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Late Night Snacks: No. 5 Duke beats No. 1 Syracuse

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GAME OF THE DAY: No. 18 Kentucky 77, LSU 76 (OT)

A Julius Randle basket in the final seconds of overtime proved to be the difference as Kentucky beat the Tigers in Lexington. Aaron Harrison scored 21 points and James Young added 20 as the young Wildcats have now won two straight since losing to No. 2 Florida last Saturday. As for LSU, they missed out on what would have been a valuable win for a resume that needs quality results. And with both Missouri and Tennessee also losing, this was not a good day for SEC bubble teams.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) No. 5 Duke 66, No. 1 Syracuse 60

The rematch wasn’t as high scoring as the first game between the Blue Devils and Orange, but it didn’t lack for entertainment. Jabari Parker scored 19 points and grabbed ten rebounds in what may have been his most complete effort as a Blue Devil, and on the other side Syracuse’s starting guards struggled offensively. The big play: a charge called on C.J. Fair with 10.4 seconds remaining that ultimately led to Jim Boeheim being ejected. And as a result of this outcome Virginia has sole possession of first place in the ACC.

2) No. 11 Louisville 58, No. 11 Cincinnati 57 

This finish set the tone for the day, with Russ Smith’s jumper with just under three seconds remaining moving the Cardinals into a tie for first place in the American. An underrated aspect of the game-winning play: Terry Rozier being calm enough to get the ball back to Smith as opposed to forcing up a tough shot. Cincinnati got off to a rough start offensively but managed to claw their way back into the game with the reserves being a key reason why. But it was Louisville that got the win, and they showed some signs of being capable of making a deep run this season.

3) No. 16 Wisconsin 79, No. 15 Iowa 74 

Wisconsin picked up another quality win, holding off the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. Frank Kaminsky led the way with 21 points and seven rebounds, and with the Badgers playing as they have been of late it’s time to ask if Bo Ryan has a team that can contend for the national title. As for Iowa, shoddy late-game execution did them in and likely ended their hopes of winning the Big Ten.

STARRED

1) Stephen Holt (Saint Mary’s)

35 points on 14-for-17 shooting in the Gaels’ 76-54 win at Santa Clara.

2) Langston Galloway (Saint Joseph’s) 

Galloway shot 10-for-15 from beyond the arc, scoring 33 points in the Hawks’ 87-72 win over Fordham.

3) Cedric Kuakumensah (Brown) 

Kuakumensah accounted for 30 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots in Brown’s 81-75 overtime win at Cornell.

STRUGGLED

1) Codi Miller-McIntyre (Wake Forest)

Miller-McIntyre went scoreless in the Demon Deacons’ 105-72 loss at North Carolina, missing all seven shots from the field and accounting for four assists and three turnovers.

2) Xavier Thames (San Diego State)

Scored seven points on 3-for-15 shooting in the Aztecs’ 58-44 loss at New Mexico.

3) Branden Frazier (Fordham) 

Frazier, averaging 18.1 points per game, scored just two points on 1-for-8 shooting in the Rams’ 87-72 loss at Saint Joseph’s.

NOTABLES

  • No. 3 Wichita State moved to 29-0 with an 83-54 win over Drake. Tekele Cotton scored 21 points for the Shockers, who are the first team to go 29-0 since Illinois did it in 2005.
  • No. 2 Florida may be the nation’s top team come Monday but they had to work hard to ensure that, beating Ole Miss 75-71 in Oxford. The Gators are now 14-0 in SEC play.
  • No. 4 Arizona made quite the statement on Saturday night, clamping down on Colorado in an impressive 88-61 victory in Boulder. The Wildcats also shot 60% from the field and now lead the Pac-12 by two games.
  • No. 8 Kansas avenged their loss at Texas with an 85-54 whipping of the 19th-ranked Longhorns in Lawrence. Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points and Frank Mason added 14 for the Jayhawks, who are poised to win their tenth consecutive Big 12 regular season title.
  • New Mexico beat No. 6 San Diego State 58-44 in Albuquerque, moving into a tie for first place in the Mountain West as a result. Cameron Baristow accounted for 26 points and nine rebounds for the Lobos.
  • On a day that saw multiple bubble teams fail to help themselves, Stanford beat No. 23 UCLA 83-74 in Palo Alto. Chasson Randle, Josh Huestis and Anthony Brown combined to score 66 points for the Cardinal.
  • Stephen F. Austin won its 22nd consecutive game in exciting fashion, as a Jacob Porter steal and dunk with three tenths of a second remaining gave the Lumberjacks a 70-68 win over Northwestern State.
  • Southern Miss outscored UTEP 36-17 over the final 15:18 to beat the Miners 77-68 in Hattiesburg. The win pulled the Golden Eagles into a four-way tie for second place in Conference USA, with Middle Tennessee now in sole possession of first place.
  • Johnny Dee scored 16 points and Duda Sanadze added 15 as San Diego upset No. 25 Gonzaga, 69-66. Kevin Pangos scored just four points on 2-for-8 shooting.
  • Cal-State Northridge knocked off UC Irvine 81-75, dropping the Anteaters into a tie for first place in the Big West with UCSB. UC Irvine and UCSB meet Thursday night in Irvine.
  • Davidson beat Wofford 59-49 to maintain its two-game lead in the SoCon. De’Mon Brooks scored 18 points in the win.
  • No. 10 Saint Louis moved to 12-0 in the Atlantic 10 with a 66-59 home win over George Washington. The Billikens, who have won 19 straight games, lead Saint Joseph’s by three games.
  • Oklahoma beat Kansas State 86-73 in Norman, and the Wildcats have just one true road victory on the season: at TCU.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

Nova leads Inaugural Never Forget Tribute Classic field

Jalen Brunson
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NEWARK, N.J. (AP) NCAA champion Villanova will play Notre Dame and Pittsburgh faces Penn State in the inaugural Never Forget Tribute Classic at Prudential Center on Dec. 10.

The matchups were announced Wednesday. The event will partner with the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund, which helps support the education of children of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The Villanova-Notre Dame game will be part of a doubleheader on CBS with the Army-Navy football game.

Looking Forward: Just how good will Duke be, and when will the 40-0 chatter start?

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As we take a look at ahead at the 2016-17 season, we’re also going to take a deeper dive into what we think will end up being some of the biggest storylines next season.

Today, we’re talking Duke and the potential for a 40-0 season.

There’s a strong argument to make that, in the years since Duke and head coach Mike Krzyzewski fully embraced the one-and-done era, his 2016-17 roster will be the strongest that he has coached.

Stronger, I’d argue, than the 2015 team that produced the three first round picks, including Jahlil Okafor, the No. 3 pick, and Justise Winslow, who went 10th. The kicker? Neither of those two were the stars of the 2015 Final Four. That title belongs to Tyus Jones, who was selected 25th in 2015, and Grayson Allen, a probable first-round pick who returns to school this season as a reigning second-team all-american.

Think about this for a second.

Allen was one of the ten-best players in college basketball last season. He’s a guy who could have snuck into the first round had he opted to enter his name into the NBA Draft, but is coming back to school for his junior year after averaging 21.5 points and 3.5 assists as a sophomore.

And there’s a very real chance that he could end up being the fourth option offensively for the Blue Devils next season. That’s what happens when a program brings in the likes of Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Frank Jackson, to say nothing of the potential that they also land Marques Bolden*. Those are two of the top three, three of the top ten and, if they land Bolden, four of the top 16 players in a class many believe to be as strong and as deep as any we’ve seen in the recruiting rankings era.

*(Bolden has yet to announce where he will be playing his college ball. His list is down to Duke and Kentucky, but there is no timetable yet for when a decision is going to get made.)

Throw in the return of Luke Kennard, Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones, and what you have is a roster that is talented, deep and balanced, enough so that Duke will likely end up being the consensus No. 1 team in the country come November despite the fact that the likes of Kansas, Kentucky, Villanova and Oregon are going to be very, very good as well.

If it were Kentucky fielding a roster like this, the 40-0 chatter would’ve started before the Wildcats were bounced in the second round of the NCAA tournament. When will that discussion pop up, and is there really a chance that this group can pull it off?

Well, the answer to both of those questions is slightly more complicated than simply comparing old Kentucky rosters to what this Duke roster is projected to be.

Duke’s Grayson Allen, center, handles the ball as Long Beach State’s Nick Faust, left, and Long Beach State’s Noah Blackwell (3) defend during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C. Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015. Duke won 103-81. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
Grayson Allen (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

For starters, the ACC is a much tougher conference than the SEC. Even with the unbalanced schedules, it’s almost impossible for Kentucky to play as tough of a conference slate as Duke will play on an annual basis. The ACC is coming off of a year where six teams reached the Sweet 16 and next season, the league may be even better; the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 features four ACC teams in the top ten, five in the top 15 and seven in the top 25. That doesn’t include Miami, Pitt or N.C. State, who adds one of the best point guards in the country in Dennis Smith Jr.

     RELATED: What does the ACC have in store for the 2016-17 season?

It also ignores just how difficult it is for anyone to make it through league play unscathed. The last time any team posted an undefeated ACC regular season was back in 1999, when a Duke team led by Trajan Langdon and Elton Brand — a team many consider to be among the best college basketball teams of all-time — finished league play 18-0 and entered the NCAA tournament with just a single loss on their record. In fact, the last time that an ACC team finished league play with just one loss was Maryland’s title-winning team in 2002.

That’s not all.

All of that happened at a time when Louisville, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Miami and Pitt were playing in the Big East or Conference USA and when Virginia was an ACC cellar-dweller, not a perennial top ten program.

And Kentucky?

Well, they’ve run through their SEC schedule with an undefeated record twice in the last five years, not to mention that Florida went 18-0 in SEC play back in 2014. It’s not all that surprising when you think about it like this: the team that finished 9th in the ACC this season reached the Final Four, while two of the three teams that tied for third in the SEC were left out of the NCAA tournament.

     RELATED: The 2016-17 Preseason Top 25

The other thing that you have to consider here is that this Duke team doesn’t exactly have a flawless roster construction.

The biggest concern to me is the point guard spot. Jackson is a terrific player. He’s going to have a major impact at the college level, he could end up being a one-and-done guy and he’ll likely have more than a few highlight plays throughout the season. But he’s also a prototype of the new breed of point guard: An athletic scorer that gets put into a lead guard role because he can handle the ball and no one at the lower levels of basketball can stop him. Tyus Jones, he is not, and that’s where the loss of Derryck Thornton has the potential to hurt this Duke team. Jackson also happens to be the only point guard currently on the roster, so instead of allowing Thornton to play 15-20 minutes on the ball, Jackson is going to have to embrace being a full-time point guard on a team with four or five guys that can take over a game.

How he embraces that role will be particularly relevant, because the other issue with Duke’s roster is that their top four perimeter players — Jackson, Tatum, Allen and Kennard — are all scorers at heart. They’re at their best with the ball in their hands, making a play for themselves. They’re not known for being the kind of players that make their teammates better. That doesn’t mean they can’t — Allen did, after all, average 3.5 assists — it just means that their best skill is scoring the ball.

East forward Jayson Tatum, from Chaminade in St. Louis dunks against the West team during the McDonald's All-American boys basketball game, Wednesday, March 30, 2016, in Chicago. The West won 114-107. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Jayson Tatum (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

The biggest concern here may be with Tatum. He’s got the tools to be a tremendous player — he’s a smooth, 6-foot-8 small forward with an advanced handle, a soft touch and sneaky athleticism — but he’s also a guy whose biggest strength is his mid-range pull-up game. Does he have the strength and explosiveness to get to and finish at the rim? Will he get more comfortable shooting college threes? How will be operate in a system where the number of times that he’ll be allowed to go one-on-one is limited?

Last season, Coach K’s offense was built around putting Allen, Brandon Ingram and Kennard into isolations because no one could stop those guys. Funneling the ball to two or three players worked when the other two spots on the floor were taken Marshall Plumlee and Matt Jones. It was like watching the Oklahoma City Thunder play. They don’t need a “pure” point guard when they have two players that are unstoppable.

But this season?

When Duke’s loaded with first round-caliber talent?

It will be interesting to see how Coach K molds all of those pieces together, but fit is not the only concern for this group.

     RELATED: Eight programs on the rise | And seven on the decline

Giles shredded his knee prior to his sophomore year in high school — torn ACL, torn MCL, torn meniscus — and while he was seemingly back to full health by his junior season, he tore the ACL in his other knee at the start of his senior year. He had two surgically repaired knees before he even enrolled in a summer school class at Duke. How healthy will he be, and how long will it take for him to return to the player that was at one point considered the consensus top prospect in the class?

And if Giles isn’t healthy or Duke opts to put a cap on the minutes that he plays, and if they don’t land Bolden, will there be a post presence to take the pressure off of their perimeter attack?

So no, this Duke team isn’t going to be perfect.

But then again, who is?

Every high schooler in the country has to make an adjustment in college, when they’re playing with and against a higher level of competition. And every coach in the country will tell you they’d rather find a way to get talented players to embrace their role than try to coach up kids that aren’t good enough.

Duke is going to be the best team on the floor every time they step on the court this season. They’re not always going to be the favorite — road games in league play can do funky things to betting lines — but they are always going to have the most talent.

Will that lead to an undefeated season?

I seriously doubt it. But hey, if Leicester City can with the Premier League, anything can happen.

Just, please, don’t bet your mortgage on it happening.

Duke, Cincinnati lead Hall of Fame Tip-Off

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski gestures during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Florida State in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
(AP Photo/Ben McKeown)
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) Duke and Cincinnati, 2016 NCAA Tournament teams, highlight the eight-team field for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

The participants for the Nov. 19-20 event were announced Wednesday.

Also in the field are Rhode Island, Penn State, Grand Canyon, Albany, Marist and Brown.

The teams, split into two four-team brackets, will play two doubleheaders at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Duke, Cincinnati, Penn State and Rhode Island will meet in the Naismith Bracket, while the others will play in the Springfield Bracket.

The teams will play two early round games at campus sites from Nov. 11 through Nov. 16.

Brandone Francis-Ramirez transferring out of Florida

Florida State center Jean Marc Christ Koumadje (21) fouls Florida guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015, in Gainesville, Fla. (Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
(Matt Stamey, The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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Brandone Francis-Ramirez is transferring out of the Florida program, the school announced on Wednesday.

A former top 40 recruit, Francis-Ramirez had his two seasons in Gainesville ruined by an academic issues and a loss of confidence. He was academically ineligible in 2014-15, practicing with the team during the second semester. He was granted a redshirt for the year, but he struggled to find any kind of a rhythm this past season. There was a two-month stretch in the middle of the year where he shot 6-for-58 from the floor and 2-for-31 from three.

On the season, he shot 20.2 percent from the floor and 16.9 percent from three.

“I want it to work out for him,” Gators coach Mike White said in a release. “We really appreciate what Brandone did here and wish him the best.”

One of Villanova’s title game stars undergoes knee surgery

Phil Booth, Jack McVeigh
(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
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The forgotten star of the national title game underwent an arthroscopic on his left knee on Wednesday.

Phil Booth, who scored a season-high 20 points in the 2016 National Title game, will be a junior next season and one of the guys called upon to help replace Ryan Arcidiacono, who graduated. He should be ready to go by the middle of the summer; according to a statement put out by the program, Booth will need 6-to-8 weeks to heal.

“Phil is as mentally tough a young man as we have had at Villanova,” head coach Jay Wright said in the release. “He continually impresses our coaching staff with his outstanding attitude. Phil will attack this recovery challenge with great determination, as he does everything in life.”

Booth averaged 7.0 points and 2.2 assists this past season.