Introducing Cinderella: North Dakota Fighting Hawks going to first NCAA Tournament

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Conference: Big Sky

Coach: Brian Jones

Record: 21-9 (14-4 Big Sky)

Ratings and Rankings:

Kenpom: 177
RPI: 153
AP/USA Today: N/A

Seeding: North Dakota’s first NCAA Tournament appearance could take place in the First Four in Dayton. However, NBC Sports most recent bracket projection have the Fighting Hawks as a No. 16 seed, avoiding the play-in game.

Names you need to know: Quinton Hooker is averaging 18.8 points per game. That’s good even when you consider his scoring is down from a season ago. That’s because the Fighting Hawks are more than just Hooker, as evident by five other players scoring in double figures in a 93-89 overtime win over Weber State in the Big Sky Conference Tournament championship game.

Stats you need to know: 48 percent: The Fighting Hawks shoot 48 percent from the field. Only 12 teams in the projected NCAA Tournament field shoot the ball at a higher clip. North Dakota also can score that ball, averaging 80 points per game.

Big wins, bad losses: In late November, North Dakota beat CSU Bakersfield, the Big West regular season champion, at the buzzer, 57-55, for a neutral floor win. The Fighting Hawks have nine losses on the season. The best loss was at Iowa, the worst was a one-point road loss to 9-23 Northern Arizona.

How’d they get here?: The Fighting Hawks won the regular season title and entered the tournament as a the top seed. After rolling through Portland State, they got a test from Idaho. That only served as a warm-up for the title game against Weber State. The Hawks were able to force overtime with the Wildcats by scoring four points in the final forty seconds, while also blocking Weber State’s potential game-winning shot. In overtime, they trailed again, but took the lead for good midway through the extra frame with free throws by Quinton Hooker followed by a jumper from Geno Crandall.

Outlook: North Dakota can shoot and put points up in a hurry. But given its projected seed, North Dakota will need that offense to do something that has never been done before.

How do I know you?: It’s Phil Jackson’s alma mater.

Virginia, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, Vandy in NIT Tip-Off

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NEW YORK (AP) — Virginia and Vanderbilt will meet in one semifinal of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off on Thanksgiving Day at Barclays Center.

Rhode Island and Seton Hall face off in the other semifinal with the winners meeting on Friday, Nov. 24.

This is the third straight year the Tip-Off has been held at Barclays Center. Eventual NCAA champion Villanova won the event in 2015. All games will be televised on ESPNU.

Non-bracketed teams in the NIT Season Tip-Off who will play games at campus sites are: Austin Peay, Fairleigh Dickinson, Monmouth, Oakland City and UNC Asheville.

Miles Bridges explain why he returned to Michigan State

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Miles Bridges changed the landscape of the 2017-18 college basketball season on April 13.

The Michigan State forward spurned the NBA for another year in East Lansing. The decision not only meant that Bridges was a frontrunner for national player of the year, but solidified the Spartans as a national title contender.

But Bridges’ choice to return was still puzzling to many. The 6-foot-7 forward was projected as a lottery pick. Bridges explained his decision to Mike Decourcy of Sporting News in a story published on Thursday.

“He says, ‘You know what, Coach? I want to get better. I don’t want to be in the D-League. I’ve got buddies that are, and I just want to make sure when I go, I’m ready,’ ” Izzo recalled to Sporting News. “I looked at him and I said, ‘Done deal.’ For me, that was a done deal. It was a reasonable, sensible argument.”

Agents, friends, reporters, scouts, acquaintances, fans, strangers and family members — oh and, as we said, coaches — all had one opinion about how Bridges should spend the next year of his life. Miles had another, opposing, viewpoint.

Bridges told Decourcy that support came from his teammates, many of whom were returning to the team as well. Assuming the backcourt of Cassius Winston and Josh Langford make a leap forward, as well as incoming freshman Jaren Jackson providing an immediate impact, the Spartans’ title hopes could become a reality.

Bridges averaged 16.9 points, 8.3 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.5 blocks as a freshman at Michigan State. He’s rated as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by DraftExpress.

Four conferences sign on to basketball officiating alliance

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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Four more Division I conferences will join a men’s basketball officiating alliance formed last year by the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East, the Atlantic 10 and Colonial Athletic Association.

The Big South, the Ivy League, the Northeast and the Patriot League are joining ahead of the 2017-18 season, according to announcements from the leagues Thursday. The alliance launched last summer for conferences to work together on officiating matters and enhance training, development, recruitment, retention and feedback for officials.

John Cahill, the Big East’s supervisor of officials, and Bryan Kersey, the ACC’s coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, will continue to lead the alliance operations.

ACC commissioner John Swofford says the new additions to the alliance “provide an even greater opportunity to build chemistry and quality” across the officiating ranks.

North Carolina to unveil national championship banner in October

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
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The latest addition to the rafters of the Dean Dome will be unveiled this fall.

North Carolina will raise the banner for its 2017 national championship on Oct. 13, according to a report from Inside Carolina.

The event will coincide with the Tar Heels’ “Late Night With Roy” event that marks the public start to the season for the program and also serves, like many other top programs, as a recruiting tool.

North Carolina won its sixth NCAA national championship in April by defeating Gonzaga, 71-65, in Phoenix to avenge its last-second loss in the title game to Villanova the year prior. It was the Tar Heels’ first championship since 2009.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball highlights

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It was the most anticipated matchup of the summer.

Zion Williamson vs. LaMelo Ball.

People were turned away at the door – and LeBron James reportedly came and went – as the gym reached capacity for SC Supreme’s 104-92 victory over the Big Ballers. That’s Williamson over Ball (LaMelo and LaVar).

The game was mostly spectacle, and you can see it’s top moments right here.