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LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 5 Xavier, No. 8 Iowa suffer road losses

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GAME OF THE DAY: Ohio State 68, No. 8 Iowa 64

Ohio State now has 11 Big Ten wins, but only three have come against teams not in the bottom five of the conference standings. That’s what made this result, with Marc Loving scoring 25 points, so important for a team that still has work to do when it comes to getting into the NCAA tournament. As for Iowa, they’ve now lost four of their last five games with their offensive struggles being the big reason why. This result also means that Indiana has clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title, which they can earn outright with a win at Iowa Tuesday night.

IMPORANT OUTCOMES

Seton Hall 90, No. 5 Xavier 81: The Pirates likely punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament with this win, leading by as much as 21 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final margin would lead one to believe. Desi Rodriguez was sensational for the Pirates, finishing with 27 points, 12 rebounds and three assists, and Isaiah Whitehead added 22 to go along with five assists. Seton Hall’s turnover count was a bit high (18), but they did more than enough to ensure that the followed up Thursday’s win over Providence with another quality result.

Pittsburgh 76, No. 15 Duke 62: The Panthers added a needed quality win to its résumé, as they punished the Blue Devils on the glass. Pittsburgh grabbed better than 55 percent of its available misses, with Chris Jones and Sheldon Jeter combining for seven of the team’s 16 offensive boards. Jamel Artis led five Panthers in double figures with 17 points, and James Robinson celebrated “Senior Day” with 14 points and seven assists.

STARRED

Shaq Goodwin and Dedric Lawson, Memphis: Both posted double-doubles in the Tigers’ win over Tulsa. Goodwin finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds, and Lawson racked up 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

Desi Rodriguez, Seton Hall: 27 points, 12 rebounds and three assists in the Pirates’ 90-81 win over No. 5 Xavier.

Damyean Dotson, Houston: 22 points, 14 rebounds and three assists in Houston’s 75-68 win at Connecticut.

Alec Peters, Valparaiso: 25 points and 15 rebounds in the Crusaders’ two-point win at Green Bay.

STRUGGLED

Brandon Taylor, Penn State: Taylor shot just 1-for-6 from the field, scoring two points before fouling out of the Nittany Lions’ 88-57 loss at Michigan State.

Derryck Thornton, Duke: Five points on 2-for-9 shooting, two assists and three turnovers in the Blue Devils’ 76-62 loss at Pittsburgh.

Sterling Gibbs, Connecticut: Five points (1-for-5 FG), three assists and three turnovers in the Huskies’ 75-68 home loss to Houston.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 6 Michigan State took care of business in East Lansing, beating Penn State 88-57. Denzel Valentine led the way with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Spartans, who have won four straight games.
  • No. 13 Oregon completed an undefeated season at home and also maintained sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 with an 86-73 win over Washington. Elgin Cook finished with 26 points and seven rebounds and Dillon Brooks added 19 points for the Ducks, who close out the regular season at the L.A. schools next week.
  • No. 24 SMU moved back into a tie for first in the American with a 74-53 home win over Tulane. Ben Moore led a balanced offensive effort with 16 points while also grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking two shots, and Sterling Brown added 15 points and four assists.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • While Connecticut is well-positioned to return to the NCAA tournament, they did themselves no favors with a 75-68 home loss to Houston. UConn’s defense was the issue, as the Cougars managed to shoot 51.9 percent from the field.
  • Saint Joseph’s avoided what would have been a bad loss, pulling away in the second half to beat Saint Louis 77-63. DeAndre Bembry and Isaiah Miles combined to score 45 points, with Bembry adding eight rebounds and six assists to his game-high 27 points.
  • Creighton, which has a lot of work to do to get back into the bubble conversation, steamrolled St. John’s 100-59 in Omaha. Seniors Geoffrey Groselle and James Milliken combined to score 41 points for the Bluejays, and St. John’s head coach Chris Mullin was ejected in the second half.
  • Tennessee State picked up a confidence boost of sorts with an 87-72 win over OVC regular season champion Belmont. Keron DeShields scored 25 for the Tigers, who will be the four-seed in next week’s OVC tournament and could face Belmont in the semifinals.
  • Monmouth locked up the outright MAAC regular season title with a 77-68 win over Niagara. Next up for King Rice’s Hawks will be either the Purple Eagles or Quinnipiac in Friday’s MAAC quarterfinals.
  • Iona will be the two-seed at the MAAC tournament, and they capped their regular season with an 86-78 home win over Canisius. Tim Cluess’ Gaels will play either Canisius or Marist in their quarterfinal matchup Friday.
  • Tulsa suffered a damaging loss as it looks to earn an NCAA tournament bid, falling 92-82 at Memphis. Shaq Goodwin led the Tigers with 28 points while also grabbing 11 boards, and Dedric Lawson finished with 27, 12 and six assists.
  • Valparaiso, already the Horizon League regular season champion, moved to 26-5 on the season with a 70-68 win at Green Bay. Alec Peters finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds.
  • Wisconsin won for the tenth time in the last 11 games, beating Michigan 68-57 in Madison. Nigel Hayes and Vitto Brown combined to score 30 points and grab 11 boards for the Badgers, who are now part of a four-team logjam for second place in the Big Ten.
  • Nevada, which went 5-13 in Mountain West play a season ago, moved to 10-6 under first-year head coach Eric Musselman with an 87-80 overtime win over Colorado State. D.J. Fenner and Tryon Criswell combined to score 47 points and Cameron Oliver, who’s been the conference’s best freshman, finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Wolf Pack.
  • Oregon State took care of business in its home finale, beating Washington State 69-49. Gary Payton II (who brought his father’s number out of the rafters for Senior Night), Tres Tinkle and Drew Eubanks scored 13 points apiece for the Beavers.
  • Virginia Tech locked up a first-round bye in the ACC tournament with an 81-74 win at Wake Forest. Justin Bibbs led four Hokies in double figures with 22 points.
  • California extended its win streak to seven straight games with an 87-65 win over USC in Berkeley. Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown scored 18 apiece for the Golden Bears, who went 18-0 at Haas Pavilion this season.

Kevin Knox’s father: ‘I’ve never met Christian Dawkins’

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The father of Kevin Knox spoke with SEC Country on Friday morning and told the outlet that he has never met Christian Dawkins or Andy Miller.

Knox is one of the players that was mentioned in the documents disclosed by Yahoo Sports on Friday morning detailing the way that former NBA agent Andy Miller recruited players to his agency. Knox is mentioned in the report as either him or a family member having a meal with Christian Dawkins. The evidence is an expense report that Dawkins filed with Miller in oder to get reimbursed.

“Obviously the investigation is still going on, but the only comment I can say is I’ve never met Christian Dawkins before or Andy Miller, and if they sat next to me at the grocery store, I wouldn’t know who they were,” Kevin Knox Sr. told SEC Country. “Out of respect for the NCAA investigation and the University of Kentucky investigation into this, I’d just say that I’ve never met Christian Dawkins or Andy Miller before and leave it at that.”

He also added that he expected his son to play against Missouri on Saturday night.

Kentucky has not yet commented on the report. Mark Emmert, however, has.

Report: Miles Bridges, Wendell Carter, Kevin Knox among players receiving benefits in FBI documents

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Yahoo Sports released a devastating report on Friday morning detailing some of the exact expenditures and impermissible benefits provided listed on records that were obtained by the FBI from the offices of former agent Andy Miller.

Among them?

Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, Duke’s Wendell Carter, Alabama’s Collin Sexton and Kentucky’s Kevin Knox, just to name a few. Past college stars like Dennis Smith Jr., Bam Adebayo and Markelle Fultz are also listed in the spreadsheets and documents obtained by Yahoo.

The report — and I encourage you to read it — details the elaborate payment, loan and recruitment strategy by Andy Miller’s agency, which includes outright payments to players, cash advances to parents, dinners that were paid for and plane tickets and travel that was provided to players and families.

Here’s the catch: What was provided to the biggest names currently in college is not all that great. Bridges’ mom allegedly received $400, according to an expense report filed by Dawkins, while Bridges’ parents had a meal with Dawkins listed at $70.05. Carter, Knox and Sexton are all tied to this by meals that families members had with Dawkins that the former Miller associate paid for.

Whether or not the players will be deemed ineligible is yet to be determine. The dollar value of the benefits listed in these documents is small enough that paying the money back might be enough to get their eligibility restored now even if it does mean that games they’ve played in previously will end up vacated.

There is also the argument that can be made that Dawkins is lying in these expense reports. In a business with as much cash flying around as this, is it too much of a stretch to assume that Dawkins had dinner with some friends or a girlfriend and passed the receipt off as a work expense?

It’s too early to tell what exactly will result from all of this.

But remember how we tried to tell you in September that this thing goes deep?

Well, here you go.

Bracketology: How high can North Carolina climb?

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On Monday, North Carolina passed Michigan State and Purdue on the Seed List (UNC is No. 7 overall).  Wednesday, the Tar Heels backed up their route of Louisville by winning another road game at Syracuse.  That’s six straight ACC victories – all but two of which are against teams in today’s bracket.  Carolina now has 10 Quadrant 1 wins, which ties the Tar Heels with Kansas for the most in that category (by a two-win margin).  Which brings us to this question: How high can Carolina climb?

The answer, of course, depends on these next two weeks.  But given their strong schedule and depth of quality wins, a No. 1 seed isn’t out of the question if the Tar Heels beat Duke (again) to close the regular season and/or win the ACC tournament.

Overall, several ACC teams benefitted today by the confusing state of the SEC.  The middle of the bracket is littered with SEC teams who ebb and flow like the tides of the ocean.  These next two weeks will be important for them, too.

With another full weekend ahead, here’s where we stand …

UPDATED: February 23, 2018

FIRST FOUR PAIRINGS – Dayton (First Round)

  • Baylor vs. Washington | Midwest Region
  • Texas vs. LSU West Region
  • SOUTHERN vs. SAVANNAH ST | South Region
  • FL GULF COAST vs. NICHOLLS | East Region

BRACKET PROJECTION

SOUTH Atlanta    EAST – Boston                               
Charlotte Pittsburgh
1) VIRGINIA 1) VILLANOVA
16) SOUTHERN / SAVANNAH ST 16) FL GULF CST / NICHOLLS
8) Alabama 8) Miami-FL
9) Creighton 9) Florida
San Diego Boise
5) Ohio State 5) Kentucky
12) LOUISIANA 12) St. Bonaventure
4) West Virginia 4) GONZAGA
13) E. TENNESSEE ST 13) VERMONT
Dallas Wichita
6) Florida State 6) Virginia Tech
11) Saint Mary’s 11) MIDDLE TENNESSEE
3) Texas Tech 3) CINCINNATI
14) CHARLESTON 14) BUCKNELL
Detroit Nashville
7) Arizona State 7) Butler
10) Providence 10) Kansas State
2) MICHIGAN STATE 2) North Carolina
15) WRIGHT STATE 15) WAGNER
WEST – Los Angeles MIDWEST – Omaha
Wichita Detroit
1) KANSAS 1) Xavier
16) PENNSYLVANIA 16) UNC-ASHEVILLE
8) Seton Hall 8) Arkansas
9) Texas AM 9) TCU
Boise Dallas
5) Clemson 5) Michigan
12) NEW MEXICO ST 12) LOYOLA (CHI)
4) Wichita State 4) Tennessee
13) SOUTH DAKOTA ST 13) MURRAY STATE
San Diego Pittsburgh
6) Houston 6) RHODE ISLAND
11) LSU / Texas 11) Baylor / Washington
3) ARIZONA 3) Purdue
14) RIDER 14) BUFFALO
Nashville Charlotte
7) NC State 7) Missouri
10) NEVADA 10) Oklahoma
2) AUBURN 2) Duke
15) UC-IRVINE 15) MONTANA

NOTES on the BRACKET: Virginia is the No. 1 overall seed – followed by Villanova, Xavier, and Kansas

Last Four Byes (at large): Kansas State, Providence, Saint Mary’s, St. Bonaventure

Last Four IN (at large): Baylor, Texas, LSU, Washington

First Four OUT (at large): Marquette, Syracuse, USC, Utah

Next four teams OUT (at large): UCLA, Mississippi State, Louisville, Georgia

Breakdown by Conference …

SEC (9): AUBURN, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Texas AM, LSU

ACC (8): VIRGINIA, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, Miami-FL, Virginia Tech, NC State

BIG 12 (8): TEXAS TECH, Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, TCU, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas

Big East (6): VILLANOVA, Xavier, Butler, Seton Hall, Creighton, Providence

Big 10 (4): MICHIGAN STATE, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan

Pac 12 (3): ARIZONA, Arizona State, Washington

American (3): CINCINNATI, Wichita State, Houston

Atlantic 10 (2): RHODE ISLAND, St. Bonaventure

West Coast (2): GONZAGA, Saint Mary’s

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Rider (MAAC), Middle Tennessee (C-USA), Louisiana (SBELT), Pennsylvania (IVY), Montana (BSKY), Wright State (HORIZON), Nicholls (SLND), East Tennessee State (STHN), UC-Santa Barbara (BWEST), Buffalo (MAC), Florida Gulf Coast (ASUN), Murray State (OVC), Charleston (CAA), UNC-Asheville (BSO), Savannah State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), New Mexico State (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Bucknell (PAT), Wagner (NEC), Southern (SWAC)

Bracketing principles: read them for yourself at http://www.ncaa.com.

Medical clearance brings difficult decision for Michael Porter, Jr.

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Michael Porter, Jr. came to an antiquated situation in a very modern way.

The 6-foot-11 phenom signed up to play for his father at his hometown university.

And Missouri really is more than just the hometown university for Porter — it’s home. His aunt has coached two of his sisters on the Tigers’ women’s team. His younger brother, one of his seven siblings, is also on the roster. After hitting rock-bottom in the Kim Anderson era, Missouri was getting its prodigal son and savior all in the same package.

Nevermind it came after his family moved to Seattle as his father was hired as an assistant by Lorenzo Romar in Washington, no doubt in part because of the long-standing relationship between the two men but also because Porter, Jr. is possibly a generational talent. And forget that his father’s next job came from Cuonzo Martin at Missouri.

In the end, Porter, Jr. began the season playing for his father and with his brother, a five-star center who reclassified in order to join the Tigers, undoubtedly envisioning a magical season alongside his family in his hometown in the pursuit of a national championship.

It’s not Hoosiers, but it ain’t far off.

The season hasn’t exactly worked out that way, and after Porter, Jr. found himself in a nostalgic role by following a contemporary path, in order to live out that he’ll have to turn his back on current-day — somewhat cynical — common sense logic to get one last chance at it.

After sitting out the whole season due to a back injury and with a week left in the regular season, Porter, Jr. has been cleared to return to basketball activities, seemingly setting up the decision on whether to give college basketball one last chance or simply sit out to preserve his best chance to make the most money in the NBA.

Essentially, it boils down to this: Is the added risk to the potential of hundreds of millions of dollars Porter, Jr. could make in the NBA worth the reward of an NCAA tournament run playing alongside his brother with his father on the bench at the university that in some ways has defined his family?

How much is that one chance of collegiate glory worth?

The simple answer for most in 2018 is not enough to justify playing.

Porter, Jr. probably can’t move the needle on his draft stock by playing. Could he possibly be good enough in just a couple weeks after months on the shelf to move ahead of Deandre Ayton? Luka Doncic? Mo Bamba or Marvin Bagley III? Maybe, but is going first or second that much of a difference than going fifth or sixth when the real money comes on his second and third contracts? Or his shoe deal?

Were he to injure himself — especially if it was an aggravation of the back injury or a foot issue — teams might have memories of Greg Oden flash before their eyes. Is there a team willing to risk a Joel Embiid-like injury profile in the first seven slots of a draft this strong?

On the other hand, Porter, Jr. is going to be drafted no matter what potentially happens after his potential return. I can’t imagine even in the most catastrophic of scenarios where he slips outside the top-half of the first round. He’ll make millions of dollars, and that’s the worst-case scenario. Playing, if he’s fully healthy, only adds some risk.

Is that added percent — or two or five or 15 — acceptable when weighed against the unique opportunity that generations of basketball players have dreamed of and never even been given chance to fulfill?

Charging headlong into a chance to win a title — and Missouri very well could be a title contender in a year like this year with a healthy Porter, Jr. — for your school, community and family has to be a tantalizingly tempting choice. Even if it doesn’t come with a paycheck.

It’s chasing a storybook ending over limiting future financial risk.

How to adjudicate those two choices is up to Porter, Jr.

It’s a choice he gets to make. Does he try to have it all or play it safe? Is the lure of shared family success stronger than that of financial security and better long-term viability?

Playing for free has a cost. Is Porter, Jr. willing to pay it?

NCAA president Mark Emmert on Yahoo report: ‘Systematic failures … must be fixed’

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NCAA president Mark Emmert released a statement on Friday morning in response to the allegations that were made in a bombshell report from Yahoo Sports.

Yahoo obtained documents detailing the recruitment methods that former NBA agent Andy Miller and an employee, Christian Dawkins, used to chase potential clients. Payments as high as $73,000 are detailed and current athletes like Duke’s Wendell Carter, Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, Kentucky’s Kevin Knox and Alabama’s Collin Sexton are all listed in those documents.

“These allegations, if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America,” Emmert’s statement read. “Simply put, people who engage in this kind of behavior have no place in college sports. They are an affront to all those who play by the rules.”

“Following the Southern District of New York’s indictments last year, the NCAA Board of Governors and I formed the independent Commission on College Basketball, chaired by Condoleezza Rice, to provide recommendations on how to clean up the sport. With these latest allegations, it’s clear this work is more important now than ever. The Board and I are completely committed to making transformational changes to the game and ensuring all involved in college basketball do so with integrity.”

“We also will continue to cooperate with the efforts of federal prosecutors to identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.”