No. 20 Memphis overcomes sluggish start in win over No. 18 SMU

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Memphis overcame a sluggish first half on Saturday as they got past American conference adversary SMU with a 67-58 home win.

The No. 20 Tigers shot 34.5 percent in the first half as their four senior guards combined to go 3-for-17 from the three-point line, but Joe Jackson and the Tigers stepped it up in the second half to put away another top-25 opponent.

Jackson scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half and Memphis also had the benefit of Chris Crawford (nine points) heating up for a stretch as well as some jumpers from Mike Dixon Jr. (nine points). But what really makes Memphis a potentially great team is when their bigs get involved.

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Trailing 30-26 at the half, Memphis freshman forward Austin Nichols scored four quick points and blocked a shot early in the half to set an early tone for Memphis. Nichols finished with 14 points and nine rebounds and looks so much more confident than he did during the early portion of the AAC schedule.

Although Shaq Goodwin’s stat line of two points and four rebounds doesn’t look good on paper, he was an active interior defender and added four steals and three assists.

(MORE: Browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The growing chemistry between Goodwin and Nichols is fun to watch. Although Memphis’ guards dominate the headlines — and with four senior guards, they should — Goodwin and Nichols make for an interesting high-low big man duo on offense while they’re also improving playing off of each other on defense. Nichols added three blocks on the afternoon and many times it was on weak side blocks as Goodwin was guarding his man and providing the initial pressure. Markus Kennedy still had some easy ones down low, but those are becoming less of a trend for the Memphis defense.

Before the year, people were critical of Josh Pastner — and to an extent Memphis — because Pastner had never beaten a top-25 opponent. Now the Tigers own five wins over top-25 opponents this season and if they play balanced basketball and get their big men involved, they should get a couple more in the postseason.

Virginia, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, Vandy in NIT Tip-Off

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NEW YORK (AP) — Virginia and Vanderbilt will meet in one semifinal of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off on Thanksgiving Day at Barclays Center.

Rhode Island and Seton Hall face off in the other semifinal with the winners meeting on Friday, Nov. 24.

This is the third straight year the Tip-Off has been held at Barclays Center. Eventual NCAA champion Villanova won the event in 2015. All games will be televised on ESPNU.

Non-bracketed teams in the NIT Season Tip-Off who will play games at campus sites are: Austin Peay, Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Oakland City and UNC Asheville.

Miles Bridges explain why he returned to Michigan State

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Miles Bridges changed the landscape of the 2017-18 college basketball season on April 13.

The Michigan State forward spurned the NBA for another year in East Lansing. The decision not only meant that Bridges was a frontrunner for national player of the year, but solidified the Spartans as a national title contender.

But Bridges’ choice to return was still puzzling to many. The 6-foot-7 forward was projected as a lottery pick. Bridges explained his decision to Mike Decourcy of Sporting News in a story published on Thursday.

“He says, ‘You know what, Coach? I want to get better. I don’t want to be in the D-League. I’ve got buddies that are, and I just want to make sure when I go, I’m ready,’ ” Izzo recalled to Sporting News. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Done deal.’ For me, that was a done deal. It was a reasonable, sensible argument.”

Agents, friends, reporters, scouts, acquaintances, fans, strangers and family members — oh and, as we said, coaches — all had one opinion about how Bridges should spend the next year of his life. Miles had another, opposing, viewpoint.

Bridges told Decourcy that support came from his teammates, many of whom were returning to the team as well. Assuming the backcourt of Cassius Winston and Josh Langford make a leap forward, as well as incoming freshman Jaren Jackson providing an immediate impact, the Spartans’ title hopes could become a reality.

Bridges averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks as a freshman at Michigan State. He’s rated as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.

Four conferences sign on to basketball officiating alliance

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Four more Division I conferences will join a men’s basketball officiating alliance formed last year by the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association.

The Big South, the Ivy League, the Northeast and the Patriot League are joining ahead of the 2017-18 season, according to announcements from the leagues Thursday. The alliance launched last summer for conferences to work together on officiating matters and enhance training, development, recruitment, retention and feedback for officials.

John Cahill, the Big East’s supervisor of officials, and Bryan Kersey, the ACC’s coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, will continue to lead the alliance operations.

ACC commissioner John Swofford says the new additions to the alliance “provide an even greater opportunity to build chemistry and quality” across the officiating ranks.

North Carolina to unveil national championship banner in October

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The latest addition to the rafters of the Dean Dome will be unveiled this fall.

North Carolina will raise the banner for its 2017 national championship on Oct. 13, according to a report from Inside Carolina.

The event will coincide with the Tar Heels’ “Late Night With Roy” event that marks the public start to the season for the program and also serves, like many other top programs, as a recruiting tool.

North Carolina won its sixth NCAA national championship in April by defeating Gonzaga, 71-65, in Phoenix to avenge its last-second loss in the title game to Villanova the year prior. It was the Tar Heels’ first championship since 2009.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball highlights

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It was the most anticipated matchup of the summer.

Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball.

People were turned away at the door – and LeBron James reportedly came and went – as the gym reached capacity for SC Supreme’s 104-92 victory over the Big Ballers. That’s Williamson over Ball (LaMelo and LaVar).

The game was mostly spectacle, and you can see it’s top moments right here.