Sweet 16 Preview: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan state

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On Wednesday and Thursday, we will be breaking down all eight of the Sweet 16 matchups. Here is our look at No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State:

RELATED: Sweet 16 Power Rankings | Top 16 Players | Eight Critical Individual Matchups

WHEN: Friday, 9:57 p.m.

WHERE: Madison Square Garden, New York (East Region)

MAJOR STORY LINES: On Monday, the two story lines that really mattered here were that Michigan State was looking to get back to the Final Four for the first time in since Keith Appling and Adreian Payne enrolled while Virginia was looking to prove themselves after a season of being overlooked and, if you ask them, disrespected. But that all changed when the rumors of Tom Izzo to the Detroit Pistons popped up.

KEY STATS: Michigan State has a reputation for being a grind-it-out, physical team built for wrestling matches that feature jump shots. But Tom Izzo’s teams run the floor as much as any other team in the country, with 21.9% of their possessions coming in transition. That’s a very high number, but the Spartans won’t get many chances against the ‘Hoos, as Tony Bennett’s teams limit transition opportunities as much as possible, often times sending just one or two guys to the offensive glass. To get an idea of what this matters, Virginia, who is fifth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom, is in the 90th percentile in half court defense, according to Synergy, and just the 77th percentile in transition defense.

In other words, scoring against their set defense is hard to do, so the Spartans will be looking to run more than ever. If they can, they’ll have a very good chance to win.

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

Iowa State-UConnMichigan-TennesseeVirginia-Michigan State | Louisville-Kentucky

KEY PLAYERS: He’s not the most consistent player on the Michigan State roster, but there may not be a more dominant player in the entire tournament than Adreian Payne when he gets it rolling. He’s a freak athlete at 6-foot-11 with three-point range, the ability to get to the rim off the dribble and an array of post moves. We all saw what he did to Delaware in the opening round — 41 points, 10-for-15 shooting, 4-for-5 from three. Akil Mitchell, Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey will be charged with keeping him in check. Good luck.

POINT SPREAD: Michigan State (-2)

THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. Keith Appling’s wrist: Appling just hasn’t seemed healthy since around mid-February, when he reportedly suffered a setback to a wrist that he injured back in December. It’s hampered his ability to shoot, as he’s 9-for-21 from the line and 2-for-13 from three since returning, and it’s taken away his aggressiveness offensively. Playing against a team as good as Virginia is on that end of the floor, an ineffective Appling could be a killer.

2. Three-point shooting: Another example of how reputations can be misleading, this Michigan State team is top 15 nationally in three-point percentage, taking more than 35% of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc. Virginia plays a packline defense and are fairly adept at getting out to shooters.

3. Malcolm Brogdon: Joe Harris was the guy everyone talked about entering the season. London Perrantes has been the guy everyone’s talked about since the season began. But Brogdon has been the best player on Virginia this year, and one of the best players in the ACC. I would expect Gary Harris to draw the assignment, as he is one of the best defenders left in the tournament. That will be fun to watch.

CBT PREDICTION: Michigan State

VIDEO: Top 2018 recruits Zion Williamson and Romeo Langford go head-to-head at adidas

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This weekend is the first live evaluation period of the spring recruiting calendar as college coaches from all over the country are scouting (and babysitting) the top recruits in the Class of 2018 and 2019.

Friday night the adidas Gauntlet in Dallas opened with a marquee matchup of two star players as five-star forward Zion Williamson and five-star guard Romeo Langford went head-to-head in what should be one of the best games of the spring.

Most scouting services have Williamson and Langford as the No. 2 and No. 3 overall prospects in the Class of 2018 as the duo didn’t disappoint in front of the huge crowd in Fort Worth.

Williamson helped his team to a win with 26 points and seven rebounds while Langford had 28 points, four rebounds and four assists. You’ll be hearing plenty about both of these guys over the next few months as both are still wide open in the recruting process.

(H/t: Ball is Life)

Report: Coppin State hires Juan Dixon as new head coach

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Coppin State has hired former Maryland star guard Juan Dixon to be its next head coach, according to a report from Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun.

The 38-year-old Dixon is best known for leading Maryland to the 2002 national championship as he was the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four that year. Now Dixon will have a chance to lead a Division I program for the first time.

Dixon spent seven years in the NBA and also played professionally in Europe before joining the Maryland coaching staff in 2013 as a special assistant to head coach Mark Turgeon. Not retained by Maryland after the 2015-16 season, Dixon took the head coaching job for the women’s team at the University of the District of Columbia last season as the Division II program finished only  3-25.

Coppin State finished last season with an 8-24 record after losing its first 12 games of the season. While Dixon will generate some positive local buzz given his background, he’s going to have an uphill battle trying to rebuild that program.

Nebraska scores important Class of 2017 commitment from four-star guard Thomas Allen

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Nebraska landed an important commitment from the Class of 2017 on Friday as four-star guard Thomas Allen is heading to Lincoln next season.

The 6-foot-1 guard is considered the No. 99 overall prospect by Rivals in the national Class of 2017 rankings as Allen was previously committed to N.C. State before head coach Mark Gottfried was fired.

A scorer with a good amount of skill, Allen has a chance to come in and make an immediate impact at Nebraska as he can play a bit on or off the ball. Allen should help offset the loss of senior Tai Webster in the Husker backcourt.

Allen joins wing Nana Akenten in Nebraska’s Class of 2017 recruiting efforts.

North Carolina lands four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks

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North Carolina pulled in a late Class of 2017 commitment to begin the weekend as the Tar Heels secured a pledge from four-star Class of 2017 big man Garrison Brooks.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Brooks was previously committed to Mississippi State, but he was granted his release this spring to explore other opportunities.

The Tar Heels pounced as they’re getting a low-post threat who could develop into a potential double-double threat. A solid rebounder who isn’t afraid to play with physicality, Brooks has a chance to earn some immediate rotation minutes with seniors like Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks exhausting their eligibility.

Brooks is regarded as the No. 120 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, according to Rivals, as he is a four-star prospect. The native of Auburn, Alabama joins a North Carolina recruiting class that includes point guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek and big men Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.

Report: NCAA ‘anticipates’ hearing UNC case in mid-August

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Today, the AP churned out a story on Greg Sankey’s involvement with the NCAA’s investigation into the academic scandal at North Carolina, and buried within that story is this little nugget:

UNC must respond to the latest charges by May 16. The NCAA enforcement staff then has until July 17 for its own response. Sankey wrote that his panel will hear the case in August with “anticipated” dates of Aug. 16 and 17.

Rulings typically come weeks to months later.

We’ve been down this road before, as the current iteration of the Notice of Allegations is the third that the NCAA has provided the university. The first was given out back in May of 2015 for an investigation that began back in 2010.