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US steps up security for U19 basketball tournament in Egypt

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John Calipari would prefer to focus on the players he wants and the offense he’ll run.

This time, there are other concerns.

When he leads the U.S. basketball team into the Under-19 World Cup for men, they will travel to Egypt, home to enough violence lately that the Americans questioned whether it was safe enough to even go defend their title.

Calipari spoke to parents seeking answers he didn’t even have for himself, but he knew where he could get them. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is now USA Basketball’s chairman, and a conversation a few weeks ago that detailed the Americans’ security plans and procedures put Calipari’s mind at ease.

“I’m trying to figure out basketball, let alone trying to figure out security and so all I can say to the parents is I’m comfortable making this trip,” the Kentucky coach said. “And believe me, three or four weeks ago I was like, ‘Come on now, talk to me, how are we going to do this?’ And from that point when I was on the phone with Gen. Dempsey, I knew at the end of the day either he was going to feel real comfortable with what was going on or we wouldn’t go.”

USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley said the U.S. and other federations raised concerns with basketball’s governing body a year ago when it selected Cairo to host the July 1-9 event. Any fears only heightened in recent months when more than 100 people were killed since December in four separate attacks targeting Christians claimed by the Islamic State group.

But Dempsey stressed that most of the danger is beyond Cairo, while the capital city is well protected. And Tooley said that during a recent discussion with FIBA it was revealed that security for the event had now fallen under the control of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, rather than the office of sports ministry.

“So while we are very much aware of the challenges of security in Egypt, we have concluded that the venue — that is to say where the games will be played, the hotel, the transit zones — will be secured adequately and gives us confidence to send a team over there,” Dempsey said.

USA Basketball took the unusual step of deciding that the U-19 team would be given the same level of security as an Olympic team, with more staff on the ground and greater intelligence shared. The Americans have been criticized for the lengths they go to comfort their millionaire players, such as staying on a cruise ship rather than the athletes’ village in Rio, but NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant said he’s always felt safe while winning two Olympic golds and a world title with the Americans.

“I’m sure they’ve been doing their work for years in advance on this thing and trying to make sure it’s perfect for the players, so I have no concerns that USA Basketball won’t get it done,” Durant said. “So hopefully everybody’s comfortable going and have a great time and win a gold.”

Though the Americans have won two straight golds in the 16-nation tournament, fielding a team is challenging. Many college coaches would prefer their incoming recruits on campus in summer school, and with the security concerns this time, Tooley figures some players Calipari may have wanted passed on invites to training camp next week.

But Chuma Okeke of Atlanta, who will be a freshman next season at Auburn, will be among the 28 players in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His mother, Renee, reached out to a USA Basketball official with some questions, but ultimately decided to let her son attend after getting the answers and doing enough research on her own into the situation in Egypt that she said she’d even feel comfortable going.

“It was explained to me that the USA Basketball security team is really experienced in that area so I really don’t have any worries,” she said. “They reassured me that my young man will be safe so I’m OK with it. And you know what, even if I wasn’t, I could not stop Chuma from going. I could not. He understands what the climate is but he still wants to go.”

And Dempsey feels the Americans should, not only to give their younger players experience with the international game, but to show FIBA they’re a good partner. With their precautions in place, Dempsey said the Americans have done everything they can to be prepared — and now it’s Calipari’s turn.

“I said, ‘OK Cal, now that we’ve got this behind us, how about you stop worrying about that?'” Dempsey said. “‘We’ll keep worrying about that, you go win us a gold medal.'”

Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter @briancmahoney

No Haas, no problem: No. 2 Purdue sneaks past No. 10 Butler, into Sweet 16

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No Haas, no harm.

Playing without Isaac Haas, their senior 7-footer who fractured his elbow in an opening round win over Cal St.-Fullerton, the Boilermakers shot 11-for-24 from three and got a valiant effort from their other 7-footer, freshman Matt Haarms, in a 76-73 win over No. 10-seed Butler.

The second-seeded Boilermakers advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season. They’ll take on No. 3-seed Texas Tech in the East Region semifinals on Friday evening in Boston.

Purdue was led by 20 points from Vincent Edwards, Purdue’s senior leader, who scored 20 points on 6-for-8 shooting as his partner in crime, sophomore Carsen Edwards, shot just 4-for-17 from the floor and finished with 13 points. The biggest shot of the night came from another senior, Dakota Mathias, who buried a three with 14 seconds left that put Purdue up five.

But the real story here was Haarms.

The freshman will be thrust into a critical role for the Boilermakers throughout the rest of this tournament, and I don’t think that it’s crazy to say that the Boilermakers will go as far as he allows them to go. Haarms is the only big man currently on the Purdue roster that played any kind of meaningful minutes this season. Purdue played roughly 100 possessions during the regular season without Haas or Haarms on the floor, and it’s probably safe to assume that the majority of those possessions were played during garbage time, when the walk-ons were on the floor.

Haarms finished with seven boards, six boards and a pair of blocks in 27 minutes, doing a good enough job in the role that he was asked to play to keep Butler from lighting up the Boilermakers in pick-and-roll actions and in protecting the rim. He is certainly a better defender than Haas, particularly in space, but he is no where near the threat that Haas is on the offensive end of the floor. It limits what Purdue can do offensively, and with a game coming up against one of college basketball’s best defensive teams, a group that prides themselves on their ability to run teams off the three point line, we could be looking at a situation where Purdue really needs that interior presence.

What Haarms can provide will be a difference-maker.

I hope he’s ready for it.

VIDEO: Jordan Poole got a hero’s welcome in Michigan’s locker room

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Jordan Poole hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three to send Michigan into the Sweet 16.

And as you might expect, when he made his way back into the Wolverine, he was greeted with a wall of water:

Let’s see that from another angle:

I can never see enough of these videos, but perhaps this is the best part: Two weeks ago, after Michigan won the Big Ten tournament, John Beilein was absolutely drenched in the locker room, having to go to his press conference sopping wet, cold and wearing a towel around his shoulders.

So on Saturday night, he did the smart thing. He wore a poncho and goggles and went on the offensive:

Sunday’s betting lines, point spreads, over-unders

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Here is the full TV schedule, with spreads, over-unders and betting lines, for every game for final day of the first week of the NCAA tournament.

Detroit: Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce

  • 12:10 p.m.: No. 2 Purdue (-3.5) vs. No. 10 Butler, CBS (143.5)
  • 2:40 p.m.: No. 3 Michigan State (-9) vs. No. 11 Syracuse, CBS (129.5)

Charlotte: Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson

  • 5:15 p.m.: No. 2 North Carolina (-6.5) vs. No. 7 Texas A&M, CBS (151.5)
  • 7:45 p.m.: No. 9 Kansas State -10) vs. No. 16 UMBC, CBS (135.5)

Nashville: Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Erdahl

  • 6:10 p.m.: No. 2 Cincinnati (-8) vs. No. 7 Nevada, TNT (136.5)
  • 8:40: No. 1 Xavier (-5.5) vs. No. 9 Florida State, TNT (159)

San Diego: Carter Blackburn, Debbie Antonelli, John Schriffen

  • 7:10 p.m.: No. 4 Auburn (-1.5) vs. No. 5 Clemson, TBS (146.5)
  • 9:40 p.m.: No. 5 West Virginia (-12.5) vs. No. 13 Marshall, TBS (159.5)


Saturday’s NCAA Tournament Recap: An evening full of buzzer-beaters and monster performances

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No. 5-seed Kentucky advanced to the Sweet 16 with a win over No. 13-seed Buffalo, and the star of the show was the guy that’s been Kentucky’s best player for three months: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He finished with 27 points, six boards, six assists and a pair of steals on 10-for-12 shooting while making both of his threes and 5-of-7 free throws.

That’s a ridiculous line, one that makes me wonder whether or not we were premature in saying that this Kentucky team does not have a superstar that can take a game over.


  • ZACH NORVELL, Gonzaga: Two days after hitting a game-winning shot against No. 13-seed UNC Greensboro, Norvell went for 28 points, 12 boards, four assists and two steals — sidenote: !!!!! — as the Zags beat No. 5-seed Ohio State.
  • ANGEL DELGADO, Seton Hall: 24 points, 23 boards, five assists, career over. Salute, sir. It’s been a pleasure.
  • KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: Evans finished with 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting to lead the Red Raiders to the Sweet 16 with a win over Florida.


You make the call here.

Was it Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beating three for No. 3-seed Michigan:

Or Clayton Custer hitting Loyola-Chicago’s second game-winner in the span of three days?:


The buzzer-beater that didn’t matter … did.

Myles Powell, with Seton Hall down 83-76, hit this running three at the buzzer. It meant that the final score was 83-79, meaning that Seton Hall covered the 4.5 points that Kansas was favored by. It also meant that the Pirates covered the second half line (Kansas -1.5) and Seton Hall’s wild last minute rally meant that this game also hit the over:

Bad beats everywhere.


No. 1-seed Kansas was +21 in the 22 minutes that Udoka Azubuike played on Saturday. They were -17 in the 18 minutes he didn’t play.

No. 1-seed Villanova shot 17-for-41 from three in an 81-58 win over Alabama to get to the Sweet 16.

Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter overwhelmed No. 7-seed Rhode Island as No. 2-seed Duke is now a Sweet 16 team.

VIDEO: Jordan Poole’s last-second three sends No. 3-seed Michigan into the Sweet 16

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For the first time in this NCAA tournament, we have a buzzer-beater.

After Devin Davis missed a pair of free throws with 3.6 seconds left, No. 3-seed Michigan went the length of the court and Jordan Poole, a freshman who was scoreless on the night, buried a three as time expired to send the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 with a 64-63 win:

When asked after the game how a freshman was able to make that shot, Michigan head coach John Beilein said he has “an overdose of swag.”

Poole’s three bailed out Michigan in what was an otherwise ugly performance.

John Beilein’s club shot 35.6 percent from the floor, 8-for-30 from three and looked stagnant and bogged down offensively for 39 minutes and 56.4 seconds before Poole saved their season.

No. 6-seed Houston got 23 points from Rob Gray, who was again sensational and certainly deserved a chance to extend his career for another game. He had 39 points in a win over No. 11 San Diego State in the opener and was the best player in the West Region for the first weekend of the tournament.