45 at Syracuse on Jan. 11th, 2014.

That should give you an idea of just how impressive Virginia’s defense was on Monday night before you factor in that the Tar Heels are one of the nation’s top five offensive teams, according to KenPom. But they just never could get into any kind of a rhythm. Tony Bennett had them scouted to perfection, eliminating Kennedy Meeks from the game with his patented post-doubles and using London Perrantes to harass Justin Jackson for 40 minutes. Jackson never once looked comfortable, not for one possession.

With the loss, the Tar Heels now need to beat Duke in the season finale at the Dean Dome to win the outright ACC regular season title.

And while the attention for this win is going to be on UNC and their struggles, the real story here is Virginia.

UVA’s loss to UNC last Saturday was their third loss in a four-game losing streak. They snapped that streak against N.C. State over the weekend, and seemed to find their groove again on Monday. Their issue has never been on the defensive side of the ball; it’s their ability to score, and they may have found their cure: Kyle Guy. The kid with the top-knot that is incorrectly referred to as a man-bun by everyone. (Trust me on that.)

Guy had played just two minutes in the overtime loss to Miami earlier in the week and was just 1-for-10 from the floor in the previous three games, a stretch where UVA scored just 144 points in 125 minutes of basketball. He had 19 points in the win over N.C. State and 17 points on Monday night, hitting five threes and providing UVA with a go-to option offensively. He’s uniquely suited to playing the role that Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris have played because he’s a lights-out shooter with quick feet, a quick release and an ability to read defenses as a runs off of screens. His presence opens up their offense.

As long as he’s good enough defensively, he’ll be able to see the floor.

And if he’s good enough defensively, UVA can be good enough offensively to win games like this.

Prosecutors detail allegations against Creighton’s Watson

OMAHA, NE - JANUARY 21: Maurice Watson Jr. #10 of the Creighton Bluejays receives and ovation before their game against the Marquette Golden Eagles at CenturyLink Center on January 21, 2017 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images
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Former Creighton star Maurice Watson appeared in front of a Douglas County judge Monday after turning himself into authorities Sunday following the issuance of a warrant for his arrest Thursday on the charge of first-degree sexual assault.

Watson’s bail was set at $750,000, which he would have to produce 10 percent of to be released from jail.

Prosecutors also detailed some of the allegations against Watson from the night of Feb. 3, when a 19-year-old woman alleges he raped her. Graphic details of the prosecution’s allegations can found here.

Watson’s attorneys said he denies the allegations.

Creighton said Sunday that Watson is barred from campus and not enrolled as a student, according to the Omaha World-Herald.  The Bluejays announced last week that Watson, who has been sidelined since tearing his ACL last month, had been suspended.

Coaches Poll: Gonzaga drops to fourth

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few (Getty Images)
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Gonzaga feel from first to fourth in the latest Coaches Poll after suffering its first loss of the season over the weekend.

Kansas moves into the top spot with UCLA and Villanova tied at No. 2.

The Bulldogs lost 79-71 to BYU at home after winning the first 29 games of the season.

The Jayhawks have won six-straight heading into Monday’s tilt with Oklahoma.

Here’s the full poll:

1. Kansas (23)

2. UCLA (3)

2. Villanova (5)

4. Gonzaga (1)

5. North Carolina

6. Oregon

7. Louisville

8. Arizona

9. Kentucky

10. West Virginia

11. Baylor

12. Florida

13. Notre Dame

14. Duke

15. Butler

16. Purdue

17. Florida State

18. Saint Mary’s

19. SMU

20. Cincinnati

21. Wisconsin

22. Wichita State

23. Virginia

24. Iowa State

25. Miami