Previewing College Hoops Weekend


With the conference tournaments starting this week and the regular season winding down on Sunday, this will be the last installment of our weekend previews. We won’t be addressing the conference tournaments in this post (all of that can be found here and here).


Sat. 8:00 pm: No. 5 Duke @ No. 13 North Carolina: First things first: yes, I know, North Carolina beating Duke at home is probably not an upset. But look at the numbers to the left of their names. Technically, I can call this an upset. And I am going to, because it is the most important game of the weekend and deserves the most words written about it.

Calling this the most important game of the weekend might even be an understatement. This is one of the most important regular season games of the season. Thanks to the Blue Devils loss to Virginia Tech last Saturday, the ACC’s two premier programs will square off in the final game of ACC play with the conference title on the line. Back in December, how many people thought that was even possible?

There’s more.

Duke still has a very good shot at earning a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday. But can you give one of the top four seeds to a team that didn’t win its conference’s regular season title? And all of this is on the line in our sport’s greatest rivalry.

The first game between this two teams was interesting. UNC asserted their will on the Blue Devils in the first half, opening up a lead as big as 16 points thanks to excellent defense and transition offense. But Duke responded in the second half, as Nolan Smith and Seth Curry took the game over.

I think the two most important aspects of this game are how UNC handles Smith and what Duke does against the Tar Heel’s front line. Smith, is this man’s opinion, is the player of the year in college basketball, and never was that more evident than in his second half performance against the Heels. Stopping Smith is a pipe dream, but to slow him down you need to make sure he cannot get penetration off of high ball screens situations. On the other hand, the part of UNC;s resurgence that does not get talked about nearly enough is the emergence of John Henson and Tyler Zeller on the inside. They both may be a bit weak, but they can rebound the ball, they can score the ball, and they can blocks shots. UNC’s defense, not their offense, has been the biggest catalyst in their return to the top of the ACC. And Henson and Zeller are the root cause.


Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 11 Louisville @ West Virginia: There are two things that West Virginia does very, very well. The first is rebounding the ball on the offensive end of the floor. They have aggressive, athletic forwards in John Flowers and Kevin Jones, a bruiser in Deniz Kilicli, and some tough guards that aren’t afraid to mix it up with the big boys. Louisville, on the other hand, is not a great defensive rebounding team. They force the offense to take bad shots and they force turnovers, which is why they are the sixth best defensive team in the country despite struggling to finish a possession. West Virginia is also very good at defending the three, which is something that the Cardinals rely on heavily.

Sat. 9:00 pm: No. 8 Texas @ Baylor: Texas has lost their last two games on the road and three of their last four overall. Jordan Hamilton is struggling mightily on both ends of the floor, playing lackadaisical defense and falling back into his role as a gunner instead of a scorer. Baylor has some athletes inside. They have a big-time scorer in LaceDarius Dunn on the perimeter. And they will be playing with a possible NCAA Tournament on the line. At home. On Gameday. Expect the Bears to be fired up.


Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 2 Kansas @ No. 24 Missouri: The last time these two teams met up, the Jayhawks pounded the Tigers, who were completely incapable of stopping Kansas. This time, however, the game will be in Columbia instead of Lawrence, where Mizzou is a different team. The Tigers struggle against teams that can break their press and run half court offense, and with the number of experienced players and capable ball handlers that Kansas puts on the court at one time, I have trouble seeing the Tigers capable of making this a full court game.

Sat. 12:00 pm: Virginia Tech @ Clemson: For all intents and purposes, this is an elimination game from the at-large field. Both teams are right on the edge of the cut line, and neither can afford the loss to like their chances heading into the ACC Tournament.

Sat. 1:30 pm: Georgia @ Alabama: This is a huge game for Alabama. Enormous. For starters, they still have to play their way into the NCAA Tournament. The pretty SEC record that the Crimson Tide have posted? Its largely come against bottom feeders. Its also not enough to make the committee forget about the brutal non-conference portion of the schedule. Secondly, with a win, the Tide earns a share of the SEC regular season title. If ‘Bama wins and Florida loses at Vanderbilt? The Tide are your SEC champs. Could a major conference’s outright winner really get left home?

Sat. 2:00 pm: No. 7 Notre Dame @ No. 16 UConn: This is a good test for the Irish heading into the postseason. The Irish, frankly, are not a very good road team. UConn is reeling a bit down the stretch of Big East play, but they will be celebrating Kemba Walker’s senior night and have proven capable of beating good teams regardless of location. The Irish are playing their best basketball of the season right now. Will it travel with them?

Sat. 2:00 pm: Michigan State @ Michigan: Another rivalry game with major postseason implications. Michigan State is inching ever closer to being considered safe, while the Wolverines simply need to win a couple of games before they can get out of the area around the cut list. The matchup in this game that will be interesting is between Kalin Lucas and Darius Morris. Both are quality point guards, both are asked to do quite a bit for their team.

Sat. 4:00 pm: No. 19 Villanova @ No. 5 Pitt: This one could get ugly. Whatever is going on with Villanova of late is far from good. They aren’t playing hard, they aren’t shooting the ball well, and they aren’t defending the three. About the only thing Villanova is doing is right now is that they are getting off to slow starts. Pitt is coming off of a loss to Louisville on the road, a team that is not exactly known for their ability to box out. Keep an eye on that. Will Pitt be able to dominate the offensive glass like we’ve become accustomed to

Sat. 6:00 pm: No. 14 Florida @ No. 20 Vanderbilt: With a win, the Gators will earn, at the very least, a share of the SEC regular season title. What’s more important, however, is how everything shakes out in the middle of the SEC East. If Florida wins, Tennessee beats Kentucky, and Alabama beats Georgia, there will be four teams tied at 9-7 and tied for second place in the eastern division. No one is in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament, but earning the bye in the SEC Tournament could help seeding immensely.

Sat. 7:00 pm: Princeton @ Harvard: The Ivy is the only league in the country that not only plays their games on a Friday night/Saturday afternoon schedule, they are also the only league that still has the regular season champ get the automatic bid. The game should determine who that autobid is.

Sun. 12:00 pm: No. 23 Kentucky @ Tennessee: Like I mentioned earlier, seeding in the postseason tournaments is the only real outcome of this game. But what I think we all want to see is whether or not Kentucky can find a solution for their road woes. Tennessee is inconsistent at home, but this will be senior night (and possibly the last time Bruce Pearl coaches at Thompson-Boling), so you have to think the Vols will be ready to play

Sun. 4:00 pm: No. 10 Wisconsin @ No. 1 Ohio State: Unfortunately, this game won’t directly be for the Big Ten regular season title (wouldn’t that have been awesome). That said, Ohio State wins it outright with a victory, or shall I say revenge, over Wisconsin. The Badgers are coming off of a win at Indiana where Jordan Taylor scored 39 points on 55 possessions. Based on how entertaining the last game between these two teams was, there is no for you not to tune in.



  • 12:00 pm: Duquesne @ Richmond: The Spiders can probably lock up an NCAA Tournament bid with a win against the Dukes and in the first round of the A-10 Tournament.
  • 12:00 pm: Indiana @ Illinois: Most folks have the Illini safely in the NCAA Tournament right now. Does that change if they lose to the Hoosiers and finish below .500 in the Big Ten?
  • 1:30 pm: Iowa State @ Kansas State: Iowa State has beaten both Nebraska and Colorado after they knocked off Texas. Can they do the same to the Wildcats?
  • 2:00 pm: No. 17 Georgetown @ Cincinnati: The last time the Hoyas played the Bearcats, Cincy complete shut Georgetown down in the second half after Chris Wright broke his hand. Will the rematch be any different?
  • 2:00 pm: Oregon @ No. 18 Arizona: The Wildcats will clinch the Pac-10 regular season title with a win.
  • 2:00 pm: Xavier @ St. Louis: The Musketeers can lock up the Atlantic 10 regular season title with a win.
  • 4:00 pm: Wyoming @ No. 3 BYU: Can the Cougars recover from the loss of Brandon Davies? It didn’t look that way on Wednesday night.
  • 4:00 pm: No. 6 Purdue @ Iowa: The Boilermakers still have an outside chance of being able to play their way into a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday.
  • 4:00 pm: DePaul @ No. 12 Syracuse: With a win, Syracuse will clinch the fourth spot in the Big East standings and a double bye in the Big East Tournament.
  • 5:30 pm: UCLA @ Washington State: This game would have held a lot more intrigue if Washington had lost to UCLA Thursday night. Wazzu still has an outside chance at getting in off the bubble.
  • 6:00 pm: Marquette @ Seton Hall: Marquette needs this win if they want to make the tournament.
  • 7:00 pm: No. 21 Utah State @ Louisiana Tech: The Aggies long ago locked up the WAC regular season title, but they still have some work to do to assure themselves on an NCAA Tournament trip.
  • 8:00 pm: South Florida @ No. 15 St. John’s: The Johnnies can only earn themselves a double bye with a win and a Syracuse loss.
  • 8:00 pm: East Carolina @ UAB: The Blazers are still in the tournament picture, believe it or not, but without a quality win on their resume, a loss to ECU would be devastating.
  • 9:00 pm: Nebraska @ Colorado: The Buffaloes are one of the handful of teams trying to play their way into one of the last few spots in the NCAA Tournament.
  • 10:00 pm: Colorado State @ No. 9 San Diego State: Want an idea of how bad the bubble is? If the Rams win this game, they will likely be dancing.
  • 10:30 pm: USC @ Washington: The Trojans and the Huskies probably locked in their NCAA Tournament fates on Thursday. USC looks to be done. Washington should be in.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”