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No. 7 Rhode Island outlasts No. 10 Oklahoma

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Having gone 2-8 in its last ten games prior to the NCAA tournament, the question for Midwest region 10-seed Oklahoma was whether or not the Sooners would be able to turn things around. But in a game that was tight throughout Oklahoma’s perimeter shooting proved costly, as the Sooners shot just 4-for-20 from deep, as No. 7 seed Rhode Island picked up the 83-78 victory in overtime.

Rhode Island didn’t shoot the best percentage from deep, making just 11 of its 29 attempts, but they outscored the Sooners by 21 points in that area. Add in some key threes made during the second half and overtime by the likes of E.C. Matthews, Jared Terrell and Fatts Russell, and the Rams have managed yet another first for the program.

Dan Hurley’s team has now won an NCAA tournament game in consecutive years, the first time in school history that the feat has been accomplished.

URI got the job done with a balanced offensive effort, with Matthews leading four double-digit scorers with 16 points. While the “Batman and Batman” tandem of Matthews and Terrell combined to score 29 points, so did reserves Russell and Cyril Langevine. Langevine added a team-high ten rebounds, and the 51.3 percent foul shooter also made some critical free throws in overtime to help Rhode Island extend its lead.

Trae Young led the way for Oklahoma with a game-high 28 points, but as was the case throughout conference play he did not have enough scoring help. Jamuni McNeace added 14 points and ten rebounds, but he was the only other double-digit scorer for the Sooners. While Young’s outstanding statistical output won’t be overlooked, the 2017-18 season for Oklahoma was ultimately shaped by the lack of consistency from its supporting cast.

That hasn’t been an issue for Rhode Island, and as a result the Atlantic 10 regular season champions are off to the second round.

Whether it’s Duke or Iona on Saturday, Rhode Island will have to clean things up offensively. The Rams shot just 39.0 percent from the field, and its 13-for-20 day at the foul line didn’t help matters either. Should the opposition turn out to be 2-seed Duke the perimeter shooting would be a concern, especially considering the fact that the Blue Devils have been much improved defensively since fully committing to an active 2-3 zone.

And zone offense was something that URI struggled with during the latter portion of the season, most notably getting blown out by Saint Joseph’s on Senior Night.

That all being said Dan Hurley’s team isn’t one to back down from a challenge, which should come as no surprise given how successful this group has been over the last two seasons. Many wondered if the time off would help Trae Young and his Oklahoma teammates, who all looked gassed by the end of the regular season.

Ultimately it didn’t matter, as Rhode Island made the plays that needed to be made in overtime.

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?

North Carolina’s Luke Maye declaring for NBA draft without hiring agent

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina junior Luke Maye has declared for the NBA draft but isn’t hiring an agent.

The 6-foot-8 forward was a third-team Associated Press All-American after averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds. He was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s most improved player after increasing his scoring average by 11.4 points from his sophomore to junior seasons.

Coach Roy Williams says in a statement that it’s ”a great opportunity” for Maye to work out for NBA teams and get feedback on what to improve in his game.

The deadline for college players to declare early for the draft was Sunday night. Players who don’t hire an agent can maintain their college eligibility as long as they withdraw by May 30, which is 10 days after the NBA draft combine.

Gonzaga star undergoes surgery on his shoulder

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The most important players for Gonzaga heading into the 2018-19 season will have an offseason dedicated to rehabilitation.

Josh Perkins, Gonzaga’s starting point guard, underwent surgery on Friday to repair a shoulder that he injured back in December. According to the Spokesman-Review, Perkins expects to be healthy and ready to play by the start of next season.

Perkins averaged 12.3 points and 5.3 assists during the 2017-18 season despite playing through those shoulder issues. After December’s win over Washington, a game in which Perkins left wincing in pain and clutching his shoulders, Perkins said “Just popped out a little bit. It’s not very strong right now, but everything is good.”

For my money, Perkins is the player that is going to be the x-factor for the Zags next season. They have a terrific front court with Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie returning, and with the likes of Zach Norvell and Corey Kispert back, there is plenty of talent on the wings. Perkins, the senior point guard, is the blue that is going to be needed to hold it all together.

Gonzaga is a top five team heading into next year. They have national title aspirations. Perkins might end up being the guy that determines whether they live up to those goals or get knocked out of the field in the Sweet 16.