Weekend Preview: Saturday will be the best college hoops day of the year

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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 1 Syracuse at No. 5 Duke, Sat. 7:00 p.m

This game has lot a bit of luster, hasn’t it? Three weeks ago, the Orange and the Blue Devils played the best game of the season. The rematch was supposed to be between a streaking Duke team and an undefeated Syracuse team. Instead, the Orange lost at home to Boston College while the Blue Devils dropped a game at North Carolina.

The key here? What is Duke going to be able to do against the Syracuse zone. They struggled when Maryland went zone last Saturday. They lost on Thursday because North Carolina switched to a zone, and while the 2-3 that Syracuse runs is very different from the junk defenses that the Terps and the Heels threw at them, it still doesn’t change the fact that Duke’s offense has struggled getting the ball into the middle of the defense.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 11 Louisville at No. 7 Cincinnati, Sat. 12:00 p.m.

This is the start of Louisville’s brutal last-season slate. In their last five games, they play at Cincinnati, at SMU, at Memphis and at home against UConn. The Cardinals have been much improved from the team that we saw earlier this season, but they’ve done it beating up on lesser competition that, quite frankly, they should be beating up on. Cincinnati, for lack of a better word, big-boyed the Cardinals the first time these two got together. Russ Smith vs. Sean Kilpatrick will be fun.

THE OTHER, OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 13 Michigan State at No. 20 Michigan, Sun. 12:00 p.m.

The two team in first place in the Big Ten square off on Sunday afternoon. Both the Spartans and the Wolverines and struggled a bit of late, however. Michigan State is finally starting to get healthy again, as Keith Appling is now back in the lineup. The Wolverines, who won the first matchup, have got to find a way to get Nik Stauskas more involved in ball-screen action as we head into the season’s final weeks.

FIVE MORE TO WATCH:

  • No. 16 Wisconsin at No. 15 Iowa, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: The Badgers seem to have righted their ship in recent weeks, which makes this win all the more important for an Iowa team that has yet to really prove themselves.
  • St. John’s at No. 9 Villanova, Sat. 1:30 p.m.: The Johnnies are probably on the wrong side of the bubble as of today, but that would certainly change if they can continue their hot streak and pick off the Wildcats.
  • LSU at No. 18 Kentucky, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: The last time these two got together, LSU smacked Kentucky around in Baton Rouge. It will be interesting to see how Kentucky responds in their own building.
  • No. 19 Texas at No. 8 Kansas, Sat. 7:30 p.m.: Texas might be the team best-equipped to beat Kansas given the size that they have along their front line. They can match up with the Kansas big men, and as long as Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix are making good decisions, they’ll have a shot to win at Phog Allen.
  • No. 6 San Diego State at New Mexico, Sat. 10:00 p.m.: New Mexico is probably on the right side of the bubble right now, but they’re closer than they want to be. The Aztecs are easily the best available win for the Lobos, and they actually matchup with them fairly well. A shot at the MWC regular season title would probably go out the window with a loss.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?

  • No. 2 Florida at Ole Miss, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: This will be the last chance for Ole Miss to do something that gets them in position to be an at-large team. They have to win this. If Florida plays the way they did against Auburn, it just might happen.
  • No. 23 UCLA at Stanford, Sat. 6:00 p.m.: UCLA is playing the best ball of anyone in the Pac-12 right now, but Stanford is a pesky team that could use the win to solidify their tournament resume. Who guards Kyle Anderson though?
  • George Washington at No. 10 Saint Louis, Sat. 8:00 p.m.: The Colonials picked up a big win at Richmond this week, which means that they won’t be at risk of a three-game losing streak should they drop this game. The Billikens struggled with George Mason on Wednesday, however.
  • No. 4 Arizona at Colorado, Sat. 9:00 p.m.: In November, this looked like it was going to be the best game of the Pac-12 season. That was before ACL injuries to Spencer Dinwiddie and Brandon Ashley.
  • SMU at No. 21 UConn, Sun. 2:00 p.m.: SMU has struggled on the road, but they have the pieces to give UConn a run.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1) A key Ivy League battle will be played on Sunday afternoon on the NBC Sports Network. Yale will be visiting Columbia. Yale is in first place in the Ivy League. On Saturday night, Cornell taking on Brown will be on the NBC Sports Network as well.

2) Drake will visit No. 3 Wichita State on Saturday at 8:00 p.m., one of three teams that will have a shot to end Wichita State’s undefeated regular season.

3) Texas Tech will make their return trip to Oklahoma State on Saturday, marking Marcus Smart’s first game back from a three-game suspension for shoving a fan in the Cowboys’ loss … at Texas Tech.

4) Two more excellent games that are a bit off the radar: VCU at UMass, Fri. 7:00 p.m.; and Kansas State at Oklahoma, Sat. 4:00 p.m.

5) The weekend’s biggest bubble games:

  • Xavier at Georgetown, Sat. 11:30 a.m.
  • Baylor at West Virginia, Sat. 1:47 p.m.
  • Marquette at DePaul, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • N.C. State at Virginia Tech, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • Tennessee at Texas A&M, Sat. 3:00 p.m.
  • Fordham at Saint Joseph’s, Sat. 3:00 p.m.
  • La Salle at Richmond, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
  • Saint Mary’s at Santa Clara, Sat. 4:00 p.m.
  • Minnesota at No. 24 Ohio State, Sat. 6:00 p.m.
  • Missouri at Alabama, Sat. 8:00 p.m.
  • Purdue at Nebraska, Sun. 4:15 p.m.
  • Florida State at Pittsburgh, Sun. 6:00 p.m.
  • Providence at Butler, Sun. 6:00 p.m.
  • Arizona State at Utah, Sun. 8:00 p.m.
  • USC at Cal, Sun. 8:00 p.m.
  • Washington State at Oregon, Sun. 9:00 p.m.

Report: NCAA allows Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale to compete on Dancing with the Stars

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After a memorable March Madness run that included two game-winning jumpers in the Final Four and an eventual national title, Notre Dame junior guard Arike Ogunbowale became a breakout national star.

Ogunbowale already appeared on Ellen while meeting her basketball idol, Kobe Bryant. Now, Ogunbowale will get the rare opportunity to appear on Dancing with the Stars — which the NCAA will allow even though Ogunbowale is still a rising senior who is scheduled to return to school next season.

Dancing with the Stars compensates its contestants and also has a prize for the winner. Under NCAA Bylaw 12.4.1, college athletes cannot be compensated based on their athletic abilities.

But the NCAA is arguing that Ogunbowale’s appearance on the show is “unrelated to her basketball abilities,” according to a statement they released regarding the decision. According to a report from Jacob Bogage of the Washington Post, the NCAA is also limiting Ogunbowale’s visibility for the show’s promotional tools.

From the Washington Post report:

The NCAA has placed restrictions on Ogunbowale that limit her involvement with the show and her potential to build her brand. She is not allowed to appear in promotional materials for the show, including commercials, according to the NCAA’s statement. She didn’t join other contestants during a group appearance on “Good Morning America” last week. Show handicappers have already wondered whether the NCAA’s limits will hurt her chances.

And the NCAA could turn down future requests by arguing that Ogunbowale is not endorsing “Dancing with the Stars” by appearing on the program, but instead is participating in a “personal growth experience” by learning how to ballroom dance, said Barbara Osborne, a professor of exercise and sport science at the University of North Carolina.

This is a slippery slope for the NCAA to take with this. Ogunbowale is, quite clearly, a famous basketball player. She’s on Dancing with the Stars because of her basketball abilities. The NCAA arguing anything else is just silly and embarrassing. The NCAA is also trying its best to uphold its argument about amateurism in the only way they know how.

But could this also could be a sign that the NCAA is perhaps open to the potential of allowing athletes to profit off of themselves in the future? The NCAA is currently handling a number of different court cases regarding amateurism, so it’s hard to say where all of this might go until the legal process starts to clear up.

Either way, this should be a fun experience for Ogunbowale while providing great national exposure for herself and women’s basketball. Ogunbowale might not be technically allowed to build her own brand during the show, but she’ll be gaining tons of new exposure for her basketball future — regardless of what the NCAA says in a statement.

Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab diagnosed with leukemia

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Memphis center Karim Sameh Azab announced on Saturday that he’s been battling leukemia lymphoma.

The 6-foot-11 big man from Egypt has been receiving medical treatment since the beginning of April as he took to Twitter to announce his current status.

Sameh Azab played in 15 games this season for the Tigers as he saw action for 84 total minutes. The reserve big man was a late addition in former head coach Tubby Smith’s first recruiting class at Memphis as he didn’t quality to play during his first season.

“Karim has my full support and the support of our whole team,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said in a statement earlier this month. “While we appreciate the support of the Tiger family in this matter, we would also like to protect the privacy of Karim and his family.”

South Dakota State’s Mike Daum declares for 2018 NBA Draft without an agent

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South Dakota State big man Mike Daum will enter the 2018 NBA Draft without an agent, he announced on Friday.

The 6-foot-9 redshirt junior has been a mid-major draft darling the past few seasons as Daum was one of the most productive players in the country last season. Putting up 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, Daum shot 46 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range during the season.

With his size and unique floor-spacing ability, Daum is going to be an interesting player to track during the NBA draft process. Teams are always looking for big men who can space the floor, and if Daum shoots well in workouts, he could wind up staying in the draft.

If Daum returns to South Dakota State, then he once again makes them a major NCAA tournament contender after the Jackrabbits won the Summit League last season.

Marquette lands Fordham grad transfer Joseph Chartouny

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Marquette pulled in a quality graduate transfer commitment on Friday as Fordham guard Joseph Chartouny pledged to the Golden Eagles.

The 6-foot-3 Chartouny was a three-year starter for the Rams as he should help offset the loss of guard Andrew Rowsey to graduation. While Chartouny isn’t nearly the perimeter threat that Rowsey was, he should be able to help significantly on the defensive end for Marquette. Chartouny put up 12.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.3 steals per game last season as he was one of the more productive all-around players in the Atlantic 10.

One of the nation’s leaders in steals the past three seasons, Chartouny has much better size to play alongside Markus Howard in the Marquette backcourt than Rowsey (5-foot-11) had. Since Howard is also 5-foot-11, Chartouny can now guard the bigger and more athletic perimeter matchup as Marquette tries to improve its porous defense from last season.

Marquette still has an open scholarship for next season as they’ve been investigating other transfer options to bolster the roster. Returning most of last season’s roster, the expectation will be for the Golden Eagles to make it back to the NCAA tournament next season.

Syracuse’s Tyus Battle to test NBA draft waters

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Syracuse announced on Friday afternoon that sophomore guard Tyus Battle will be declaring for the NBA draft without signing with an agent, giving him until the NCAA’s May 30th deadline to withdraw from contention and return to school.

Battle averaged 19.2 points as a sophomore for the Orange, who made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

He is a projected late-first round or early-second round pick given his size, shooting ability and skill with the ball in his hands.

Losing Battle would be a massive blow to a Syracuse team that is already going to be without Matthew Moyer, who transferred out of the program, and Dareus Bazley, who is heading to the G League instead of enrolling in college.