10 Takeaways: Big East oddities, a buzzer-beater and the final No. 1 seed


Who wants that last 1?

Duke stumbled. Purdue was shocked. And Texas barely got by Baylor. Those three are the popular candidates to join Ohio State, Pitt and Kansas as the top seeds for the NCAA tournament but can’t seem to get it together down the stretch.

The Devils lost their chance at the ACC crown when rival North Carolina put on an impressive display at home. Even if they win the ACC tournament, Duke’s odds for a 1 seed took a hit given their average résumé. (Not to mention the ACC’s sub-par season dings them.)

The Boilermakers had a gimmie game at Iowa, yet somehow lost to the Big Ten’s worst team. Best they’ll get now seems to be a 2. And the Longhorns? Get back to me when they snap out of their funk (I’m looking at you Jordan Hamilton.)

Meanwhile, BYU and San Diego State stayed kept their places (2 and 3) with the chance to move up thanks to workmanlike wins.

That leaves … Notre Dame.

The Irish won at UConn – even more impressive considering they didn’t have point guard Ben Hansbrough for most of the stretch run – boosting their profile even more. It’s looking more and more like they’ll be the fourth No. 1 seed. Here’s a team comparison:

How to lock it up? Avoid a one-game exit from the Big East tournament. Given that tourney’s unpredictable nature, that’s not a given. But why would that be any different from the rest of this crazy season?

Big East? More like the Big Two
If the 1 seed discussion wasn’t enough indication, here’s more. It wasn’t pretty, but Pitt clinched the conference crown by beating Villanova. Notre Dame won at UConn. Those two have a combined seven conference losses. Third place has six. Here’s what I mean:

Louisville lost to West Virginia, Cincinnati crushed Georgetown, and Seton Hall dumped Marquette, further bunching the conference’s middle class together. St. John’s struggled at home vs. South Florida. Syracuse rolled, but it played DePaul. At home. So it should’ve won by 48. The Panthers (27-4) and Irish (25-5) are the class of a league that’s bound for 11 NCAA tournament bids. And they might be the only ones capable of making the Elite Eight.

They punched their tickets
Belmont did what it’s done all season and rolled past an Atlantic Sun opponent, clinching its fourth title in six years. UNC Asheville upended the Big South’s top seed, Coastal Carolina, for its first NCAA bid since 2003. And Morehead State rode its rebounding fiend, Kenneth Faried, to the Ohio Valley crown. (Princeton missed its chance when it lost to Harvard, setting up a possible playoff for their tourney bid.) Welcome to the Big Dance, you three. May you stay as long as you can.

Beware those bid thieves
When Butler plays Milwaukee for the Horizon League championship, it’s gonna make teams like Virginia Tech, Washington State and Alabama very nervous. The Bulldogs should make the field of 68, but if Milwaukee takes the title, it could result in two bids for the conference and boot one of those other bubble teams. (Of course, it could boot Butler, too, but hey, go with me.) Another to watch? VCU in the CAA. George Mason and ODU are in the field now, but VCU could join ‘em by pulling off two more victories.

Are you a believer?                      
Florida won its first outright SEC title since 2007, the same year it repeated as national champs. Arizona clinched the Pac-10 outright, the first time the Wildcats have done that since 2005, when it also reached the Elite Eight. Both teams are ranked in the Top 15, but neither have much support when it comes to making a deep NCAA tournament run. Much of that comes from winning conferences that are having down years and a lack of truly impressive wins. Yet the Gators are laden with experience and talent, while Arizona has a future NBA lottery pick in Derrick Williams. That makes them two of the bigger wild cards in March. And two of the more tantalizing teams.

BYU not back in business yet
The Cougars’ rough week – the public outcry over Brandon Davies’ dismissal was probably more frustrating than the home loss to New Mexico – nearly got worse. BYU lead MWC cellar dweller Wyoming by just three points at halftime, raising fears that the team might drop to a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Jimmer Fredette and Charles Abouo solved that problem by going off in the second half for a102-78 victory (Fredette scored 38, while Abouo opened the second half on a tear), but questions remains about BYU. It’s 28-3 but still not the same team without Davies. It’ll need a strong MWC tournament to quiet any naysayers before the Big Dance.

Jayhawks ‘D’ up
Kansas outlasted No. 22 Missouri, 70-66, on Saturday, clinching its seventh straight Big 12 regular-season title outright. Combine that outcome with the Tigers’ road issues, and there’s concern for their odds of winning a couple NCAA tournament games. The other NCAA tournament spin? No. 2 Kansas won a game with its defense. The Jayhawks have killed it on offense this season thanks to their absurdly consistent offense, yet the defense got it done Saturday. The Tigers missed 20 3-pointers, shot 29 percent from the field, a season worst. Credit a defense that forced Missouri into rushed shots and dumb decisions. Not that Kansas played smart, but that’s another post…

The best tourney going
If you’re ever in St. Louis for the first weekend of March, get tickets to Arch Madness. You’re guaranteed to see close games and upsets. Three of Friday’s four games were decided by three points or less, while Wichita State – the conference’s best team in terms of efficiency marginfell in the semis. Now it’s Indiana State vs. Missouri State for the title. And the Big Dance ticket.

Maybe C-USA isn’t a one-bid league
UAB clinched its first outright league title when it crushed East Carolina on Saturday night, putting it in the driver’s seat for the conference tournament. More promising for C-USA is that Memphis beat Tulane, giving the Tigers 22 wins and perhaps the best non-conference NCAA tournament résumé. If those two meet in the conference championship game, it’s possible they could both go dancing.

And finally, some Madness!
Selection Sunday is still days away, but VCU’s Jamie Skeen gave us a taste of what’s to come. His buzzer-beater – a spinning, off-the glass shot – capped a 62-60 win over Drexel that sent the Rams to the CAA tournament semifinals. It’s not Bryce Drew, but it’s still fabulous. Watch and love.


You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

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

kansas mccullar
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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.”