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Colorado completes weekend sweep, upsets No. 14 Arizona

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McKinley Wright led five players in double-figures with 16 points to go along with 10 assists as Colorado completed a weekend sweep of the Arizona schools with an 80-77 win over the No. 14 Wildcats in Boulder on Saturday.

On Thursday night, Colorado knocked off No. 4 Arizona State in overtime.

The Buffaloes jumped out to a 42-22 lead late in the first half against Arizona and did just enough down the stretch to hold on and win. The Wildcats made a run in the second half, cutting the lead to 49-46 at one point, but they were never able to get closer than that.

Deandre Ayton led the way for Arizona with 26 points for Arizona. Allonzo Trier finished with just eight points on 3-for-9 shooting.

Here are three things we learned from Colorado’s win:

1. COLORADO JUST TURNED THEIR SEASON AROUND

Colorado entered this week in playing as poorly as anyone in the Pac-12, and that’s saying a lot. The Pac-12 is not good at the bottom of the league. Prior to Thursday night’s win over Arizona State, Colorado had lost three straight, five out of six and six out of eight. They were beaten by Oregon State, Colorado State, San Diego and Iowa during that stretch. After winning their first six games of the season, Colorado was sitting at 8-6 and it looked like the season was going to be a lost cause.

Then all of a sudden, Colorado turned around and swept the only two legitimately good teams in the conference.

And now, we can talk about Colorado as a team with the potential to earn an at-large bid and sound at least semi-sober. Colorado plays the toughest schedule in the Pac-12 this season, meaning that they get the Arizona schools, the Los Angeles schools and Utah twice. As of today, those are probably the five best teams in the conference. There is a long uphill battle to wage to build a résumé that is at-large worthy, but they are going to have as many opportunities to earn quality wins in Pac-12 as anyone in the conference.

Combine that with the fact that there are going to be a lot of at-large bids available to high-major schools – the Atlantic 10, Mountain West, Missouri Valley and WCC could all very well end up being one bid leagues – and I’m not totally losing my mind here, am I?

2. TAD BOYLE OUT-COACHED SEAN MILLER

Part of the reason that Colorado was able to put Arizona in that big of a hole was because Arizona looked like a team that was playing their second road game at elevation in the span of 40 hours against a team that lives and practices at elevation every single day.

There’s a reason why that road trip is the toughest road trip in the conference.

So maybe reading into this loss at all is too much.

But I cannot get past how effective Colorado’s game-plan was. It was simple, really: Allonzo Trier scores more than half his points in ball-screens and in transition, so to keep him from getting into a rhythm Colorado blitzed him whenever he was in a pick-and-roll and located him on the break. In the half court, the Wildcats then knew that their zone was going to clog things up and that Deandre Ayton would play at the high post, so they dared Deandre Ayton to beat them with jumpers.

The result was that Trier attempted just nine shots while Dusan Ristic finished with 16, more than anyone on the team until Ayton scored on the final three possessions of a game that was already out of reach. Ristic finished 6-for-16 from the floor, while Parker Jackson-Cartwright was 0-6 from the field and Rawle Alkins shot just 6-for-14.

The reason I say that Boyle out-coached Miller is because he figured out something that Miller has yet to: When Ayton and Ristic are on the floor together, Ristic’s inability to provide anything outside of five feet turns Ayton into a shooter.

And while I’m hardly as qualified as Miller is, I don’t quite understand why anyone would think the best way to win with this team is to turn a potentially franchise-changing NBA talent like Ayton into a jump shooter just to fit in a player like Ristic, who is a zero on the defensive end of the floor.

What Boyle did was take away Trier entirely and take away what Ayton does best, daring Anyone Else on Arizona to beat his team. “Anyone Else” could not get it done.

3. SPEAKING OF DEFENSE, AYTON DID WELL ON THE PERIMETER

Colorado played with four guards for essentially the entire game on Saturday, using George King – who is a shooting guard – at the four. This forced Deandre Ayton to spend the majority of the game playing on the perimeter defensively, and he actually did a pretty solid job. That was one of the knocks on him in the early part of the season, when Arizona lost three in a row in the Bahamas. It’s why teams like SMU, Purdue and N.C. State beat the Wildcats.

Ayton is hardly Draymond Green, but these days he certainly showed that he can be an above-average defender on the perimeter on Saturday. The athleticism and ability was never really in question. He’s a kid that spent his entire life standing in front of the rim defensively. He had to learn what to do, and to his credit, it looks like he has.

Washington’s Thybulle returning for senior season

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Matisse Thybulle will return to Washington for his senior season after contemplating declaring for the NBA draft following a junior campaign in which he was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

“The NBA is really enticing and it was definitely something that I seriously considered when the season was over,” Thybulle told the Seattle Times. “I talked it over with my family and we came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to stay and get my degree (in communications) and grow as a basketball player and take this last year to mature and fine tune everything so I can be fully prepared to take that next step when it’s time.”

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range.

“I talked to coach (Mike Hopkins) and he gave me some good advice that was honestly something that helped in the grand scheme of things,” Thybulle said. “He told me that if I do it (enter the draft), then I should be all in because that’s what I’m going to be up against is a whole bunch of guys fighting for their lives. He thought it would be a better idea for me to stay in school until I’m at that point.”

Washington is awaiting the decision of Noah Dickerson, who declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. The 6-foot-8 averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.

Koby McEwen transferring to Marquette

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Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.

Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.

“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”

McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.

CBT Podcast: NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline: Winners, losers and who has the most on the line?

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The NBA Draft Early Entry Deadline came and went on Sunday night, meaning there are now roughly 60 college players that have signed with an agent and another 100 or so that have declared for the draft while retaining their college eligibility. Who were the winners? Who were the losers? Who has the most on the line? Sam Vecenie of the Game Theory podcast joined Rob Dauster to talk through all of it. The rundown:

OPEN: What do NBA teams value in players these days?

10:00: Villanova has more on the line during this testing the water process than anyone

19:00: Just how important was De’Andre Hunter’s decision to return to Virginia

25:25: Gonzaga getting Rui and Killian Tillie back makes them a title favorite

32:10: Nevada has a top ten season on the line with the Martin twins and Jordan Caroline

36:15: #RANTALERT – The decision to turn pro is so much more complicated than “is he a first round pick”

48:30: Rapid fire: Maryland, Kansas, Syracuse, Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan. What do they have on the line?