Dwayne Polee II’s play will be key for San Diego State on Thursday

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Of the eight Sweet 16 match-ups being played Thursday and Friday night, two are rematches of regular season games. Of course there’s No. 4 Louisville and No. 8 Kentucky, with those two teams playing every season, but there’s also No. 1 Arizona taking on No. 4 San Diego State in Anaheim. The Wildcats won the first meeting back on November 14, 69-60, with the game being a closer contest than the final margin would indicate.

How much can be taken from a game played that early in the season and applied to an NCAA tournament rematch is up for debate, with both teams being different (and better) outfits than they were in November. Arizona won’t have Brandon Ashley, who accounted for six points and six rebounds in the first meeting, but they’ve certainly adjusted to that personnel loss in recent weeks.

MORE: No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego State preview

 

Freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has been one of the best sixth men in the country, and the starting lineup led by national Player of the Year candidate Nick Johnson, point guard T.J. McConnell and forward Aaron Gordon has continued to play well. As for the Aztecs there’s one major personnel difference that has received some much-deserved attention in the days leading up to this game.

That difference: the emergence of Dwayne Polee II as a capable scoring option off the bench.

How far has Polee come this season? The St. John’s transfer didn’t even leave the bench for the first meeting between these two teams. But instead of getting frustrated the St. John’s transfer remained positive and continued to work, earning the opportunity to join the rotation and the work has paid off in recent weeks.

“He never, ever did anything other than cheer for his teammates, and smile when he was in the locker room, the hardest thing in the world to do, especially when you’re that ballyhooed,” Fisher said during the team’s press conference Wednesday. “He was sensational. Then when he started to get significant minutes, he played well, and obviously he’s been crucial to the recent success of this team. He’s been terrific.”

Averaging 8.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action per game this season, Polee’s contributed 14.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in San Diego State’s last five games with the Aztecs going 4-1 during this stretch. And in four of those games Polee’s played at least 27 minutes per game. Always a very good athlete with a high motor, Polee also looks more confident as a perimeter shooter and has shot 10-for-19 from beyond the arc.

Beating Arizona will be a tough task for San Diego State; there are a number of good reasons why the Wildcats received a one-seed and stand as one of the favorites to win the national title. But that doesn’t mean the goal’s an impossible one for the Aztecs. And if Polee can continue his solid play of late, thus supplementing the production of Xavier Thames, San Diego State is capable of advancing.

Sex assault count dropped against ex-Creighton player Watson

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OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Prosecutors have dropped a first-degree sexual assault charge against former Creighton point guard Maurice Watson after questions arose about the accuser’s story.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine announced Friday that his office had dropped the felony charge, filed earlier this year when a 19-year-old woman accused Watson of assaulting her early Feb. 4 at a party in an Omaha home. Watson has denied that allegation.

The 24-year-old Watson pleaded no contest Friday to misdemeanor assault for an encounter the same night with a different Creighton student, who said Watson touched her thigh and tried to make her touch his genitals. Watson was sentenced to the five days he’d already served in jail.

Watson was a senior when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in January, just days before the party.

Storm damage forces Paradise Jam out of Virgin Islands

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MIAMI (AP) — The Paradise Jam basketball tournament will not be played in the U.S. Virgin Islands this year because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.

The tournament will be played in the U.S., with a new site expected to be announced by Sept. 29.

The Paradise Jam field this year includes Wake Forest, Colorado, Drake, Drexel, Houston, Liberty, Mercer and Quinnipiac, and each of those schools was given the chance to bid for the right to host the tournament.

Tournament officials say they looked at multiple other options, such as moving to another island and using a cruise ship for accommodations, before deciding to move the event to the U.S.

For now, the tournament is scheduled to be played from Nov. 17-20.

Kentucky lands commitment from five-star point guard

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Kentucky landed a commitment from Immanuel Quickley on Friday night, a top ten prospect and arguably the best point guard in the Class of 2018.

Quickley picked the Wildcats over Kansas, who he visited earlier this month, and Miami, who he was scheduled to visit before Hurricane Irma struck south Florida.

The 6-foot-3 point guard is the first commitment in the class of head coach John Calipari, and it really comes as no surprise. He’s been considered a Kentucky lean for months, and Quickley played for Calipari on the USA U19 team during the 2017 FIBA World Cup.

While Quickley has the size and the build – he’s 180 pounds with broad shoulders and long arms – of some of Kentucky’s former elite point guards, he’s not the same kind of point guard as, say, De’Aaron Fox or John Wall. He’s more of a smooth athlete than an explosive one, and while his long strides allow him to get out into transition, he’s not the finisher at the rim that those two were. What he is, however, is an intelligent player. He’s good in ball-screens, he’s an excellent passer and facilitator and he is a good enough shooter that he forces defenses to stay honest. He also has the potential to be a plus defender given his physical tools and the fact that he’ll try on that end of the floor.

Where this commitment gets interesting is the current point guard in Kentucky’s back court, Quade Green. Green was a five-star recruit in his own right, but he’s not quite built as a potential one-and-done prospect. Calipari has maneuvered through two point guards in the past, and each of the last five national champions have played major minutes with two point guards on the floor at the same time, but if Green is back next season that will be something to monitor.

That, however, is a long ways away.

What matters now is that Kentucky has gotten this commitment out of the way, and it paves the way for them to also receive a commitment from Zion Williamson. There has long been talk of those two attending college together, and with Quickley on the board, that likely keeps Kentucky in the driver’s seat as they pursue the South Carolina native.

If Kentucky can also wrangle a commitment out of R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 player in the 2018 recruiting class, that would likely be the end of the discussion of whether or not Duke has surpassed the Wildcats on the recruiting trail.

Five-star forward King picks Oregon

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Oregon has nabbed one of the top players in the 2018 class.

Louis King, a top-20 forward, committed to Dana Altman and the Ducks on Thursday via a video on social media.

“It’s been a tough, strenuous process,” King said, “but today makes all of that worth it. I’ve been blessed with great opportunities.”

The 6-foot-8 New Jersey native selected Oregon over other finalists Seton Hall, NC State, Purdue and Kansas.

“I would like to thank each of them for all the time and effort they put into my recruitment,” King said. “I would like to thank my coaches and my teammates that have pushed me and helped get me to this point in my career. My friends for all their love and support, but most of all I would like to thank my family, who has been by my side through it all.”

King is Altman’s second commit in 2018, joining four-star big man Miles Norris, a top-75 recruit in the class. It’s the beginning of what could be an absolutely dynamic class for Oregon, which still has two scholarships remaining.

“Out of all of my schools I felt like it was best for me and my family,” King said to MADE Hoops. “Coach Altman said that I would have the ball in my hands throughout the season. When I get there, it will be an easy adjustment for me with how I handle rock and get my teammates open. Our goal is to win a national championship next year.”

 

Four-star forward Miller Kopp commits to Northwestern

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Northwestern has a second four-star recruit in its 2018 class.

The Wildcats received a commitment from Miller Kopp, a 6-foot-6 forward, on Thursday, he announced via social media.

“I built a really strong relationship with (coach) Chris Collins and I fell in love with the campus,” Kopp told Scout. “I knew it would be a nice campus and have that stuff, but I think me and him are wired the same way. II think that his personality fits mine and I think we complement each other. I’m definitely excited to be able to go to a program on the rise and be able to make some history.”

Kopp picked the Wildcats over offers from Georgetown, Butler, Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. The Houston native is ranked in the top-100 of his class by most recruiting services.

He gives Collins and the Wildcats an exceedingly strong 2018 class, which already featured four-star guard Pete Nance of Ohio along with three-star recruits Jordan Lathon and Ryan Young. It represents a major leap forward for Northwestern. It would appear that the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament appearance last March has brought momentum to the recruiting trail.