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The Big 12 race is wide open after No. 7 Kansas loses at home to Oklahoma State

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With No. 7 Kansas picking up another surprising home loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday, the Big 12 regular-season race is wide open once again.

The Cowboys used impressive outside shooting and balanced scoring to race past the Jayhawks with an 84-79 Big 12 win — the second time in conference play the Jayhawks have lost at home. Using red-hot, first-half three-point shooting, and hitting timely shots in the second half, the Cowboys (14-9, 4-6) held a comfortable lead for nearly the entire game. Oklahoma State shot 44 percent (12-for-27) from distance while four players finished in double figures, led by big efforts from Kendall Smith (24 points) and Cameron McGriff (20 points).

This is a feel-good win for the Cowboys and first-year head coach Mike Boynton. It gives them an outside shot at the NCAA tournament and a huge boost of confidence following a three-game losing streak.

The real story, however, is Kansas losing another winnable game at home. The Big 12 race just got much harder for the Jayhawks. The loss also makes you question the validity of Kansas as an elite team this season.

Kansas (18-5, 7-3) is currently tied in the loss column with Texas Tech and Oklahoma in the Big 12 standings. A number of other schools are just a game or two outside of the conference’s top three teams. And with eight games remaining on the Big 12 schedule, there is still plenty of time for things to change.

Kansas losing to a team like Oklahoma State at home means that they’re capable of being defeated by anybody in the league on any given night. The Jayhawks still played a relatively good game on Saturday, but they were still soundly outplayed by one of the worst teams in the Big 12 at home. Outside of Lagerald Vick’s poor 2-for-10 shooting night, Kansas had four players in double figures and only 11 turnovers while shooting a respectable 36 percent from three-point range.

On most nights, Kansas can win with that.

The problem is, the Jayhawks didn’t have the depth and firepower to overtake a team that hit a flurry of three-pointers in the first half. This loss for Kansas was a bit reminiscent of when Wichita State lost at home to SMU a few weeks back. The Mustangs, just like the Cowboys, were knocking down tough and timely shots after building an early lead. Neither unranked home loss for Kansas or Wichita State felt like it was particularly bad. It didn’t feel like all the season was lost.

But both losses also made it feel as though Kansas and Wichita State might not be elite this season. Many had assumed both were elite since the preseason. It’s not that Kansas can’t still make the Final Four (or Wichita State, for that matter). It’s just that losses like this at home haven’t usually happened to these two programs the past few years. It gives an uneasy sense as Kansas tries to capture yet another Big 12 regular-season title.

Since that SMU loss, the Shockers have dropped two more games to unranked teams as they’re suddenly looking out of the American race while feeling like a good, but not great, team.

The Big 12 race is much tighter with a much tougher schedule. It would be silly to assume that Kansas will go on some sort of tailspin because of one home loss. But if the Jayhawks can lose to a team like Oklahoma State at the Phog, it does make you wonder about their future.

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?