Rob Dauster

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Weekend Preview: Kansas-Baylor rematch highlights weekend’s top games

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SATURDAY’S SHOWDOWNS

No. 3 Kansas at No. 4 Baylor, Sat. 1:00 p.m. (CBS): The biggest game of the weekend will be in Waco, as Kansas and Baylor get back together after the Jayhawks took down the Bears two weeks ago in Lawrence.

Since then, the two teams have been on different paths. The Jayhawks are sitting two games up on Baylor in the Big 12 standings with five games remaining. A win on Saturday for Kansas would all but lock up their 13th straight Big 12 regular season title.

It would also be the fourth loss in the last six games for the Bears, who have looked most of the season like they’re primed to be one of the four No. 1 seeds on Selection Sunday. But with teams like Duke, North Carolina and Louisville continuing to win in the ACC, and the Pac-12 placing three teams at the top of their conference, nothing is guaranteed for Scott Drew’s club.

The key to this game is going to be in the paint. That’s where Baylor’s strength lies, with All-American candidate Johnathan Motley flanked by Jo Lual-Acuil. That’s also where Kansas struggles, as Landen Lucas is the only big guy on their roster that has had any real impact in the paint this season. Carlton Bragg Jr. is being asked to play out of position, Mitch Lightfoot isn’t ready, Dwight Coleby is not healthy yet and Udoka Azubuike has a wrist injury. If Motley can get Lucas into foul trouble early, Baylor will be in a great spot.

On the other end of the floor, however, the Bears are going to have to figure out a way to deal with Kansas playing small-ball. The Jayhawks will likely face plenty of that 1-1-3 zone that Drew employs, but with their ability to shoot and drive from every spot on the perimeter, they have the pieces to be able to attack it.

However it shakes out, I have a feeling that this will end up being a close, thrilling game down the stretch.

  • PREDICTION: Kansas has been squeaking by teams they should blow out for too long. It’s going to catch up to them on Saturday, their toughest road trip of the season. Baylor (-4)

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No. 14 Virginia at No. 10 North Carolina, Sat. 8:15 p.m. (ESPN): First place in the ACC is on the line on Saturday night as the Cavaliers head down to Chapel Hill to square off with the Tar Heels. UNC is currently sitting all alone in first place in the ACC with three teams – Florida State, Louisville and Duke – sitting a game out of first place. Virginia and Notre Dame are tied two games out of the race.

Virginia badly needs this win after falling at home to Duke on Wednesday night, their fourth loss in six games, but I’m not sure that they have the horses to outrun UNC. The Tar Heels are a team that is not getting quite enough attention at this point in the season, and with the combination of Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson, a long with a massive and healthy front line, UVA is going to have their work cut out for them.

The key to this game will be UNC defensively. Duke held the Wahoos to 44 points in the first 38 minutes of Wednesday’s game, which is why they were able to win despite the fact that Virginia locked down everyone not named Jayson Tatum. Can UNC, whose defense ranks 42nd nationally, do the same?

  • PREDICTION: Right now, KenPom has the line at North Carolina (-1). If you can get that, take it.
HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04: Joel Berry II #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels shoots the ball in the first half against the Villanova Wildcats during the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Joel Berry II (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

FIVE MORE GAMES TO WATCH

  • No. 2 Villanova at Seton Hall, Sat. 12:30 p.m. (FOX): Seton Hall should be back at full strength for this game, a game they really need for their NCAA tournament profile. When the Pirates are at their best, you won’t find a tougher team in college basketball. PREDICTION: Seton Hall (+7)
  • No. 23 Maryland at No. 11 Wisconsin, Sun. 1:00 p.m. (CBS): Will Bronson Koenig be back for the Badgers on Sunday afternoon? He missed Thursday night’s loss at Michigan, and a loss here for the Badgers would drop them a game out of first place in the Big Ten standings. PREDICTION: Maryland (+8)
  • Michigan State at No. 16 Purdue, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN): The Terps and the Badgers aren’t the only teams currently tied for first place in the Big Ten. Purdue is, too, meaning that if the Boilermakers can hold serve at home against Tom Izzo and Sparty, they’ll be in just a two-way tie for the lead in the league. PREDICTION: Purdue (-12)
  • No. 22 Saint Mary’s at BYU, Sat. 10:00 p.m. (ESPN2): One of the biggest reasons you should watch this game is the fact that both teams are offensively inclined. There should be quite a few points scored. But there are also some larger implications. If the Gaels lose this game it may be time for us to start ask ourselves just what they’ve accomplished and who they’ve beaten this season. PREDICTION: BYU (+6)
  • USC at No. 6 UCLA, Sat. 10:00 p.m. (Pac-12): The battle for supremacy in La-La land. The Trojans have won the last four games between these two programs, including a three-game sweep last season. Both teams love to run, neither team plays all that much defense and more threes will be fired up in this game than in the three-point shooting contest that night. PREDICTION: UCLA (-12)

VIDEO: Oregon’s jerseys last night glowed in black light

Photo courtesy Oregon Athletics
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Oregon is the flagship program of Nike, and if there’s anything we’ve learned about Duck basketball over the course of the last decade, it’s that they’re always going to be on the cutting edge of the “OMG THESE UNIFORMS ARE SICK AF” movement.

Last night was no different, as the Ducks unveiled uniforms that, quite literally, glowed in the dark:

Williams-Goss leads No. 1 Gonzaga over San Francisco 96-61

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SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) Undefeated Gonzaga struggled in the first half against San Francisco, and looked nothing like the nation’s top-ranked basketball team.

But Nigel Williams-Goss helped the Zags dominate the second half and coast to a 96-61 victory Thursday night.

Williams-Goss scored 30 points as Gonzaga extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 27 games.

“We’re not going to beat every single team by 20 points in the first half,” said Przemek Karnowski, who added 23 points and seven rebounds for Gonzaga (27-0, 15-0 West Coast). “We’ve got to play our defense like we’re supposed to.”

Gonzaga, which is seeking to become the first team since Kentucky in 2015 to go undefeated in the regular season, let San Francisco shoot 50 percent and take the lead midway through the first half.

But they held the Dons to 23.5 percent shooting in the second half, and outscored them 54-26 for the win.

“I like how we adjusted,” Karnowski said. “We altered a lot of shots.”

Chase Foster had 15 points and Matt McCarthy added 11 for San Francisco (18-10, 8-7). The Dons have dropped 11 straight to Gonzaga and 28 in a row in Spokane dating to 1989.

Williams-Goss, a junior guard, added six rebounds and seven assists as he torched the Dons for at least 30 points for the second time this season. He was 10 of 14 from the field.

“He’s a really, really focused individual,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of Williams-Goss. “He doesn’t leave anything to chance.”

San Francisco coach Kyle Smith liked his team’s effort in the first 16 minutes.

“We competed well,” Smith said. “We gave ourselves a chance.

“We had a couple quick possessions, a couple of bad shots that led to a quick transition for them,” Smith said. “You can’t let your guard down at all.”

San Francisco shot well to lead for a good portion of the first half, until a late surge gave Gonzaga a 42-35 lead at halftime.

Williams-Goss scored 11 points as Gonzaga put together a 15-2 run that bracketed halftime to build a 52-37 lead early in the second.

Williams-Goss continued to score virtually at will, adding eight more points as Gonzaga built a 62-43 lead.

The Dons made only five of their first 20 shots in the second half.

“We guarded the ball better,” Few said. “We guarded the rim. We quit giving up 3s.”

Gonzaga, which has trailed only 6 percent of the time in games this season, fell behind 16-11 midway through the first half. The Zags clawed back and tied the game at 22-22 on Zach Collins’ basket. Williams-Goss followed with a 3-pointer to put Gonzaga ahead for good.

BIG PICTURE

San Francisco: The Dons gave Gonzaga one of its toughest league tests, losing 95-80 earlier this season. It was the most points scored this season against the Zags. The Dons are off to their best start since the 1999-2000 season.

Gonzaga: The Zags limit opponents to 37 percent shooting, second in the nation. Gonzaga has won at least 25 games in 13 of the past 14 seasons. Their 20 straight conference wins dating to last year are the longest streak in the nation.

KEY STATS

Gonzaga made 19 of 35 shots in the decisive second half, while holding the Dons to 8-of-34 shooting in the half. Gonzaga won the rebound battle 44-32 and converted 15 San Francisco turnovers into 30 points.

INJURIES

Gonzaga post Killian Tillie missed the game with a broken finger, and guard Bryan Alberts sat out with an ankle injury

UP NEXT

San Francisco plays at Portland on Saturday.

Gonzaga hosts Pacific on Saturday, and then will have two remaining regular season games left against San Diego and BYU as they seek an undefeated season.

Jackson-Cartwright leads No. 5 Arizona past Washington State

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PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) No. 5 Arizona was down its starting point guard Kadeem Allen to a dislocated finger, but the Wildcats are no stranger to playing shorthanded this season.

The Wildcats played a lot of the season without suspended Allonzo Trier, lost top recruit Ray Smith with a torn ACL before the season and spent six games without point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright.

On Thursday night, Jackson-Cartwright, Allen’s understudy, came through with a career night.

He scored a career-best 20 points and Lauri Markkanen finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds to help Arizona overcome an early deficit and breeze past Washington State 78-59.

“I’ve never been a part of a team that’s been through more than we have. . I’ve also never been a part of a group that’s been as resilient, tough-minded, kind of find-a-way group that we’ve become,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.

“We wouldn’t have the record we have if we didn’t have numerous times where players stepped up.”

Arizona (24-3, 13-1 Pac-12) trailed for just over 10 minutes in the first half, but carried a 16-6 run into halftime, when it led by nine.

“Sometimes it’s one of those nights when the ball is going in,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “I just credit my teammates for finding me. The basket just seemed to be much bigger tonight.”

The Wildcats shot 5 of 6 from 3-point range in the second half and forced 12 turnovers. They spent the majority of the second half with the lead above 20 points.

Washington State’s leading scorer Josh Hawkinson struggled against Arizona’s interior size. He finished with seven points on 3-of-9 shooting, and struggled in both matchups against Arizona this season.

Ike Iroegbu led the Cougars (11-15, 4-10) with 17 points. The guards accounted for more than 75 percent of WSU’s points.

“We played well in this game in the first half, we just missed layups,” Washington State coach Ernie Kent said.

The Wildcats started 3 of 9 from the field and Washington State took an early lead, which Arizona did not regain until its run late in the first half.

The win is Arizona’s 12th straight over Washington State.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: The Wildcats lead Oregon by a game for first place in the Pac-12 standings, and checked in as the ninth overall seed in the selection committee’s top-16 projections. A road sweep in Washington would keep Arizona first in the conference, but it still needs to play USC and No. 6 UCLA next week.

Washington State: Losers of their last five, the Cougars currently sit 10th in the Pac-12 standings, two places behind Arizona State which it holds a win over and hosts Saturday. For Kent, there is still plenty to play for during the last four games of the regular season.

“Ultimately it falls on them to be successful,” Kent said. “You can tell me you want to be successful, but if I’m looking at the same tape again . getting blown by baseline, forgetting to block out, forgetting to run a play, that’s a problem.”

INJURIES

Allen dislocated his pinky on his shooting hand when it snagged onto Jackson-Cartwright’s jersey in practice on Tuesday. Allen received seven stitches and, according to Miller, initial indications were less than favorable.

“Kadeem’s bone popped out of his finger,” Miller said. “That’s enough to make you faint.”

Arizona’s starting center Dusan Ristic did not play in the second half after spraining his ankle. The team is unclear whether Ristic will play Saturday.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wildcats jumped from No. 9 to No. 5 this week after a home sweep paired up with Louisville, Oregon, Wisconsin and Baylor taking losses. A potential road sweep of the Washington schools – two teams below 150 in the RPI rankings – should keep the Wildcats in the top 5.

UP NEXT

Arizona: The Wildcats play Washington in Seattle then return home to host USC and No. 6 UCLA.

Washington State: The Cougars host Arizona State on Saturday.

 

Brooks has 20 points and No. 7 Oregon beats Utah 79-61

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Dillon Brooks scored 20 points and No. 7 Oregon defeated shorthanded Utah 79-61 on Thursday night to extend the Ducks’ home winning streak to 41 games.

Jordan Bell added 17 points for the Ducks (23-4, 12-2 Pac-12), who wore new neon green uniforms that glowed under blacklights during player introductions.

Jayce Johnson had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Utah (17-8, 8-6), playing without top scorer Kyle Kuzma because of a sprained ankle.

Kuzma apparently was injured during practice on Wednesday. The 6-foot-9 junior starter is averaging 15.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. His rebounding averaging ranked second in the Pac-12 and 17th in the nation. He has 15 double-doubles this season.

Oregon, sitting second in the Pac-12 standings behind Arizona, led by as many as 26 points. Leading the nation with an average of 6.9 blocks a game, Oregon finished with 10 against the Utes.

It was Oregon’s ninth straight win over Utah.

The Ducks jumped out to an 18-8 lead, paced by Tyler Dorsey’s 10 points. It was the third straight game that Oregon had opened up a 10-point lead on an opponent in the first half.

Chris Boucher’s 3-pointer pushed Oregon’s lead to 26-12. Dylan Ennis gave Oregon its biggest lead of the first half with a layup that made it 39-18 but Utah ended the half on a 7-2 run to close the gap to 41-25.

Tyler Rawson hit Utah’s first 3-pointer of the game in the second half to narrow the deficit to 43-30. But Oregon again extended the lead on Brooks’ layup that made it 54-32.

Brooks’ dunk gave the Ducks a 71-49 lead with just over 7 minutes left. He followed it up with a 3-pointer.

The Ducks’ home streak is the longest active winning streak in the nation. Thursday’s game was Oregon’s sixth sellout of the season.

Oregon rebounded from a loss at UCLA with an 81-70 victory over USC last weekend. After the Utes, the Ducks host Colorado at home before wrapping up the season at the league’s Northern California schools.

Utah was coming off wins at home against Washington State and Washington. The Utes went into the game knotted with USC at fifth in conference play.

Earlier this season, the Ducks defeated the Utes 73-67 on Jan. 26 in Salt Lake City.

BIG PICTURE

Utah: The Utes are 1-5 against ranked teams this season. … Utah’s 25 first-half points were a season low for a half.

Oregon: The Ducks’ record is the second-best in school history, behind the 1926-27 team that went 24-2. … Oregon has been in the AP Top 25 for a school-record 23 straight weeks. … With a layup with 13:33 left, Brooks passed Joe Young (1,388 points) for 15th on Oregon’s career scoring list.

UP NEXT

Utah: The Utes travel to face Oregon State on Sunday.

Oregon: The Ducks host Colorado on Saturday. The Buffaloes beat the Ducks 74-65 on Jan. 28 in Boulder.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.

Bubble Banter: Michigan with a big home game, MTSU to keep hope alive?

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You can find the latest NBC Sports Bracketology here. That is where the seeds you see listed below come from.

This post will be updated throughout the night. 

Michigan (RPI: 55, KenPom: 29, No. 10 seed): The Wolverines landed a really nice win on Thursday, knocking off Wisconsin, the best team in the conference, at home on a night where they caught a break, getting the Badgers without Bronson Koenig. It’s the third top 50 win and tenth top 100 win for the Wolverines, and that alone has them in a good spot with a 17-9 record. But here’s the thing: Four of Michigan’s last five games are on the road and the one home game is against Purdue. The Wolverines probably need to go at least 2-3 in that stretch, but since one of the games is at Rutgers, 3-2 may be a better answer.

Middle Tennessee State (RPI: 38, KenPom: 51, No. 11 seed): Middle’s chances of sneaking in as an at-large if they lose in the Conference USA tournament remain as they were able to pick up a win over Western Kentucky on Thursday.