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Previewing Tuesday’s three great games

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Last season, on the first day after the college football playoff ended, we got one of the best regular season college basketball games we’ve ever seen.

Buddy Hield scored 46 points as Oklahoma, who was No. 1 in the AP Poll, lost in triple-overtime at Kansas, who was No. 1 in the Coaches Poll. It was a perfect way to kick off the post-college football section of the college hoops season, and given the success that they had with it last year, it’s not hard to assume that schedule-makers tried to tap into the same success this year.

No. 3 Kansas will be paying a visit to Oklahoma tonight, the only problem being that the Sooners stink and will be playing without Jordan Woodard.

So that didn’t workout.

RELATED: Get caught up on college hoops

But we did happen to luck into three sensational basketball games thanks to Baylor becoming the No. 1 team in the country, Florida State turning into a top ten ball club and Grayson Allen and Coach K playing out the Duke as if it were a bingeable show on NetFlix.

Let’s take a look at Tuesday night’s awesome slate:

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No. 1 Baylor at No. 10 West Virginia, 7:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

For the first time in the history of the Baylor basketball program, the Bears will play a game as the No. 1 team in the country. The problem? The day after they finally received that ranking, undefeated Baylor looks to be a prime candidate to suffer their first loss of the regular season. Morgantown is not an easy place to win basketball games, not when the No. 1 team in the country comes to down and not with the way WVU’s press operates in front of 14,000 frenzied West Virginians that want nothing more than to belt out “Country Roads” after a win.

And that’s going to be the key for Baylor. How do they handle Press Virginia? This is a team that ranks 125th nationally in turnover percentage, a team that wants to play at a methodical, possession-by-possession pace. West Virginia is going to throw wave after wave of bodies at them to try and get them uncomfortable, force turnovers and turn the game into a ragged mess.

The key for Baylor, to me, isn’t just point guard Manu Lecomte, it’s Ishmail Wainwright, Al Freeman and Jake Lindsey. To break this press they need more than just one guy to show up, and those are the three that are the best ballhandlers. If you can break WVU’s press, their half court defense is beatable.

  • PREDICTION: I do think West Virginia probably wins this game, but I think it ends up being close down the stretch. Baylor (+6) covers.
VILLANOVA, PA - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Jay Wright of the Villanova Wildcats shakes hands with head coach Chris Mack of the Xavier Musketeers after a game at the Pavilion on the campus of Villanova University on December 31, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

No. 15 Xavier at No. 3 Villanova, 7:00 p.m. ET (FS1)

The biggest talking point in this game is that the Musketeers finally get back Myles Davis, who missed the first 15 games of the season following a series of legal issues. Davis is important because A) he’s the best perimeter shooter on a team that has had some issues shooting the ball this season, and B) he’s a point guard that will allow Edmond Sumner a little more freedom to play off the ball.

He’s a piece this team has been lacking, which should tell you something about how good this team can be given that the Musketeers are still 13-2 overall and sitting at 3-0 atop the Big East.

Tonight’s test will not be easy, however. Villanova has lost seven Big East basketball games since Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins arrived on campus and 14 games total. Only two of those losses came at home. Last year, when Xavier made this trip, they were beaten by 31 points.

  • PREDICTION: Villanova is just not a good matchup for Xavier. Villanova (-8).

No. 7 Duke at No. 9 Florida State, 8:00 p.m. ET (ACC Network)

This is the most intriguing game of the night for a number of reasons.

  1. Coach K is not on the sideline, meaning that not only with Jeff Capel be taking this team on the road, he’ll be doing so against a top ten team that just beat the breaks off of Virginia Tech, who beat Duke by 14, and who won at Virginia.
  2. More concerning that the lack of Coach K, however, may actually be the lack of Amile Jefferson in the lineup. Jefferson has a bone bruise in his right foot, and as talented as Harry Giles III and Marques Bolden are, neither of them are anywhere near as sound defensively as Jefferson.
  3. At this point, we still don’t really know how good Florida State is. That win at Virginia looks great, but this isn’t the same Virginia team of the last three years. Beyond that, the Seminoles really haven’t done anything that would make you believe they are a legit ACC title contender. Beating Duke at home? That would be a pretty good sign.

These two teams actually matchup quite well, as both play lineups where potential top five picks with small forward skills – Jonathan Isaac and Jayson Tatum – play the four. There is talent up and down the back courts – Grayson Allen vs. Dwayne Bacon, Luke Kennard vs. Terrence Mann, Frank Jackson vs. Xavier Rathan-Mayes – and Florida State has enough size to at least contend with Duke’s bigs.

  • PREDICTION: The line keeps moving as money comes in on Florida State, but I’m still on the Noles if you can get them at (-2). Duke will have to win this game with defense, and I don’t think their defense is good enough to do that without Jefferson.

 

Kentucky fans flood Facebook page of official John Higgins’ company with negative reviews

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Unhappy with how John Higgins performed at his part-time job, Kentucky fans did their best trash him at his full-time gig.

The Facebook page of the referee’s Omaha-based roofing company was flooded by Big Blue Nation with negative comments and reviews after they were displeased with the official’s work in the Wildcats’ Elite Eight loss to North Carolina.

Not only did fans leave obviously fake and vulgar comments on the page, they also deluged it with one-star reviews to drive down its average significantly.

Once again, the Internet is struck by its proportionality problem. What could be considered a silly bit of online pranking by a small minority suddenly turns into an avalanche of nastiness that could do real damage to someone’s life, business and family, given the importance of social media for companies in 2017. It becomes cruel when it reaches a level like this.

When there’s so many general complaints about the state of officiating in college basketball, it’s also not helpful to do something like this to one of the referees generally considered to be one of the country’s best. It’s not exactly a glowing endorsement for prospective future officials to follow the career path if it brings this level of negative attention to you off the court.

Report: North Carolina to miss out on NCAA events through 2022 if HB2 not addressed by Thursday

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North Carolina is in danger of losing out on hosting NCAA events through 2022 if the state does not make changes to HB2, the controversial so-called “bathroom bill” by Thursday afternoon, according to the leader of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

“I have confirmed with a contact very close to the NCAA that its deadline for HB2 is 48 hours from now,” Scott Dupree, the head of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “If HB2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids.”

“The NCAA has already delayed the bid review process once and has waited as long as it possibly can, and now it must finalize all championship site selections through spring of 2022.”

The NCAA, as it reminded North Carolina last week, is making its determinations on hosts for events from 2018-2022 this week. There was movement last week at the North Carolina statehouse for a compromise on the bill, but that apparently stalled out, the News & Observer reported, though there remain efforts to make progress on a pact.

Should lawmakers not reach an agreement in time, the state’s flagship basketball programs will be without an NCAA tournament home-court advantage that they have often enjoyed. HB2 just this past year moved the first and second rounds out of the state and to South Carolina, where No. 2 seed Duke lost to the seventh-seeded Gamecocks in their home state.

Clearly, there’s much more to consider here than NCAA tournament implications, but it’s another reminder of the economic impact the bill has made in North Carolina. This week, The Associated Press estimated it will cost the state $3.76 billion over a 12-year period.

Baylor’s Freeman to graduate and transfer

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Baylor is losing one of its contributors over the past three seasons.

Al Freeman, a 6-foot-3 guard, will graduate and transfer to another school, the Bears announced Tuesday.

“Al has been a tremendous student-athlete and made great contributions to our program over the last four years, and we’re thrilled that he’s going to complete his degree at Baylor,” Bears coach Scott Drew said in a statement. “He’ll always be part of the Baylor family, and we’ll be rooting for him as he continues his career.”

Freeman, who redshirted his freshman year due to a broken wrist, started 57 games during his career in Waco and averaged 8.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game. He was a full-time starter as a sophomore, but made just 22 this past season and saw his minutes slashed.

As a graduate transfer, the Charlotte native will be immediately eligible at his next program for his final collegiate season.

Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner declares for NBA Draft

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Xavier sophomore Edmond Sumner has declared for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent.

“First let me start by saying these three years at Xavier have been the best of my life,” Sumner said in a statement. “I have certainly been presented with some ups and downs but they have only served to make me a stronger person. This decision was very hard for me because of the love I have for X. After weighing my options with my family, I have decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft, fulfilling a lifelong dream. I want to thank Coach Mack and the rest of the staff for believing in me and giving me a chance when no one did! I’ll always be grateful for that. Xavier Nation I will always love you!”

Sumner, a 6-foot-6 point guard with dynamic athleticism and first round potential that averaged 15.0 points, but he is coming off of a torn ACL that he suffered in January. He’s likely to be a second round pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

This is a big loss for the Musketeers, but it’s one that they planned for. After his eruption last season, most expected him to put his name in the draft this season.

Duke freshman Harry Giles III declares for NBA Draft

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Harry Giles III has declared for the NBA Draft after playing just one season at Duke.

“Playing in the NBA has been my goal for as long as I can remember, and I’m so excited to take the next step in that journey,” Giles said. “My time at Duke has been a dream come true. I’ve built so many strong relationships here and I have so many people to thank, from my teammates and coaches to our medical staff and strength coach. I can’t understate how proud I am to be part of the Duke Basketball program forever.”

Giles played in 26 games for the Blue Devils. He started six games and averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story with Giles. At one point considered to be the best player in the loaded Class of 2016, Giles has dealt with a pair of devastating knee injuries already. He underwent a third surgery right before the start of the season and never seemed like he was fully able to get back to being the player he was when he was in high school.

This is the right decision for Giles to make, as there is still some uncertainty regarding the health of his knees. Were his struggles due to the fact that he was tossed right into the middle of a college basketball season after having sat out for 14 straight months, or was this simply a result of knees that no longer allow him to be the player that he used to be?

He might still end up being a first round pick this year. At the very least, he’s make some guaranteed money if he can get into a camp. Maybe returning to school could have helped vault him into the lottery in 2018, but another year like this year would’ve firebombed his draft stock.

“With his uplifting personality and love for the game, Harry Giles has been a joy to coach,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “He is only beginning to scratch the surface of how good he can be on the basketball court. Harry has an exciting NBA future ahead of him and we are here to fully support him as a member of our brotherhood.”

I know I’m not alone when I say I hope that Giles gets healthy and succeeds in the NBA.