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CBT Roundtable: The NCAA Tournament’s biggest surprise heading into the Sweet 16

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The Sweet 16 kicks off tomorrow night with the South and West Region action beginning. Before we begin clipping the field down to the Final Four, we asked our stable of writers what they find most surprising heading into the tournament’s second weekend:

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Raphielle Johnson: Full disclosure, I picked Baylor to reach the Sweet 16. I thought they matched up well with the Bluejays due to their length ans athleticism in the front court, but to win by 30? Even in prior losses this season when they didn’t hit threes, Creighton at least had a fighting chance. That wasn’t the case Sunday, with Baylor doing a very good job of identifying scorers and making sure those players were out of their comfort zones. The Bears have been hot, but the way in which they won stood out to me.

Rob Dauster: Kentucky finally put it all together. We’ve been waiting four months for the Wildcats to have the kind of performance they did when they handed No. 1 Wichita State their first loss since last season’s Final Four. The Harrison twins played like NBA-caliber guards, James Young hit a handful of big shots and Julius Randle went all-Julius Randle, finishing with 15 points, 10 boards and six assists. If this continues, if Kentucky can bring that kind of an effort for two more weeks, they can win a national title.

Three weeks ago, Kentucky lost to South Carolina. That’s wild to think about.

SWEET 16 PREVIEWS: Dayton-Stanford | Wisconsin-Baylor |Florida-UCLA

Matt Giles: Tennessee’s offense has looked unstoppable these past three games. Weeks after chatter emerged regarding the possibility of a coaching change in Knoxville, coach Cuonzo Martin has revitalized this already proficient offense. The Vols have never been a team to rely on three-point shooting, and true to form, the team is only taking one-third of their field goals from deep (and making just 22 percent), but UT’s scoring within the arc has completely overwhelmed their tourney opponents. The squad is converting a whopping 63 percent of their two-point field goals (posting an offensive efficiency rating of 1.26 points per possession), and when UT doesn’t connect from the field, they’re getting fouled: the team’s free throw rate is 53 percent, which means that UT has been wildly successful putting pressure on opponents and getting to the stripe (where the Vols are making 83 percent of their free throws). Jarnell Stokes and Jordan McRae, both nationally known, have played well, but the Vol to watch, should the team beat Michigan and then either Louisville or Kentucky, is Josh Richardson — the wing has taken 19 twos and made 90 percent of those attempts.

Terrence Payne: The bottom half of the South Region is the biggest surprise of the NCAA tournament so far, as its Elite 8 matchup is between No. 11 seed Dayton and No. 10 seed Stanford. The Flyers earned one of the final at-large bids, and made it to Memphis with an upset win over in-state opponent Ohio State, followed by another narrow victory over Syracuse. Stanford has had an equally surprising run to the Sweet 16. The Cardinal began the tournament against New Mexico, pegged as the dark horse to come out of the South. After sending the Lobos home early, the Cardinal sent Kansas (without Joel Embiid) back to Lawrence with a great defensive effort. Johnny Dawkins began the season on the hot seat. Fast forward five months later, and he’s got his Cardinal one win away from a berth in the Elite 8.

Scott Phillips: I fully believed that Kansas was susceptible to a Round of 32 loss without Joel Embiid — why can’t I quit you, New Mexico? — but I never expected Stanford to be the team to do it. I was in St. Louis on Sunday for the upset and the Cardinal were incredibly impressive, especially on the defensive end. To beat No. 2 seed Kansas without knocking down a three-pointer just shows how good of a game plan Johnny Dawkins had for his team and how well the entire team executed that plan despite going cold from the outside. If Stanford continues to defend like that, their shooting will only improve and their length and physicality could make them a dangerous potential Final Four team.

Iowa State guard Naz Mitrou-Long gets hardship waiver to play additional year

Iowa State guard Nazareth Mitrou-Long defends Buffalo guard Jarryn Skeete during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 84-63. (AP Photo/Justin Hayworth)
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Iowa State got a boost to its roster for next season as senior guard Naz Mitrou-Long has been granted a hardship waiver by the Big 12 conference.

“Everything happens for a reason and although it hurt to not be able to play for a group of guys I loved last year, my body needed time to recover and that time off allowed me to feel the best I’ve felt since my freshman year,” Mitrou-Long said in the release. “I’m glad I’ll be able to play for the best fans in the country and represent the name on the front of my jersey, Iowa State, one more year. Words can’t describe this feeling. Cyclone Nation, be ready for a special year.”

The 6-foot-4 Long played in eight games last season for Iowa State as he averaged 12 points per game. He missed the rest of the season to deal with pain in his surgically repaired hips. Mitrou-Long has been a very effective three-point shooter during his career at Iowa State and he should be a nice option to have for next season if he’s healthy.

CIAA will stay in North Carolina despite state’s LGBT law

Protesters rally against House Bill 2 in Raleigh, N.C.,  Monday, April 25, 2016. While demonstrations circled North Carolina's statehouse on Monday, for and against a Republican-backed law curtailing protections for LGBT people and limiting public bathroom access for transgender people, House Democrats filed a repeal bill that stands little chance of passing. (Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association says it won’t move its headquarters, its basketball tournament or other conference championships from North Carolina, despite the state’s controversial new LGBT law.

The CIAA said in a statement Thursday that it will instead partner with the NCAA to educate its members on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues as it does on other issues, like graduation rates and concussion management.

The Charlotte Observer reports that the CIAA, the oldest African-American sports conference in the U.S., has hosted its annual basketball tournament in Charlotte since 2006 and announced it was moving its headquarters to Charlotte from Virginia in 2015.

The CIAA said Thursday that it will continue to “monitor the issues,” as it has since House Bill 2 passed.

 

VIDEOS: Stephen Curry’s personally invites athletes to his select camp

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, left, holds the championship trophy and Andre Iguodala holds the series MVP trophy as they celebrate winning the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Cleveland, Wednesday, June 17, 2015. The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers 105-97 to win the best-of-seven game series 4-2. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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As he did last year, the NBA’s MVP is sending out personal invites to Under Armour’s SC30 Select Camp for some of the best high school and college point guards in the country.

It’s a pretty cool thing for the kids. Can you imagine how you would feel as a high school junior getting a personalized invitation to a camp from Stephen Curry himself?

 

VIDEO: John Calipari vows to lose some weight

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John Calipari has a goal this offseason: to lose some weight.

“Mid-50s, I let it go a little bit,” Calipari said as he worked out on an elliptical. “Had a heck of a year. But going forward, gotta get in better shape. Gotta get the body right. Started a week ago. What I will say to you is really simple. I’m not showing you my body for a month.”

The reason why Cal needs to get into shape?

He’s going to have to coach this year, because Tyler Ulis is heading to the NBA.

“I shoulda got some of his salary,” Ulis joked.

Cal won’t have to coach too hard. He’s got one of the best recruiting classes in the country coming into the program, including three top ten players and five of the nation’s top 30 prospects.

Four-star PG Jaylen Fisher de-commits from UNLV

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Coaching changes can wreak havoc on a program’s recruiting class, and that’s been the case for UNLV thanks to the tumultuous nature of their search for a new head coach. Thursday evening one prospect who remained committed to the Mountain West program throughout the process that ultimately led to Marvin Menzies landing the job announced that he’s decided to reopen his recruitment.

Four-star point guard Jaylen Fisher, ranked 55th in the Class of 2016 by Rivals.com, announced via social media that he’s decided to de-commit from UNLV.

“I was very much looking forward to the opportunity to be a Rebel this year,” Fisher wrote. “But there have been a lot of changes with the program since I committed to UNLV; changes that have made me reconsider whether UNLV is still a good fit for me. So with that in mind and after much consideration with my family, I have decided it’s best that I reopen my recruitment.”

Fisher’s decision leaves wing Justin Jackson as the lone member of UNLV’s 2016 class at this point, with Jackson telling Scout.com in early April that he was undecided as to whether or not he’d reopen his recruitment. The school’s search for a coach began in January when they parted ways with Dave Rice, promoting Todd Simon in an interim role.

After deciding not to retain Simon, who’s now the head coach at Southern Utah, UNLV hired former Little Rock head coach Chris Beard…who left for Texas Tech less than two weeks later. UNLV landed Menzies, who they passed over for Beard, and he’s got a lot of work to do to field a roster that will be competitive in the Mountain West next season.

As for Fisher, the Arlington, Tennessee native should be a popular prospect with his decision to reopen things. And with Memphis losing former commit Charlie Moore, the Tigers are in need of help at the point. The question now is whether or not new head coach Tubby Smith will look to reach out to Fisher.

h/t Memphis Commercial-Appeal