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Weekend Preview: Kansas-Baylor rematch highlights weekend’s top games

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SATURDAY’S SHOWDOWNS

No. 3 Kansas at No. 4 Baylor, Sat. 1:00 p.m. (CBS): The biggest game of the weekend will be in Waco, as Kansas and Baylor get back together after the Jayhawks took down the Bears two weeks ago in Lawrence.

Since then, the two teams have been on different paths. The Jayhawks are sitting two games up on Baylor in the Big 12 standings with five games remaining. A win on Saturday for Kansas would all but lock up their 13th straight Big 12 regular season title.

It would also be the fourth loss in the last six games for the Bears, who have looked most of the season like they’re primed to be one of the four No. 1 seeds on Selection Sunday. But with teams like Duke, North Carolina and Louisville continuing to win in the ACC, and the Pac-12 placing three teams at the top of their conference, nothing is guaranteed for Scott Drew’s club.

The key to this game is going to be in the paint. That’s where Baylor’s strength lies, with All-American candidate Johnathan Motley flanked by Jo Lual-Acuil. That’s also where Kansas struggles, as Landen Lucas is the only big guy on their roster that has had any real impact in the paint this season. Carlton Bragg Jr. is being asked to play out of position, Mitch Lightfoot isn’t ready, Dwight Coleby is not healthy yet and Udoka Azubuike has a wrist injury. If Motley can get Lucas into foul trouble early, Baylor will be in a great spot.

On the other end of the floor, however, the Bears are going to have to figure out a way to deal with Kansas playing small-ball. The Jayhawks will likely face plenty of that 1-1-3 zone that Drew employs, but with their ability to shoot and drive from every spot on the perimeter, they have the pieces to be able to attack it.

However it shakes out, I have a feeling that this will end up being a close, thrilling game down the stretch.

  • PREDICTION: Kansas has been squeaking by teams they should blow out for too long. It’s going to catch up to them on Saturday, their toughest road trip of the season. Baylor (-4)

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No. 14 Virginia at No. 10 North Carolina, Sat. 8:15 p.m. (ESPN): First place in the ACC is on the line on Saturday night as the Cavaliers head down to Chapel Hill to square off with the Tar Heels. UNC is currently sitting all alone in first place in the ACC with three teams – Florida State, Louisville and Duke – sitting a game out of first place. Virginia and Notre Dame are tied two games out of the race.

Virginia badly needs this win after falling at home to Duke on Wednesday night, their fourth loss in six games, but I’m not sure that they have the horses to outrun UNC. The Tar Heels are a team that is not getting quite enough attention at this point in the season, and with the combination of Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson, a long with a massive and healthy front line, UVA is going to have their work cut out for them.

The key to this game will be UNC defensively. Duke held the Wahoos to 44 points in the first 38 minutes of Wednesday’s game, which is why they were able to win despite the fact that Virginia locked down everyone not named Jayson Tatum. Can UNC, whose defense ranks 42nd nationally, do the same?

  • PREDICTION: Right now, KenPom has the line at North Carolina (-1). If you can get that, take it.
HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04: Joel Berry II #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels shoots the ball in the first half against the Villanova Wildcats during the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Joel Berry II (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

FIVE MORE GAMES TO WATCH

  • No. 2 Villanova at Seton Hall, Sat. 12:30 p.m. (FOX): Seton Hall should be back at full strength for this game, a game they really need for their NCAA tournament profile. When the Pirates are at their best, you won’t find a tougher team in college basketball. PREDICTION: Seton Hall (+7)
  • No. 23 Maryland at No. 11 Wisconsin, Sun. 1:00 p.m. (CBS): Will Bronson Koenig be back for the Badgers on Sunday afternoon? He missed Thursday night’s loss at Michigan, and a loss here for the Badgers would drop them a game out of first place in the Big Ten standings. PREDICTION: Maryland (+8)
  • Michigan State at No. 16 Purdue, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN): The Terps and the Badgers aren’t the only teams currently tied for first place in the Big Ten. Purdue is, too, meaning that if the Boilermakers can hold serve at home against Tom Izzo and Sparty, they’ll be in just a two-way tie for the lead in the league. PREDICTION: Purdue (-12)
  • No. 22 Saint Mary’s at BYU, Sat. 10:00 p.m. (ESPN2): One of the biggest reasons you should watch this game is the fact that both teams are offensively inclined. There should be quite a few points scored. But there are also some larger implications. If the Gaels lose this game it may be time for us to start ask ourselves just what they’ve accomplished and who they’ve beaten this season. PREDICTION: BYU (+6)
  • USC at No. 6 UCLA, Sat. 10:00 p.m. (Pac-12): The battle for supremacy in La-La land. The Trojans have won the last four games between these two programs, including a three-game sweep last season. Both teams love to run, neither team plays all that much defense and more threes will be fired up in this game than in the three-point shooting contest that night. PREDICTION: UCLA (-12)

Ball State forward Zach Hollywood found dead in off-campus apartment

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Zach Hollywood, a redshirt freshman on the Ball State basketball team, has died, the university confirmed to multiple local news outlets Tuesday.

Muncie police are investigating the death at Hollywood’s off-campus apartment, according to WTHR-TV. Multiple outlets are reporting that the death has been ruled a suicide.

Hollywood was 19 years old.

This is his final tweet, from 5:39 a.m. Tuesday morning:

Hollywood redshirted last season at Ball State after averaging 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game as a senior at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in Bradley, Ill.

“On behalf of Ball State University, it is with profound sadness that we learned today of the passing of Zachary “Zach” Hollywood, a student from Bradley, Illinois,” the school said in a statement. “Zach has been a part of our family for the past year. During his time on campus, he was a member of men’s basketball team and made many positive impressions throughout campus.”

“This is a tragedy. Our heartfelt condolences are with his family, friends and teammates.”

Hollywood’s teammates reacted on social media:

Hollywood’s death is a tragic turn in an already devastating story for his family, which lost Zach’s mother, Susan, suddenly just over one year ago.

3-on-3 at the Final Four for $100,000? It’s happening

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The Final Four just got more exciting.

On Tuesday, Intersport announced a 3-on-3 tournament that they will be hosting at the Final Four with a $100,000 payout for the winners. The participants must be seniors that have exhausted their collegiate eligibility, the teams will be created based on conference and the rules will be standard, international 3-on-3 rules: one-point for a bucket inside the arc, two points for a bucket outside the arc, 12-second shot clocks and games played to 21 points, or whoever has the highest score after 10 minutes. Each all-star team will feature four players, including one sub.

And, well, this is awesome.

I cannot express enough how much I love this idea.

One potential pothole here is that teams that are playing in the Final Four will, quite clearly, not have players eligible to participate.

It also should be noted that since “three-pointers” are now worth two points and “two-pointers” are now worth one, the value of long-range shooting is increased even more.

With all that in mind, why don’t we make a quick power ranking of the teams that can be created from the nine biggest conferences in college hoops:

  1. ACC: Grayson Allen (Duke), Bonzie Colson (Notre Dame), Joel Berry II (North Carolina), Ben Lammers (Georgia Tech)
  2. Big East: Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington (Seton Hall), Trevon Bluiett (Xavier), Marcus Foster (Creighton)
  3. Big 12: Devonte’ Graham (Kansas), Jevon Carter (West Virginia), Jeffery Carroll (Oklahoma State), Zach Smith (Texas Tech)
  4. AAC: Rob Gray (Houston), B.J. Taylor (UCF), Gary Clark (Cincinnati), Obi Enechionya (Temple)
  5. Pac-12: Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart (USC), George King (Colorado), Thomas Welsh (UCLA)
  6. Big Ten: Nate Mason (Minnesota), Scottie Lindsay (Northwestern), Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas (Purdue)
  7. Atlantic 10: E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell (Rhode Island), Peyton Aldridge (Davidson), Jaylen Adams (St. Bonaventure)
  8. SEC: Yante Maten (Georgia), Deandre Burnett (Ole Miss), Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford (Arkansas)
  9. WCC: Jock Landale and Emmett Naar (Saint Mary’s), Jonathan Williams III (Gonzaga), Silas Melson (Gonzaga)

I had way too much fun putting this together.

What did I miss?

Harsh Reality: Indiana did not do Grant Gelon wrong, getting cut is part of sports

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What happened to Grant Gelon sucks, and I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would try to argue otherwise.

A 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Crown Point, Indiana, Gelon accepted a scholarship offer from then-Indiana head coach Tom Crean as a member of the Class of 2016. His commitment was something of a surprise at the time; Gelon was a two-star prospect, according to Rivals, and ranked 402nd in the class, according to 247 Sports. At the time, Gelon reportedly had seven scholarship offers: Central Michigan, UIC, Toledo, Iona, Youngstown State, IUPUI and Western Carolina.

It was a reach for Crean, but it was also a dream come true for an Indiana kid getting a chance to don the cream and crimson.

Which is what made what happened this spring particularly painful.

Crean was fired on March 16th. Indiana hired Archie Miller to replace him on March 27th. Five weeks later, after a handful of workouts with the new coaching staff, Miller called Gelon into his office — the date, according to the Northwest Indiana Times, was May 3rd — and told him that he was being cut. There was not going to be minutes available, the staff said, for a sophomore that played in just 12 games last season, and that finding a place to transfer would be Gelon’s best option.

“I told them I wanted to stay,” Gelon told the Indy Star. “I told them, I’m making my mind up, I’m gonna push hard, show them what I can do, I’m here for a reason. When I said that, it was like, ‘Whoa, slow down.’ They were kind of making that sound like it wasn’t an option.”

That’s because it wasn’t.

Miller was cutting Gelon.

He was not cutting his scholarship, mind you. The Indiana student-athlete bill of rights protects players from losing their tuition due to poor performance on the court or the field. Gelon would still be getting his education paid for if he opted to remain at Indiana, he just wouldn’t be playing for the Hoosiers. Gelon’s departure opened up a scholarship for the Hoosiers that eventually went to Race Thompson, a four-star power forward that reclassified into the Class of 2017 in order to enroll at Indiana this year.

“Coach Miller believes honesty in evaluating talent, while often difficult, is the appropriate measure to take at all times and in the best interest of each player,” a statement released by the Indiana athletic department read. “Grant was made aware that our staff believed his abilities were not of the caliber that would allow him to receive playing time of any kind in the future for the IU program.”

I feel for Gelon here. I really do. Getting cut sucks, and everyone reading this now has probably gone through it at some point in their life. It happens all the time, in every sport, at every age group. Once you get to a level in athletics where you’re playing in more than your hometown rec league, it gets competitive. If you’re not good enough, you don’t make the team. That is how this works. Gelon found that out the hard way.

And frankly, what Miller did is not uncommon. It’s called running a player off, and it happens all the time at every program. Gelon had a bad enough season as a freshman that there is no guarantee that he would have kept his spot on the team had Crean kept his job. Simply put, he is not a Big Ten basketball player. I’d wager that two out of every five transfers at the Division I level are the result of a player transferring out of a school — either because he was forced or because the writing was on the wall — to a lower level, one more in line with his skill-set.

That’s what happened with Gelon. He’s now at State Fair Community College in Missouri, where he’ll spend a year before looking to climb his way back into the Division I ranks, most likely at the low-major level.

And no matter how many interviews that he or his family gives, you won’t find me saying that Indiana handled this the wrong way.

Was Miller callous?

That wouldn’t surprise me. He’s not the type of guy to mince words, and there really is not a good way to sugar-coat, ‘You are not good enough for us.’

But Gelon was not having his scholarship taken away. Indiana was living up to their promise of paying for his education. They did not do him wrong. The staff gave him more than a month to prove himself as a player and, eventually, made the decision he would not be in their plans moving forward.

So he was cut. That opening allowed a four-star power forward to enroll this year.

That’s the harsh reality of life in the Big Ten.

And there’s nothing wrong with the coach of a basketball team doing what Miller and Indiana did.

VIDEO: UConn’s Kwintin Williams would win the NBA dunk contest

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Think that’s too strong?

Look at this dunk:

Light

A post shared by Kwintin Williams (@jumpmanebig) on

He also did this over the summer:

Williams is a 6-foot-7, 215 pound JuCo transfer that should provide UConn with some minutes in the frontcourt this season.

LSU officially announces addition of Kavell Bigby-Williams

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LSU has announced the addition of Oregon transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams, a 6-foot-11 junior that was the National Junior College Player of the Year as a sophomore.

Bigby-Williams, who is a native of London, averaged 3.0 points and 2.8 boards last season as the Ducks reached the Final Four, but he played the majority of the season while under investigation for an alleged sexual assault that occurred while he was at Gillette College in Wyoming.

The local County Attorney declined to charge Bigby-Williams with a crime, and Gillette College police consider the case closed.

“The university conducted a responsible and comprehensive review before approving the transfer,” a release posted on LSU’s Athletics site read, “including close coordination with Title IX officials, multiple discussions with Gillette and Oregon officials and a thorough examination of available public records.”

LSU head coach Will Wade was quoted in that release as well: “This is an issue we all take seriously and we made absolutely sure we did our due diligence before considering moving forward. Kavell understands that and has made clear to me that he’s going to repay our confidence by representing LSU with his very best on and off the court.”