No. 3 VILLANOVA (-2) at No. 4 XAVIER, Sat. 4:30 p.m. (FOX)
Oh, there is so much to get to with Saturday’s showdown in Cincinnati.
Let’s start with this: Villanova has run absolutely roughshod over the Big East since the conference began anew in 2014. They’ve won four straight league titles by an average of 2.8 games per years. In those four seasons, when you include Big East tournament losses, the Wildcats have lost a total of 11 games to Big East opponents. They’ve won two Big East tournament titles and a national title to boot.
The Kansas streak in the Big 12 is more impressive because of the longevity of it, but Villanova’s dominance over their conference these last four years outweighs what Kansas has done to their league. They’ve been challenged, Villanova — despite playing in a league that has ranked in the top three on KenPom the last three years — has not been.
The Wildcats have lost two of their last three games and currently sit one game out of first place in the league standings. Behind Xavier. A loss on Saturday would mean that Villanova is two games out of first place with four games left to play; Xavier would only have three games left on their schedule. The idea of an outright Big East title would essentially be dead, while the Musketeers would only need to win one more game to lock up at least a share of the Big East regular season championship.
But here’s the kicker: As troubling as Villanova’s recent play has been, they’ve kicked Xavier’s hindparts as league rivals. It can’t even be considered a rivalry because that would assume both teams had a chance to win. The Musketeers are 1-9 in ten games against Villanova, including a 24-point loss in Philadelphia earlier this season. Will that correct itself Saturday?
We shall see.
What I do know is that this is the most intriguing game I’ve seen on this season’s schedule, even more so that Virginia’s visit to Duke earlier this year.
In the immortal words of Bart Scott, “CAN’T WAIT!”
WHAT ELSE SHOULD YOU WATCH?
- No. 20 WEST VIRGINIA at No. 13 KANSAS (-4), Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN): This is a big one for Kansas, who could very well fall two games behind Texas Tech in the Big 12 title race with a loss. And West Virginia is certainly good enough to go into Phog Allen and get a win. I just don’t think they will. Kansas (-4)
- No. 7 TEXAS TECH (-2) at BAYLOR, Sat. 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU): This is a sneaky game for the Red Raiders. Baylor is healthy and playing their best basketball of the season, having won four games in a row. Their zone can cause teams that don’t shoot great trouble, and Tech has had some issues this season playing on the road. Texas Tech (-2)
- No. 19 WICHITA STATE at No. 5 CINCINNATI (-9), Sun. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN): I was hoping there would be more intrigue with the AAC title race at this point in the season than their is, because this matchup is intriguing. Wichita State can’t guard and Cincinnati can’t score. I think the Shockers keep it close. Wichita State (+9)
- No. 8 OHIO STATE at No. 22 MICHIGAN (-1), Sun. 1:00 p.m. (CBS): The Buckeyes got worked over by Penn State on Thursday, but that might have been because they were looking forward to Sunday’s trip to Ann Arbor. Michigan, however, will be looking for some revenge for a loss earlier this year. Michigan (-1)
- No. 12 DUKE (-1) at No. 11 CLEMSON, Sun. 1:00 p.m. (ACC Net): No Shelton Mitchell (probably) and no Donte Grantham (definitely) is tough for Clemson. Will Marvin Bagley play? Either way, I like Duke (-1)
- No. 16 RHODE ISLAND (-2) at ST. BONAVENTURE, Fri. 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2): The Bonnies, playing at home in a must-win game for their at-large chances, and they’re getting points. St. Bonaventure (+2)
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.