Julius Randle

No. 8 Kentucky knocks off No. 9 Kansas State, advances to face No. 1 Wichita State


Jullius Randle went into full-blown beast mode, finishing with 19 points and 15 boards as No. 8 Kentucky knocked off No. 9 Kansas State 56-49 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Aaron Harrison chipped in with 18 points for UK. Randle and Harrison combined to shoot 13-for-22 from the floor. The rest of the Kentucky roster went just 6-for-28, but it didn’t matter. Kansas State’s offense was inept against a suddenly stingy Kentucky team that gave up just 0.831 PPP to the Wildcats.

For those that aren’t well versed in tempo-free stats, that’s really, really good and ranks among the best defensive performances this season for Kentucky.

And what it does is vault the Wildcats into what may be the most intriguing Round of 32 matchup in the history of college basketball.

I’m not exaggerating, either.

No. 1 Wichita State vs. No. 8 Kentucky on Sunday afternoon will be the most hyped up game of the weekend, and it’s not hard to figure out why.

Kentucky entered the season projected as the No. 1 team in the country, as they were blessed with a roster that includes more potential lottery picks than Wichita State has had in program history. There was so much hype surrounding what many considered to be the great recruiting class of all-time that Kentucky that there were actual, intelligent people that thought the Wildcats had a chance to go 40-0 this season.

That dream died on the fifth day of the regular season, but it is still intact for Wichita State, who has now won their first 35 games of the season. The Shockers don’t have any blue-chippers. Cleanthony Early was a sought after Junior College recruit and Fred Van Vleet was on a couple of top 100 lists as a senior, but overall, Wichita State is made up of a group of blue-collar, overlooked guys that have a chip the size of Koch Arena on their shoulder.

In other words, their roster makeup and the base they recruit from couldn’t be more different than Kentucky’s.

And yet here they are, squaring off in a Round of 32 game. How hard would you have laughed if I told you back in November that a game between Wichita State and Kentucky featured the Shockers, and not the Wildcats, as the No. 1 seed?

That’s not even the most intriguing story line here, either, as both teams — and coaches — will be under an enormous amount of pressure.

If Coach Cal, for a second straight season, fails to get this Kentucky team to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, the pressure-cooker that is Lexington, Kentucky, is only going to get more intense. Saying that Calipari is on the hot seat would be incorrect, but his job certainly would not be as easy or as safe as it was two seasons ago.

And he’s got it easy.

Gregg Marshall’s team is in a position where a loss to the preseason No. 1 team in the country would essentially nullify everything that they were able to accomplish this season. Kentucky is the best team that the Shockers will have faced this season. Losing to them would only further the narrative that Wichita State’s record is a result of who, not how, they played.

Should I mention that the game is going to be played is a raucous, sold out Scottrade Center in Saint Louis?

This is going to be fun.

Jalen Coleman-Lands cleared to practice

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Jarrod Uthoff #20 of the Iowa Hawkeyes defends against Jalen Coleman-Lands #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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When Illinois takes on Southeast Missouri State in the opener of the 2016-17 season, the Fighting Illini should have it’s starting backcourt out on the floor.

According to Jon Rothstein, Jalen Coleman-Lands has been cleared for all basketball activities. The sophomore two-guard has been recovering from a broken bone in his right hand.

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.

Coleman-Lands will team up with Tracy Abrams, a point guard who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing the past two seasons due to injuries.

This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.

The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.

NBC Sports projected Illinois to finish eighth in the Big Ten this season.

Curtis Jones jumps over Tom Crean

Tom Crean
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Indiana held its annual Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night.

One of the highlights from the team’s dunk contest was when freshman guard Curtis Jones jumped over Indiana head coach Tom Crean.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a newcomer us his coach as a dunk contest prop. Last week, Rawle Alkins cleared Arizona head coach Sean Miller en route to a reverse jam.

Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.

WATCH: Edmond Sumner take off from the foul line

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Edmond Sumner #4 of the Xavier Musketeers dunks the ball during the game against the St. John's Red Storm at Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Edmond Sumner is a big reason why Xavier is likely going to be a preseason top-10 team.

On Saturday night, during Musketeer Madness, Sumner won the team’s dunk contest when he took off from the foul line.

Sumner defeated freshmen Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin. J.P. Macura, the reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year, took home the honors last year.

The 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore is coming off a debut season in which he averaged 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

WATCH: Duke goes crazy for Chase Jeter’s bottle flip

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Chase Jeter #2 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on in the second half against the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The bottle flip has become an international sensation in recent months.

It’s as simple as it sounds: flipping a water bottle in the air, attempting to have it land upright.

Duke sophomore forward Chase Jeter, in front of 9,300-plus fans, successfully pulled off the bottle flip on Saturday night at Duke’s Craziness.

Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.

Auburn to honor Charles Barkley with a statue

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04:  Former NBA player and commentator Charles Barkley looks on prior to the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.

The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.

“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”

Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.

His number 34 is retired at Auburn.