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

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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.

Michigan lands four-star 2018 forward Ignas Brazdeikis

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Michigan added to an already strong Class of 2018 recruiting haul on Friday night as four-star forward Ignas Brazdeikis pledged to the Wolverines on Twitter.

The 6-foot-8 Canadian was one of the premier scorers in the Nike EYBL this past spring and summer playing with CIA Bounce as Brazdeikis averaged 21.1 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the floor. Well-rounded outside of his scoring, Brazdeikis also put up 7.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while also showing a workable jumper that was 26 percent from three-point range.

With the job that Michigan head coach John Beilein has done developing forwards, most recently with the rapid improvement of players like D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner, it’ll be fascinating to see how Brazdeikis will look at the college level after some time on campus. Beilein’s offense is favorable for skilled forwards with a penchant for scoring and Brazdeikis could end up being a tremendous fit for the Wolverines.

Brazdeikis becomes the fourth member of Michigan’s Class of 2018 recruiting haul as he joins four-star forward Brandon Johns, four-star guard David Dejulius and three-star forward Taylor Currie.

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.”