Oklahoma v Kansas

No. 5 Kansas locks up 10th straight Big 12 title, an incredible feat

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Naadir Tharpe scored 12 of his 19 points in the final six minutes, adding five assists and just a single turnover while shooting 6-for-7 from the floor as No. 5 Kansas knocked off Oklahoma, 83-75, earning the Jayhawks at least a share of their 10th straight Big Ten title.

I’ll get back to that in a second, because it’s an incredible feat, but first I want to talk about Tharpe.

Five Jayhawks scored in double-figures on Monday night, including four others that will likely end up being first round picks by the time they leave Lawrence. Two of them, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, will likely end up going No. 1 and No. 2 in the NBA Draft in June. But with Kansas up 76-71 with just over a minute left in the game, Bill Self called a timeout to draw up a play for Tharpe.

That play?

A simple 1-4 high-set, allowing his junior point guard to go one-on-one. Tharpe repayed him with a driving lay-in that put the Jayhawks up seven and all-but iced the game.

Oh, and did I mention that Tharpe is this team’s question mark?

Tharpe has had an up-and-down career with Kansas, but he’s been tremendous for the Jayhawks during conference play. He still has some bouts of inconsistency — the end of the Texas Tech game, for example, where he had two unforced turnovers and airballed a three in the final minutes — but the bottom-line is that when he is playing well, Kansas is near-unbeatable this season.

And he’s been playing well more often than not of late.

Which is why Kansas became the first power conference team to lock up at least a share of their league’s regular season title, the 10th consecutive season that is the case.

I hope all of you appreciate just how difficult that is to do, especially in a power conference. For comparison’s sake, only four teams currently have streaks of three consecutive regular season titles currently intact: Belmont (Atlantic Sun and OVC), Bucknell (Patriot), Harvard (Ivy) and Long Beach State (Big West). Only two of those programs, Belmont and Harvard, are currently in first place in their conference this season, while LBSU is a game back with four games left.

Only four other programs in Division I history have ever won ten straight regular season titles: Gonzaga (2001-2011), UNLV (1983, 1992), UCLA (1967-1979) and UConn (1951-1960).

In the last ten years, North Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA, Indiana, UConn, Louisville, Arizona, Ohio State, Florida and Syracuse have all missed the NCAA tournament at some point. Michigan State lost 15 games in 2011. Duke finished sixth in the ACC in 2007 and got Eric Maynor’d in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

In a day and age where early entry to the NBA Draft has forced programs at the highest level of the sport into a cycle of rebuilding that is faster than ever, Self has kept Kansas in control of the league for an entire decade. Think about this: three of these ten league titles have come without Kansas returning a single starter.

Including this season!

He’s locked up the toughest conference in the country in February with three regular season games left on the schedule.

And this was supposed to be the season that the streak ended.

Indiana lands four-star Class of 2017 wing Justin Smith

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Indiana landed an athletic wing commitment on Monday night as four-star small forward Justin Smith pledged to the Hoosiers on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith is a native of Lincolnshire, Illinois and comes from Stevenson High School as he’s regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings.

A high-flying wing who is great in the open floor, Smith should fit the Hoosiers’ uptempo system perfectly and if he’s able to get a more consistent perimeter jumper then he has a chance to be a really nice piece for Indiana.

Smith joins three-star guard Al Durham in Indiana’s recruiting Class of 2017.

Michigan State addingTom Izzo Hall of History wing in remodeled Breslin Center

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 22:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts against the Virginia Cavaliers during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo has already been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall and the longtime Spartans head coach is receiving another unique honor in the remodeled Breslin Center.

The school announced over the weekend that the Tom Izzo Hall of History will be added to the Breslin Center renovations as the building is supposed to be completed by the fall of 2017.

“The Tom Izzo Hall of History will become a great gathering place on our campus where together we can celebrate the excellence of Spartan Basketball and MSU Athletics,” athletic director Mark Hollis said in a release. “When this facility project is complete it will be the finest college basketball facility in the country, so it’s only fitting that Tom’s name will be a permanent part of it.”

Overall, this is a nice addition to the Breslin Center, especially since Izzo and Michigan State basketball will forever be associated with one another. It should be cool for fans to go through it and re-live great moments in Michigan State history and the wing is another nice recruiting tool that can help point out all of Izzo’s biggest accomplishments.

 

Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament moving to Orlando amid Zika concerns

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Amid concerns over the Zika virus, the annual Puerto Rico Tip-Off announced a change in venue on Monday. Rather than staying on the island, the tournament will move to Orlando and all games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney.

The dates and teams will remain the same for the event as it will be played Thursday, Nov. 17, Friday, Nov. 18 and Sunday, Nov. 20. The field for the event includes Arizona State, Clemson, Davidson, Missouri, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Tulane and Xavier.

“We enjoy the beauty and accommodations that are afforded in Puerto Rico and wanted to make every effort in playing the event in San Juan, but the concern for student-athlete and spectator welfare became the primary driver in the decision,” Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Events said in the official release.  “We intend to return to Puerto Rico in the future.”

Puerto Rico is currently under a Level 2 alert for Zika according to the CDC. Since there have been cases of Zika on the island with native mosquitoes, it’s probably a smart move to eliminate all concerns over the virus if they can easily move the tournament elsewhere. It probably isn’t ideal for fans who purchased travel packages to Puerto Rico to watch the event, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of everyone involved.

The Puerto Rico Tourism Company is also upset with the decision as Executive Director Ingrid Rivera Rocafort released a statement on Monday night.

“We are disappointed about this decision that we believe has been based on fear not the facts about Puerto Rico,” the statement read.

“There is no public health reason to cancel the Puerto Rico Tip Off or any sporting event in Puerto Rico. There is no doubt that our strong fan base and local spectators would have turned out to support their teams. Less than one percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million population has contracted Zika, a far cry from projections. The hype and misinformation is fostering irrational decisions.”

PHOTO: Purdue unveils statue of John Wooden outside Mackey Arena

John Wooden (Purdue Athletics)
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John Wooden will forever be associated with the UCLA program for what he did while coaching there.

10 national titles in 12 years, including seven in a row. Not bad, right?

What some people may forget is that before he got into coaching, Wooden was one of the best basketball players in the world. He played his collegiate ball at Purdue, where he was a three-time all-american and the 1932 National Player of the Year.

To honor Wooden’s legacy as one of the greatest Boilermakers ever, Purdue built a statue of Wooden and unveiled it in front of Mackey Arena this weekend:

“Not many people think of Johnny Wooden as a Boilermaker, but when I got here in 1957, some of the old-timers still remembered him as a player,” Jim Hicks, the alumnus that donated the statue, said. “I’m so delighted that people will see this statue and read his Pyramid of Success because I think the pyramid was his most important contribution.”

One of the neat touches of the statue: Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is right there for all to see.

North Carolina lands third commitment in 2017 class

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks on during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament against the Iowa State Cyclones at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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North Carolina picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2017 on Monday in big man Brandon Huffman.

A four-star prospect who will play his final season of high school ball at Word of God Academy in North Carolina, Huffman’s strength at this point in his development is as a defensive presence around the basket. He stands 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan and should be able to help replace Kennedy Meeks, who graduates this spring.

Huffman’s development on the offensive end of the floor isn’t quite there yet. A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Huffman is still learning how to be more influential on that end.

Huffman joins Jalek Felton and Andrew Platek in UNC’s 2017 class.