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Team of the Week: Oregon Ducks

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Oregon put together the single-most dominant performance that we’ve seen to date this season.

They were hosting Arizona on Saturday. The Wildcats entered the day ranked No. 5 in the country. They were 10-0 in Pac-12 play, which included a win at UCLA. There was a growing crowd that considered Arizona, as of 3:59 p.m. ET, to be the best team in college basketball.

That all changed at 4:00 p.m. ET, because Oregon totally humiliated the Wildcats. They his 16 of their first 21 threes. They jumped out to a 38-11 lead and stretched it to 62-27. They threw more casual alley-oops than you’ll see the Harlem Globetrotters throw against the Washington Generals.

It was proof that Oregon, on their best day, can beat anyone in the country. But, perhaps more importantly, the win kept the Ducks in the race for the Pac-12 regular season title. Had they lost this game, Oregon would’ve found themselves two games out of first.

It’s also worth noting here that, on Thursday night, the Ducks outlasted an Arizona State team in a classic trap game. Dillon Brooks scored the final 12 points for the Ducks.

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THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Big 12 bubble teams: Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma State put themselves into the NCAA tournament for the time being with wins at Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia, respectively. Even TCU added a couple of wins, beating Kansas State and Texas.
  • Florida: The Gators made a statement on Saturday, beating No. 8 Kentucky by 22 points to keep themselves within a game of first place in the SEC title race. That was the big win. But it wasn’t a fluke. The Gators went coming off three straight wins by at least 32 points.
  • Syracuse: The Orange added two come-from-behind wins to their résumé, erasing a 17-point second half deficit to win at N.C. State and a 12-point halftime deficit to knock off Virginia in the Carrier Dome. The Orange are now in the thick of the race for an at-large bid.
  • Purdue: The Boilermakers kept themselves in the Big Ten title race by knocking off two teams perched above them in the standings this week. On Wednesday, it was a 21-point win over Northwestern at home. On Saturday, they erased a 12-point deficit at Maryland to knock off Maryland by a point.
  • Xavier: The Musketeers may have lost Edmond Sumner to a torn ACL but they haven’t quit on their season. Xavier landed a pair of two-point wins over NCAA tournament teams this week, beating Seton Hall at home and going into Omaha and knocking off Creighton.
  • Wichita State: The Shockers evened up the race for the Missouri Valley regular season title with a 41-point win over Illinois State, who was previously undefeated in conference play and who had beaten Wichita State at home earlier this season.

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley to remain NBA Draft

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For the first time in a decade and just the third time in 14 seasons as UNC’s head coach, Roy Williams has a one-and-done player.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley will sign with an agent and remain in the NBA Draft.

Bradley had an impressive freshman season, averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 boards in less than 15 minutes per game as the sixth-man for the national title-winning Tar Heels. He initially declared for the draft without signing with an agent, testing the waters, and the feedback was positive: He’ll likely be a late first round or early second round pick.

As the process dragged on, it became fairly evident that Bradley would keep his name in the draft, and that is a massive blow for a UNC team that is already losing Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, not to mention Justin Jackson.

As it stands, Roy Williams will likely start the following lineup next season: Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams and Theo Pinson on the perimeter with Luke Maye and either Brandon Huffman or Garrison Brooks, both freshmen, alongside him. Williams is one of the few coaches left in the sport that still relies on playing two bigs and utilizing an overwhelming front court to win games, and that is not going to be an easy thing to do with that group of bigs.

UNC’s perimeter is strong. Berry will likely be a preseason all-american while Pinson and Williams are both above average role players on the wings.

But without that hoss in the paint — Bradley, like Berry, would have popped up on preseason all-american teams — the Tar Heels are going to have a tough time making a run at an ACC title, let alone a third straight trip to the national title game.

North Carolina is currently ranked 18th in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.