Tyler Haws, Damyean Dotson

Pregame Shootaround: The Round of 64 kicks off with four must-see games

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THURSDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times ET)

12:15 p.m.: No. 6 Ohio State vs No. 11 Dayton (CBS)
12:30 p.m.: No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 15 American (Tru TV)
1:30 p.m.: No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 9 Pittsburgh (TBS)
2:00 p.m.: No. 5 Cincinnati vs. No. 12 Harvard (TNT)
———-
2:30 p.m.: No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 14 Western Michigan (CBS)
3:00 p.m.: No. 7 Oregon vs. No. 10 BYU (Tru TV)
4:00 p.m.: No. 1 Florida vs. No. 16 Albany (TBS)
4:30 p.m.: No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 13 Delaware (TNT)
———-
6:45 p.m.: No. 7 UConn vs. No. 10 St. Joseph’s (TBS)
7:00 p.m.: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 15 Wofford (CBS)
7:15 p.m.: No. 5 St. Louis vs. No. 12 NC State (TNT)
7:25 p.m.: No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 North Dakota State (Tru-TV)
———-
9:15 p.m.: No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 15 Milwaukee (TBS)
9:30 p.m.: No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Arizona State (CBS)
9:45 p.m.: No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Manhattan (TNT)
9:55 p.m.: No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 13 New Mexico State (Tru-TV)

Top 68 players in the tournament | Lead Guards | Off Guards | Wing Forwards | Big Men

GAME OF THE DAY: No. 7 Oregon vs. No. 10 BYU

The Ducks and the Cougars are both talented teams offensively. They both like to get up and down the floor. Neither team is all that interested in playing defense, however, which should make for another thriller. Oregon knocked off BYU in Eugene during the regular season in an overtime game that featured 196 total points. Oregon got the win that day, and BYU will be without Kyle Collinsworth — their second-best player — due to a knee injury.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE DAY: No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 North Dakota State

North Dakota State was one of a handful of mid-majors that I circled back in February as teams that had a chance to win a game or two in the NCAA tournament. They’re good. Ask Notre Dame. The Irish lost to NDSU at home. The problem? They just don’t matchup all that well with Oklahoma. That said, it should be one of the better games of the day. Taylor Braun vs. Buddy Hield will be fun.

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WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 3 Syracuse

I might be taking a risk here, but at this point in the season I don’t think I trust Syracuse. If Trevor Cooney’s confidence isn’t completely shot, he sure is playing like it. And while it looks like Jerami Grant is just about back to full health, the Orange have been downright bad offensively for a month. Western Michigan is a good team. They notched five top 100 wins this season and won the MAC regular season and tournament titles.

WHO ELSE IS GETTING UPSET?: No. 5 Cincinnati

If you are as physical and as athletic as Cincinnati is, you can beat them if you slow down Sean Kilpatrick. No. 12 Harvard is as as athletic as the Bearcats, and while they may not be as physical — frankly, no one is — they are not going to be pushed around. Tommy Amaker has a roster full of top 100 recruits led by a stud point guard in Siyani Chambers.

MORE8 teams that can win it all | 8 that won’t | 7 must-watch games | Sleeper teams

FOUR KEY INDIVIDUAL MATCHUPS

  • Shabazz Napier vs. Langston Galloway: No. 7 UConn is led by Napier, a future NBA point guard, but Galloway, who is the leading scorer for No. 10 St. Joseph’s has spent his entire career under the radar.
  • St. Louis vs. T.J. Warren: The key to beating No. 12 N.C. State is not a secret: slow down Warren, the ACC Player of the Year. I’d expect Jordair Jett to see the majority of the minutes on Warren, but against a dude as talented as he is, it becomes a team effort.
  • Xavier Johnson vs. Lamar Patterson: Patterson is one of the most versatile players in the country and the primary option for No. 9 Pitt. Johnson will likely draw the assignment for No. 8 Colorado.
  • Jonathan Holmes vs. Jonathan Gilling: Slowing down Jahii Carson is a key for No. 7 Texas to beat No. 10 Arizona State, but if they do, they need to find a way to capitalize on Holmes’ size and athleticism advantage over Gilling.

YOU CAN IGNORE THESE (UNLESS THEY’RE CLOSE LATE!):

  • No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 15 Americ
  • No. 1 Florida vs. No. 16 Albany
  • No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 15 Wofford
  • No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 15 Milwaukee

NOTABLES

  • No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Manhattan: Steve Masiello and Rick Pitino are very close friends. Masiello was a ballboy for the Knicks when Pitino was their coach. He was a walk-on for Pitino’s Kentucky teams. He was an assistant for Pitino at Louisville.
  • No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 13 New Mexico State: New Mexico State has the nation’s biggest player in Sim Bhullar. And he’s actually pretty good.
  • No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 13 Delaware: Delaware has three guards (Davon Usher, Devon Saddler and Jarvis Threatt) that combine to average nearly 60 points.
  • No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Dayton: Take your pick: Ohio State head coach Thad Matta and Arizona head coach Sean Miller are really, and Dayton head coach Archie Miller is Sean’s younger brother. Matta doesn’t schedule Dayton. Dayton’s Jordan Sibert originally played at Ohio State before transferring.

Roy Williams: ‘There’s no question’ more ACC games equal no Kentucky in non-conference

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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Back in June, when the ACC officially announced that they would be expanding the league schedule to 20 games in 2019, I tried to warn you that it was going to put a dent into the non-conference schedule and the amount of quality, on-campus games that we’ll get prior to January.

Roy Williams essentially confirmed this as fact this week.

The North Carolina head coach hopped on a podcast with ESPN and more or less said that the bigger league schedule is going to lead to an end of some of UNC’s marquee home-and-home series.

“My feeling right now, and it could change by ’19, heck I could be fired by ’19, but my feeling right now is to play our conference schedule, play one exempt event where you have really good teams, and other than that play home games to help out your revenue and help out your budget,” Williams said. “We have the ACC/Big Ten and that’s not going to go away. So it’s 21 games already scheduled.”

When asked specifically if this would put an end to UNC’s series with Kentucky, Williams said, “Oh yeah, there’s no question. Why would I need to do that?”

There’s two reasons this makes sense. On the one hand, North Carolina needs to fill their home arena a certain number of times to help with the bottom line of the athletic department. They make enough off of ticket sales, merchandise sales, parking fees and food and beverage that they can afford to pay out more than $50,000 to bring a smaller opponent into their arena. More than that, playing a series of weaklings early in the year allows players to gain confidence, it allows Williams to figure out what his rotation will be and who can handle playing at this level, and it gives newcomers a chance to assimilate into his team against players that just aren’t that good.

And when a larger ACC schedule severely limits the number of non-conference games that UNC will be able to play, what’s going to get cut are the contracts that require the Tar Heels to play on the road when they don’t have to.

So buh-bye, Kentucky, it is.

John Calipari helping to raise money for Louisiana flood victims

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It’s easy to be critical of John Calipari.

You don’t have to be a Louisville fan to know all the jokes by now. He cheated at UMass. He cheated at Memphis. He’s had two Final Fours vacated. Teflon John. Yada yada yada.

I get it. Negativity comes with success, particularly for someone who is as brash about his success as Coach Cal is.

But even Cal’s harshest critics cannot begrudge the work he does — can get his players to do — for charity and how well he can harness the power of Big Blue Nation to make a tangible difference. Remember the ‘Hoops for Haiti’ telethon that raised more than $1 million to help earthquake victims back in 2010? Or the hundreds of thousands of dollars he raised for Hurricane Sandy relief? Or when his fantasy camps generated more than $1 million in charitable donations?

And should I mention the amount of times that stories of Kentucky players befriending sick kids or visiting children’s hospitals?

The cynic in me could say that all of this is for branding, helping ensure his players are image-conscious and aware of the sponsorship opportunities that come with being a likable, relatable and humble athlete. There’s probably some truth to that.

But do you think the kids that get visits from their Big Blue heroes care? Do you think it matters to the charities that get seven-figure checks to help with disaster relief?

I say all that to say this: During a press conference on Thursday morning, Cal had this to say, via SEC Country:

Calipari said former UK star Anthony Davis (currently of the New Orleans Pelicans) told Calipari, “Coach, you gotta do something” for Baton Rouge flood victims. Davis is out of the country but will try to get back for Sunday’s softball game to help. His 2012 title teammates, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, were not previously on the celeb list for Sunday but will be there.

Calipari has decided to donate all proceeds from Sunday’s alumni/celebrity softball game will go to the Baton Rouge flood-relief fund, through Red Cross. “So what I’m asking you to do is buy these tickets.” They’re $5 apiece. The previously raised funds will still go to the other designated charities, like each year.

For those so inclined, you can donate to the flooding fund by texting “GIVE” to 859-955-8173.

Vermont women cancels game in North Carolina over HB2

DURHAM, NC - MAY 10:  A unisex sign and the "We Are Not This" slogan are outside a bathroom at Bull McCabes Irish Pub on May 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  Debate over transgender bathroom access spreads nationwide as the U.S. Department of Justice countersues North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory from enforcing the provisions of House Bill 2 that dictate what bathrooms transgender individuals can use.  (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
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The University of Vermont is the latest in a ever-growing line of organizations canceling events in North Carolina due to the controversial HB2 law.

The Catamounts will not be traveling to play the Tar Heels on Dec. 28th as previously scheduled.

“We strive very hard to create an inclusive climate for our students and staff in which they all can feel safe, respected, and valued,” the school wrote in a statement. “It would be hard to fulfill these obligations while competing in a state with this law, which is contrary to our values as an athletic department and university.”

“This decision was made in consultation with our coaches, the women’s basketball team, and key university officials. We fully understand and sympathize with the impact that this decision may have on the North Carolina women’s basketball schedule. However, we believe this decision is consistent with our values and the conversations with our coaches and student team members. These were the most important considerations.”

Known as the “bathroom bill”, HB2 is the law that requires transgender people to use the bathroom of the sex that they were born not the sex they identify with.

Earlier this year, Albany was forced to cancel a trip to Duke due to legislation in New York regarding visits to North Carolina. The NBA has taken the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, and the NCAA is heavily considering pulling NCAA tournament games from the state.

Interestingly, ACC commissioner John Swofford was very non-committal on the subject when asked yesterday.

Derek Willis won’t be suspended for offseason citiation

Kentucky's Derek Willis (35) hits an uncontested three point shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 80-70. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
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John Calipari gave a press conference on Thursday morning and, for the first time since his arrest in June, the Kentucky head coach spoke about Derek Willis.

Willis, if you’ve forgotten, was found passed out in the street outside the open driver’s side door of his car at 4:30 a.m. You can see video of the arrest here. Willis is very lucky he wasn’t killed, and that he didn’t kill anyone else trying to drive in that condition.

Cal said that Willis will not be suspended for any games, but “Derek knows he’s under a different eye now than he was.” He did not elaborate on what kind of punishment Willis will receive beyond that, saying that “I don’t throw people under the bus.”

To be honest, I’m a little surprised that Willis won’t be forced to miss any games, but if we’re being frank, sitting out an exhibition and Kentucky’s opener sounds much more appealing than the kind of, ahem, ‘conditioning drills’ that Willis has likely spent the summer doing.

PODCAST: Boeheim’s non-controversy and the coaches we don’t want to fight

Jim Boeheim
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In today’s podcast, I’m joined by Travis Hines to discuss stuff that has been in the news over the course of the last two weeks, specifically Jim Boeheim’s comments about Carmelo Anthony and why it is a total non-controversy.

We also dive into why Boeheim’s comments are forced to be taken out of context as well as Monte’ Morris, ‘Pancake’ Thomas and which college basketball coaches we would least like to fight.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Stitcher, and there’s also a link to listen to this podcast below. Thanks for listening.