Five power conferences teams that could really use a conference tourney run

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As we get closer to power conference tournaments tipping off, there are always a handful of teams that could use a couple of wins to gain entry into the field of 68. Here’s a look at five teams — actually six, we cheated — that could really use a few wins in their respective conference tournaments to bolster their NCAA Tournament hopes.

California [19-12 (10-8), RPI: 52, KenPom: 70] – The Golden Bears looked like they were in great shape after a February 1st win over then-No. 1 Arizona, but Cal has stumbled to a 4-5 finish and its only win over a NCAA Tournament-caliber opponent came in their finale against Colorado in overtime. Cal has a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament and they’ll likely face Colorado again in the Pac-12 quarterfinals. The Golden Bears should beat the Buffaloes again to feel better about their chances, but another win over No. 1 seed Arizona in the semifinals would make Cal like its chances to make the field of 68.

RELATED: Odds to win every major conference tournament

Florida State [18-12 (9-9), RPI: 58, KenPom: 39] The Seminoles don’t have a particularly strong resume or record, and they could really use a few wins in the ACC Tournament. As a No. 9 seed in the tournament, the Seminoles have to beat Maryland in a dangerous opening game before a matchup with No. 1 seed Virginia. If Florida State can win against the Cavaliers, they’d have to like its chances of getting in.

Georgetown [17-13 (8-10), RPI: 55, KenPom: 50] – The Hoyas could use a Big East Tournament run in the worst way after struggling to 17-13 regular season record. A win over DePaul in the first round is pretty much a given, but the Hoyas will likely need to knock off Creighton in the second round to feel better about their Tournament chances. Georgetown clearly outplayed Creighton on March 4th in a home win and their size and athleticism gave Doug McDermott fits. Would another win over Creighton in March get the Hoyas in?

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

Minnesota [19-12 (8-10), RPI: 49, KenPom: 52] – Since starting 13-3 on the season, the Golden Gophers are 6-9, as they’ve struggled through the mighty Big Ten. Minnesota has only one win over a ranked opponent since its January 22nd home win over Wisconsin and that came over a reeling Iowa team at home. The Golden Gophers open the Big Ten Tournament with a winnable game against Penn State and then would face No. 2 seed Wisconsin in a game that Minnesota should win if they want to get in.

Providence [20-11 (10-8), RPI: 54, KenPom: 53] and St. John’s [20-11 (10-8), RPI: 57, KenPom: 37] – Okay, we cheated and profiled six teams instead of five but these two teams match up in the first round of the Big East Tournament on Thursday in what could amount to a play-in game for the field of 68. Providence couldn’t close the deal with a road win at Creighton in its final regular season game while St. John’s has played much better after an 0-5 start in the Big East, but they still could use some more quality wins. These teams split in the regular season and a win in the rubber match could vault a team into the field while a loss would surely eliminate them. To feel even safer, these teams should also try to knock off Villanova in the second round.

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

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North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.

No indictment for escort, staffer in Louisville sex scandal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A grand jury declined to indict an escort and former Louisville men’s basketball staffer in a sex scandal that engulfed the program.

The Jefferson County grand jury decided Thursday there wasn’t enough evidence for charges of prostitution and unlawful transactions with a minor against Katina Powell and Andre McGee.

Powell wrote in a book published in 2015 that McGee hired her to provide dancers to perform sex acts for Cardinal recruits and players from 2010-2014.

The announcement by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office comes as the school awaits discipline in early June by the NCAA after an investigation.

Louisville has imposed its own penalties, including a postseason ban in 2015-16 and reductions in scholarships and recruiting visits by coaches.