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No. 18 West Virginia lands upset win over No. 2 Kansas


No. 18 West Virginia got a career-high 27 points from Esa Ahmad as they landed their second massive home win of the season, picking off No. 2 Kansas, 85-69, to snap a two-game losing streak.

The Jayhawks had won 18 straight games following a season-opening overtime loss to Indiana in Hawai’i. Two weeks ago, the Mountaineers handed then-No. 1 and then-undefeated Baylor their first loss of the season.

West Virginia, who is known as Press Virginia because of their ability to force turnovers at obscene rates, only caused 12 Kansas turnovers, but their harassing defense kept Player of the Year favorite Frank Mason III in check. He had 12 points and two assists while shooting 5-for-15 from the floor.

The Mountaineers closed the game on a 27-10 run after Kansas took their first lead of the second half at 59-58.

Josh Jackson led the Jayhawks with 22 points, four boards and four assists, but it was his inability to effectively guard Ahmad that eventually cost Kansas. Jackson fouled out with less than two minutes left.

This was the first loss in Big 12 play for Kansas, dropping them into a tie for first place in the league standings. West Virginia sits two games behind Kansas and Baylor.

Here are five things we learned in this game:

1. West Virginia doesn’t have to force a ton of turnovers to win games: One of the concerns for West Virginia of late has been the inability of their pressure to force turnovers. Tuesday night was the first time in four games that the Mountaineers had forced more turnovers than they had committed, and even then, they forced 13 with a turnover rate of 18.8%; their season-long turnover rate was 31.1% entering Tuesday, even with the last three games factored in.

Part of that is because the turnovers that Kansas did force were costly. Nine of the 13 were live-ball turnovers, which led to 19 points off of turnovers. But the other part of it is that West Virginia was able simply able to wear down a Kansas team that just doesn’t have the depth needed to deal with that kind of harassment for 40 minutes. They did a particularly good job on Frank Mason, a National Player of the Year favorite, who finished with just 12 points on 5-for-15 shooting.

2. West Virginia’s résumé looks awful impressive right now: The Mountaineers beat Kansas at home by 16 points. They beat Baylor at home by 21 points. They have a win at No. 12 Virginia. There aren’t going to be many teams that can match those top three wins. The issue is the losses they have incurred. Temple beat them by four points, and Temple isn’t very good. Oklahoma beat them in overtime in Morgantown, and Oklahoma isn’t very good. That is a bit of a black mark on their tournament profile, but those wins should put the rest of the country on alert: when Bob Huggins’ club shows up ready to play, they can beat just about anyone, anywhere.

3. The Mountaineers needed Ahmad to get it going: In the last three games – a two-point win at Texas, a loss at home to Oklahoma, a loss at Kansas State – Ahmad, who is the second-leading scorer on the year for the Mountaineers, had a total of just 13 points. On Tuesday, he finished with 27, the majority of them coming when he was able to lose Josh Jackson in West Virginia’s half court sets. He’s one of the best offensive weapons for the Mountaineers in the half court, and his scoring against a set Kansas defense is one of the reasons the Mountaineers were able to win despite their inability to force turnovers at their usual rate.

4. It’s time for us to start being concerned about the defensive issues Kansas has: The Jayhawks have some flaws on the defensive end of the floor. They have fully embraced this small-ball lineup with Josh Jackson at the four, but it had cost them on the defensive glass. They foul too much. They don’t create near the number of turnovers that you would expect from a team with the individual defenders that they have available – Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Jackson, LeGerald Vick.

Tuesday was glaring. Jackson, in particular, was exposed, as he struggled mightily to slow down Ahmad. He’s a very good on-ball defender. West Virginia took advantage of his penchant for struggling to chase players around screens and his lack of attention off the ball. Things got bad enough for the Jayhawks that Bill Self was forced to play zone for just the second time this season. Self is not a man that is prove to going zone.

One of the reasons for this is that both Mason and Graham play a ton of minutes, and it’s not easy on their legs to play that level of defense for 36 minutes a night in league play, not when they have to carry the load they carry offensively.

The biggest problem, however, is …

5. … the Jayhawks seriously lack front court depth: The loss of Udoka Azubuike really showed up on Tuesday night. Landen Lucas with 10 boards, but he hasn’t provided much offensive lift and spent much of Tuesday night in foul trouble. The only other big man on the Kansas roster is Carlton Bragg Jr., and he just isn’t ready physically to play the five against a team like West Virginia. The result? The Mountaineers got 34 points in the paint and grabbed 40.6 percent of the available offensive rebounds, a number that is far too high.

Villanova lands four-star 2018 guard

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Villanova added its first recruit in the Class of 2018 on Wednesday night.

Jay Wright and his staff landed a verbal commitment from Paul VI Catholic High School’s Brandon Slater, a four-star guard by Rivals as the No. 42 overall prospect in the rising senior class.

The 6-foot-5 Slater announced his decision via Twitter.

Slater, according to Jeff Borzello of ESPN, picked the Wildcats over Maryland, Miami, South Carolina, and Virginia.

He is currently playing the Nike EYBL with Team Takeover, the same grassroots program that produced current Villanova guard Phil Booth.

Comic-Con forces Providence to play at Alumni Hall for home opener

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Providence will play its first game at Alumni Hall, the on-campus facility, for the first time in 35 years this fall.

The Friars unveiled their 2017-18 non-conference schedule on Thursday afternoon. The team’s home opener will play either Houston Baptist or Belmont in Mullaney Gym inside Alumni Hall.

According to Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal, the reason for that is a schedule conflict at Providence’s home arena, the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, in downtown Providence. A Comic-Con convention is scheduled Nov. 10-12. As McNamara notes, it’s a busy part of the season for The Dunk. The arena also is home to the Providence Bruins, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, and by mid-November, their season is in full swing.

The Friars haven’t played at Alumni Hall since 1972, the same year the Dunkin’ Donuts Center was opened. In the three decades since Providence last played a regular season game there, the facility has gone under necessary renovations, as you could imagine. Even with added seats, Mullaney Gym can host a maximum of 1,549. That’s a fraction of what The Dunk’s capacity of 12,400.

Providence will return to its downtown home on Nov. 13, hosting Minnesota as part of the Gavitt Games. The Golden Gophers will likely be a top-20 team to open the season. The Friars, who bring back every notable player from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, is a fringe top-25 team.

Jalen Coleman-Lands to transfer out of Illinois

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The already-thin Illinois roster got thinner on Thursday afternoon.

Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that sophomore guard Jalen Coleman-Lands has requested and received his release from the program. He will have to sit out next season but will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Coleman-Lands was a top-40 recruit in the Class of 2015, according to Rivals. He becomes the second player from that recruiting class this month to exit the school. Reserve guard D.J. Williams elected to transfer on May 8. With Jeremiah Tilmon and Javon Pickett, two incoming recruits, both previously reopened their recruitments following John Groce’s firing.

Even with the addition of Wright State graduate transfer Mark Alstork, who officially joined the Fighting Illini on Wednesday, Illinois is left with only nine scholarship players as of right now.

Coleman-Lands’ production dipped from his freshman campaign, ending the 2016-17 season averaging 8.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, shooting 38 percent from three.

One destination that will likely be rumored will be nearby DePaul. Coleman-Lands played for new DePaul assistant coach Shane Heirman at prep school powerhouse La Lumiere School. Heriman quickly tapped into that prep pipeline, helping secure a commitment from La Lumiere from five-star 2019 point guard Tyger Campbell earlier this month.

Coleman-Lands had taken official visits to Notre Dame and UNLV before committing to the Illini in September 2014.

North Carolina releases response to latest NCAA Notice of Allegations

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North Carolina is still trying to convince the NCAA that their investigation into the paper classes given by the university’s African-American Studies Department is not, in fact, an NCAA matter.

On Thursday afternoon, the University released their response to the NCAA’s third iteration of the Notice of Allegations, and the core argument in that response is that the school’s “inadequate academic oversight” does not fall under the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s bylaws. In other words, North Carolina is arguing that a rogue professor creating fake classes is not an NCAA issue. It’s a school issue.

What’s more, North Carolina is also arguing that athletes taking these classes should not be classified as an extra benefit because they were available to the entire student body.

“No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation,” the response reads. “Student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses.”

“The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took advantage of ‘fake classes’ in the Department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

The NCAA’s allegations center around the idea that UNC’s athletes, most notably members of the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams, were guided to the fake classes within that department in order to keep their GPAs high enough to remain eligible. The classes in question had a disproportionate percentage of athletes.

A hearing in front of the Committee on Infractions is expected to take place at some point this summer.

No indictment for escort, staffer in Louisville sex scandal

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A grand jury declined to indict an escort and former Louisville men’s basketball staffer in a sex scandal that engulfed the program.

The Jefferson County grand jury decided Thursday there wasn’t enough evidence for charges of prostitution and unlawful transactions with a minor against Katina Powell and Andre McGee.

Powell wrote in a book published in 2015 that McGee hired her to provide dancers to perform sex acts for Cardinal recruits and players from 2010-2014.

The announcement by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office comes as the school awaits discipline in early June by the NCAA after an investigation.

Louisville has imposed its own penalties, including a postseason ban in 2015-16 and reductions in scholarships and recruiting visits by coaches.