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City rivalry with buzz: No. 11 Cincinnati vs No. 21 Xavier

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CINCINNATI (AP) — Gary Clark spent the week preparing Cincinnati’s newcomers for the city’s passionate basketball rivalry.

“I usually just say it’s your biggest rivalry in high school times 100 with a bunch of people (in the stands) who really do not like you whatsoever,” said Clark, a senior. “Don’t even look at anybody in the stands. Stay connected. If one guy gets jitters or loses his focus, the ship can go south.”

There’s more than bragging rights on the line. Both teams are nationally ranked and off to impressive starts as they get ready to play Saturday at Xavier’s Cintas Center.

No. 11 Cincinnati (7-0) has used its easy schedule so far to get its newcomers adjusted and develop depth that will be invaluable for this showdown. The Bearcats have lost seven of 10 in the series, although they won 86-78 last season. They haven’t won at Xavier since 2001, when Bob Huggins was the coach. They’ve dropped their last six on Xavier’s court.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve won over there,” coach Mick Cronin said.

The No. 21 Musketeers (6-1) already have wins at Wisconsin and at home last Tuesday over No. 16 Baylor , which was unbeaten coming into the game. Their one loss was to Arizona State in a tournament in Las Vegas, which showed Xavier its defensive shortcomings at the time. The Musketeers were much better in their win over Baylor.

Not that they spent any time savoring it, given what’s next.

“We’re not going to celebrate at all,” point guard Quentin Goodin said. “We’ll turn our focus to the next game.”

This one grabs the attention. The basketball rivalry between two schools located less than 3 miles apart has provided big moments for both programs. There was Xavier’s 71-69 upset of then-No. 1 Cincinnati on the Bearcats’ home court in 1996. The worst moment in the series was an on-court brawl that ended Xavier’s 76-53 victory at the Cintas Center in 2011 and resulted in suspensions by both teams.

Last season, Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett scored a career-high 40 points when the Bearcats won on their home court. He’ll be the focus of Cincinnati’s defense Saturday.

“Try to not let him shoot and hope that he doesn’t make guarded 3s,” Cronin said. “I thought we did a pretty good job last time, but sometimes a kid just has an unbelievable game. Fortunately we were able to win in spite of him.”

Bluiett had a stiff back against Baylor, moved cautiously on the floor, and finished with only 10 points, missing all four of his shots from beyond the arc. His health will be a factor.

Xavier’s tough stretch of opening games has gotten the Musketeers ready for a high-profile game. Cincinnati hasn’t been challenged the same way, which is Cronin’s biggest concern. The Bearcats’ closest call was a 73-67 victory over Buffalo.

“I think they have an advantage,” Cronin said. “We haven’t played anybody yet that’s really been able to take our offense away from us, so to speak, and they’ll be able to do that. They’re not going to let us just throw the ball to Gary Clark whenever we want. It’s not going to be that easy.”

Xavier has won 34 straight nonconference home games, with the last loss 56-55 to Wofford on Dec. 22, 2012. The Musketeers are 232-35 all-time at the Cintas Center, where students will camp out overnight to get seats behind the visitors’ basket.

“They’re really good, and I think we’re really good,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “It’s going to be an unbelievable game for the city. Again, there is no pressure when you’re playing these types of teams — Baylor, Cincinnati. History will show that when you drop one, nobody gets penalized.

“Having said that, we don’t want to drop it on Saturday.”

Wake Forest guard Keyshawn Woods to transfer or go pro after graduation

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Wake Forest will be down a key player next season as the school announced that guard Keyshawn Woods will either transfer or go pro after graduation.

The 6-foot-3 Woods was the team’s second-leading scorer this season as he put up 11.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game. Woods shot 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range for the 2017-18 campaign.

Also a key member of last season’s NCAA tournament team for the Demon Deacons, Woods transferred to Wake Forest after spending his first season at Charlotte.

“I appreciate the opportunity that Coach Manning gave me to be a part of this program and to graduate from this great university,” said Woods in the release. “I am proud that I was able to help the coaches change the culture of the program and build a foundation for the future.”

The loss of Woods won’t be easy for Wake Forest, but the team is scheduled to return some talented guards like Bryant Crawford and Brandon Childress next season. Incoming freshmen like Jaime Lewis and Sharone Wright Jr. are also signed to add to the perimeter depth.

David Padgett not retained as Louisville coach

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Louisville announced on Wednesday afternoon that interim head coach David Padgett would not be retained.

Padgett, who is 32 years old, stepped in and took the program over in the wake of a scandal that cost Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino his job.

“We all owe a great debt of gratitude to David for his leadership and poise this season,” said U of L Interim Director of Athletics Vince Tyra. “He took over during incredible circumstances, has handled himself respectfully throughout the season and I believe he has a bright future in coaching. We expect to determine a new head coach in a short period to build upon the great basketball tradition of this university.”

Pitino was fired because an FBI complaint contained an allegation that he and his staff had arranged for a $100,000 payment to be funneled to Brian Bowen from Adidas.

In his one season with the Cardinals, Padgett went 22-14 and reached the quarterfinals of the NIT.

Louisville will now conduct a search for their next head coach, and current Xavier coach Chris Mack has long been considered the favorite to take that job.

Kansas State’s injured star hoping to play Thursday

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One of the most surprising parts about Kansas State’s run to the Sweet 16 is that they have done it without the services of their leading scorer, Dean Wade.

Wade injured his foot prior to the Big 12 tournament loss to Kansas. He did not play in that game or in either of Kansas State’s first two tournament games, but it is looking more and more like he’ll be on the floor on Thursday night when they play Kentucky.

“I don’t play percentages very well, but I’m feeling good,” Wade said, via SEC Country. “I’m very positive about it. It’s getting better every day and today I felt great out there, doing a little more than usual. It felt good.”

Wade averaged 16.5 points per game, but the big question is going to be whether or not he is actually healthy when he takes the court. Just because he’s on the floor doesn’t mean he’s at 100 percent.

“Really just trying to get it out of my mind that it’s not hurt,” Wade said. “Just more of a mental thing, just getting out there and running around. I think I got moved past that and it’s feeling better.”

Arizona’s Sean Miller: ‘I am not a candidate’ at Pitt

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With speculation mounting about who Pitt will hire to replace Kevin Stallings as their new head coach, current Arizona head coach Sean Miller released a statement saying that he is not in the running to fill the opening.

“I am not a candidate for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball head coaching vacancy. I wish them well in their search for a new coach,” the statement read.

Miller is a native of Pittsburgh and an alumni of the school — he’s the guy that had the assist on Jerome Lane’s famous dunk — and with the issues that are currently swirling around him and the Arizona program, there was speculation that he was looking for an escape plan.

Maybe he wasn’t.

Maybe he was and the Pitt administration decided they couldn’t risk hiring someone who had an assistant coach arrested in the FBI’s sweep of college basketball and who himself may be on wiretaps talking about who knows what. Releasing this statement would then be a way for him to save face and say he was never interested.

And then maybe there’s option No. 3: Pitt has won the Dan Hurley sweepstakes.

As it stands, both the Panthers and UConn are in the process of chasing after the Rhode Island head coach, and it’s not uncommon in coaching searches for a coach to announce that he is not a candidate for the job after the job decides they want someone else. Call it a professional courtesy.

But that’s neither here nor there.

What we do know now is that Sean Miller will not be the next head coach at Pitt.

Report: Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson suffers another fracture in foot

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Bonzie Colson rushed back from a broken foot to try and help his Notre Dame team get into the NCAA tournament this season.

They were bumped out of the field when Davidson upset Rhode Island and earned the Atlantic 10’s third bid to the league tournament. The Fighting Irish were NIT bound, and in their second round loss to Penn State late last week, Colson reinjured the left foot that held him out of action for eight weeks.

On Wednesday, Yahoo reported that Colson suffered another fracture in the foot.

“I’m sitting there and he’s limping off and I’m going, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” coach Mike Brey said after the game. “Everything we’ve been through? I thought we were out of the woods with him.”

There was a poignant moment at the end of the game.

Colson’s injury came during the third quarter. He returned to the bench at Purcell Pavilion with ice on his foot after going into the locker room. With 30 seconds left and a loss imminent, Colson walked right past Mike Brey, said “I’m going in”, and finished his college career on the court.

Colson is a potential second round pick. He was an all-american last year and a preseason selection this year. He was averaging 19.7 points, 10.2 boards and 2.2 blocks when he was injured.