Victory at LSU a big deal for Rhode Island, Atlantic 10

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The task of rejuvenating a struggling basketball program can be a difficult one, and that was certainly the case for Dan Hurley when he accepted the Rhode Island coaching job in the spring of 2012. The Rams were coming off of a seven-win season, with roster turnover and poor play being major issues. As expected the Rams took their lumps in 2012-13, winning a total of eight games and finishing with a 3-13 record in Atlantic 10 play.

But hope springs eternal, and prior to the start of this season the presence of some talented newcomers had many expecting the Rams to make strides in 2013-14. On Saturday night Hurley’s Rams took an important step in the right direction, winning 74-70 at LSU with two first-year players among the key contributors.

Guard E.C. Matthews, who along with forward Hassan Martin was expected to be an impact freshman this season, accounted for 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists and Rutgers transfer Gilvydas Biruta added 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Rams. Senior guard Xavier Munford, who joined the program as a junior college transfer and is the A-10’s leading returning scorer from last season, added 17 points to go along with six rebounds and Biggie Minnis dished out six assists.

For a team that entered the game having one just one true road game this season, at Brown on Thursday, winning LSU represents an important step in the right direction.

“This was a great win.  LSU is a really talented, well-coached team,” Hurley said after the game according to the school’s website. “We had a stretch where we struggled against their pressure, but our team had great resolve.  The tough road schedule we have played so far helped us tonight.  We are thrilled to be a nine-win team.”

Why was Rhode Island able to win at LSU? One area to consider would be the rebounding numbers. Facing one of the most talented front courts in the SEC, Rhode Island rebounded 43.2% of its missed shots and out-rebounded the Tigers 46-32 on the night. While that didn’t lead to an edge in either second-chance points (14-8 LSU) or points in the paint (34-26 LSU), for Rhode Island to hold its own when facing the likes of Jordan Mickey and Johnny O’Bryant III speaks volumes of the progress being made in Kingston.

Saturday’s result gives Rhode Island some positive momentum as they move on to Atlantic 10 play, and they’ll need it with expected contender Saint Louis visiting the Ryan Center on Tuesday night. But before moving on to that contest, what Rhode Island accomplished in Baton Rouge is something that its fans need to take notice of. While their win doesn’t mean that the rebuilding process is complete, it does serve as more evidence that coach Hurley and his staff have the Rams moving in the right direction.

Jalen Coleman-Lands cleared to practice

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Jarrod Uthoff #20 of the Iowa Hawkeyes defends against Jalen Coleman-Lands #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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When Illinois takes on Southeast Missouri State in the opener of the 2016-17 season, the Fighting Illini should have it’s starting backcourt out on the floor.

According to Jon Rothstein, Jalen Coleman-Lands has been cleared for all basketball activities. The sophomore two-guard has been recovering from a broken bone in his right hand.

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.

Coleman-Lands will team up with Tracy Abrams, a point guard who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing the past two seasons due to injuries.

This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.

The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.

NBC Sports projected Illinois to finish eighth in the Big Ten this season.

Curtis Jones jumps over Tom Crean

Tom Crean
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Indiana held its annual Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night.

One of the highlights from the team’s dunk contest was when freshman guard Curtis Jones jumped over Indiana head coach Tom Crean.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a newcomer us his coach as a dunk contest prop. Last week, Rawle Alkins cleared Arizona head coach Sean Miller en route to a reverse jam.

Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.

WATCH: Edmond Sumner take off from the foul line

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Edmond Sumner #4 of the Xavier Musketeers dunks the ball during the game against the St. John's Red Storm at Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Edmond Sumner is a big reason why Xavier is likely going to be a preseason top-10 team.

On Saturday night, during Musketeer Madness, Sumner won the team’s dunk contest when he took off from the foul line.

Sumner defeated freshmen Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin. J.P. Macura, the reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year, took home the honors last year.

The 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore is coming off a debut season in which he averaged 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

WATCH: Duke goes crazy for Chase Jeter’s bottle flip

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Chase Jeter #2 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on in the second half against the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The bottle flip has become an international sensation in recent months.

It’s as simple as it sounds: flipping a water bottle in the air, attempting to have it land upright.

Duke sophomore forward Chase Jeter, in front of 9,300-plus fans, successfully pulled off the bottle flip on Saturday night at Duke’s Craziness.

Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.

Auburn to honor Charles Barkley with a statue

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04:  Former NBA player and commentator Charles Barkley looks on prior to the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.

The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.

“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”

Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.

His number 34 is retired at Auburn.