West Regional breakdown, team capsules


Who wins, who’s overrated and what’s the best game? We have an answer for each region. I had freelance writer Ray Glier pinch hit for the East breakdown, but the capsules are all me. Enjoy

Underrated: Arizona
These guys have some brutal losses: by 22 to BYU in December, by 22 to UCLA in February. But just watch them for a stretch here and there and they can score (47 percent field goal percentage) and they have a terrific player in Derrick Williams. They lost by just eight at Kansas. They pass that eye test and give you a reason to pause and consider ‘What if…”.

Arizona won 14 games in the Pac-10, which isn’t a deep league, but 14 wins is 14 wins.

Can a No. 5 seed be underrated? Sure it can because everyone else is thinking UConn and Texas are better. Arizona can play with both of those teams in this tournament because the Cats score and score.

Overrated: UConn
They have the best player in the country, Kemba Walker, but the Huskies are going to get erased. Their legs have to be wobbly after five games in five days. Serves the Big East right for its money-grubbing, team-hoarding ways.

UConn could run up against Missouri in the second round and the Tigers furious defense is going to take care of what’s left of UConn’s legs.

Most likely first-round upset
It is not going to be Oakland over Texas. Don’t even think about it.

Missouri is an 11th seed and Cincinnati is a sixth seed. Pick that one. It is a question of style with Mizzou’s frantic pressure giving UC something different than what it sees in the Big East. The Tigers get 10 steals a game with their rushing around the floor.

The upset won’t happen if the Tigers do not score in transition. When they get into halfcourt and start firing up 3s they can look like a dreadful team. But this is where upsets happen, 11 vs. 6.

Best matchup: Texas vs. Duke
For most of the season, Texas was lauded as the heir apparent to Duke. The Longhorns were nasty on defense and beat people up by covering the floor with defenders. They were being tabbed in January as the team that would sweep into the Final Four in their home state and close down on Ohio State’s shooters.

The Longhorns were seeded fourth, which is low for this team. You could call them the most underrated team in the region, but everyone knows the committee just blew this one. UT will show itself as a national title contender with a win over Duke in Anaheim: a match of defense vs. offense.

Plenty of people are going to get anxious to see UConn vs. San Diego State, but Duke is the defending champion playing across the country and Texas has been talked up all season. That’s the game to see, especially if Duke’s Kyrie Irving makes his return.

Impact player
Well, you would have to say Kemba Walker of UConn or Nolan Smith of Duke, but that’s too easy. Jordan Hamilton is a good one to look at. He has taken almost 20 shots a game the last eight games for Texas. That’s a lot of impact for one team. When he shot poorly against Nebraska (3 of 16), the Horns were upset.

Now, if Kyrie Irving of Duke suddenly reappears, that’s a different story. Might he play? He told reporters Sunday in Greensboro he has a shot.

Champion: San Diego State
It is a veteran team that can score and has a coach who has been there, done that. UConn has to be wasted after its Big East gantlet, so it will not survive. Duke is going to beat Arizona in a sensational game, but Texas is going to rub out the Blue Devils.

That leaves Texas vs. SDSU in the title game of the toughest region.


No. 1 Duke Blue Devils

Location: Durham, N.C.

Conference: Atlantic Coast

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Pre-tournament record: 30-4, 13-3

Best wins: North Carolina, Temple, Marquette

Surprising loss: Florida State, Virginia Tech

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Nolan Smith, senior forward Kyle Singler, sophomore forward Mason Plumlee, sophomore guard Seth Curry .

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, ball-handling, challenging shots.

Weaknesses: Defensive rebounding, forcing turnovers.

Outlook: The defending NCAA champions don’t hit the glass as hard as last year and are slightly worse beyond the arc, but that’s about it. The Devils remain one of the favorites to win it all thanks to their shooting – 38 percent from deep and 52 percent inside the arc – and ability to take care of the ball. If you want to beat Duke, you have to earn it. That means keeping track of their shooters (Curry and sophomore Andre Dawkins), limiting Smith’s dribble penetration and not allowing Singler to get into an offensive rhythm. Of all the Devils’ offensive stars, Singler’s the key. Smith has been a consistent scorer, while Singler has struggled with his shot and been ineffective off the dribble. If he regains his form from last year, Duke has a potent 1-2 punch to pair with a deep bench filled with shooters. That’s a tough team to beat.

No. 2 San Diego State Aztecs

Location: San Diego

Conference: Mountain West

Coach: Steve Fisher

Pre-tournament record: 32-2, 14-2

Best wins: UNLV (twice), Gonzaga

Surprising losses: None

Team stats

Key players: Sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard, senior guard D.J. Gay, senior forward Malcolm Thomas, senior forward Billy Thomas.

Full team roster

Strengths: Offensive rebounding, ball-handling, their frontcourt.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, 3-point shooting.

Outlook: This is a senior-laden squad with an exceedingly efficient defense, a fantastic frontcourt and usually works for a high-percentage shot on offense. All three usually mean success in March. Throw in an NBA talent like Leonard – he can guard anyone and thrives in a half-court offense – and the Aztecs are a strong Final Four contender. Their biggest problem? Lack of a consistent outside shooter. Gay and sophomore Chase Tapley should be those guys, but have trouble creating their own shot. SDSU also doesn’t get many points at the free-throw line. They’re right at the D-I average for percentage (69.9), but rarely get to the line. That speaks to their lack of a go-to guy who can create his own shot or open things for others. (Leonard’s close, but isn’t ideal in that role.) It’s a really good team, but can be held back by its offense.

No. 3 Connecticut Huskies

Location: Storrs, Conn.

Conference: Big East

Coach: Jim Calhoun

Pre-tournament record: 26-9, 9-9

Best wins: Kentucky, Texas

Surprising losses:None

Team stats

Key players: Junior guard Kemba Walker, sophomore forward Alex Oriakhi, freshman guard Jeremy Lamb.

Full team roster

Strengths: Offensive rebounding, ball-handling, interior defense.

Weaknesses: Inconsistent shooting, forcing turnovers.

Outlook: Don’t let the 10 losses fool you. UConn’s as good as any team in the field. (Did you see the Big East tournament?) It’s just not as reliable as the likes of Pitt or Kansas because the Huskies are so dependent on how Walker plays. When the lightning quick guard is on, they’ll beat anyone. And have. But when his shot isn’t falling, UConn relies on guys like Lamb or freshman guard Shabazz Napier to carry the scoring load, which they’re not ready for yet. The wild card is Oriakhi. When he’s grabbing rebounds and getting putback scores, everything’s easier for Walker and the Huskies. UConn will be playing during the second weekend if Walker’s legs aren’t completely exhausted after five games in five days.

No. 4 Texas Longhorns

Location: Austin, Texas.

Conference: Big 12

Coach: Rick Barnes

Pre-tournament record: 27-7, 13-3

Best wins: Kansas, North Carolina

Surprising losses: Nebraska, Colorado

Team stats

Key players: Sophomore wing Jordan Hamilton, freshman Tristan Thompson, freshman guard Cory Joseph, senior forward Gary Johnson.

Full team roster

Strengths: Challenging shots, offensive rebounding, ball-handling.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, 3-point shooting, free-throw shooting.

Outlook: Texas’ tumble at the end of the season – losers of three of the last five games – seemingly ended in the Big 12 tournament. The reason? Hamilton started hitting shots again. The 6-7 wing broke out of a prolonged shooting slump against Oklahoma, a promising sign for a team that desperately needs his scoring touch. Given that the Longhorns’ once ferocious defense turned meek at season’s end, Hamilton’s scoring is needed even more. Unlike last season, when Texas dealt with myriad injuries and chemistry issues, this year’s team is healthy and happy. If Hamilton’s on and Thompson, a gifted shot blocker and rebounder, stays out of foul trouble, this is a Final Four team. At worst, it’s bound for the Sweet 16.

No. 5 Arizona Wildcats

Location: Tucson, Ariz.

Conference: Pac-10

Coach: Sean Miller

Pre-tournament record: 27-7, 13-4

Best wins: Washington, UCLA

Surprising loss: Oregon State

Team stats

Key players: Sophomore forward Derrick Williams, sophomore guard Momo Jones, sophomore forward Solomon Hill .

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, 3-point defense, defensive rebounding.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, interior defense.

Outlook: It all starts with Williams, the Pac-10 player of the year. The 6-7 forward is a future NBA lottery pick for his offensive

efficiency, rebounding skills and underrated defense. He’s the type of player a team can ride to the Final Four – if it has enough players to play supporting roles. That’s the biggest question surrounding the Wildcats, who are back in the Big Dance after missing it last season for the first time in 25 years. Can guys like Hill, junior guard Kyle Fogg and sophomore wing Kevin Parrom hit enough outside shots to prevent teams from focusing on Williams? And is point guard Momo Jones steady enough to avoid last-minute mistakes? Then there’s the defense, which is average. Teams feast on Arizona’s post players because Williams is their biggest guy, but has to stay out of foul trouble. Who slows down opposing forwards?

No. 6 Cincinnati Bearcats

Location: Cincinnati

Conference: Big East

Coach: Mick Cronin

Pre-tournament record: 25-8, 11-7

Best wins: Louisville, Georgetown (twice)

Surprising losses: None

Team stats

Key players: Junior center Yancy Gates, sophomore guard Cashmere Wright, freshman guard Sean KIlpatrick.

Full team roster

Strengths: Offensive rebounding, forcing turnovers, perimeter defense.

Weaknesses: Shooting.

Outlook: The Bearcats ended a six-year tournament drought thanks to what they were known for in the ‘90s and early 2000s – defense. Led by the powerful Gates and solid guards, Cincinnati excels at forcing turnovers and making opponents work for tough shots. It also thrives at crashing the offensive glass and doesn’t turn the ball over. That’s a recipe for success, but doesn’t give the Bearcats much room for error against good teams, and especially ones that can hit 3s. That could be bad news against Missouri in the first round.

No. 7 Temple Owls

Location: Philadelphia

Conference: Atlantic 10

Coach: Fran Dunphy

Pre-tournament record: 25-7, 14-2

Best wins: Georgetown, Richmond, Maryland

Surprising losses: Cal, Duquesne

Team stats

Key players: Junior guard Ramone Moore, junior wing Scootie Randall, senior forward Lavoy Allen.

Full team roster

Strengths: Defensive rebounding, interior defense, ball-handling.

Weaknesses: Perimeter defense, forcing turnovers.

Outlook: The Owls sport a record almost as impressive as last season when they were a 5 seed. They’ve even won 13 of their last 15 games. But don’t be fooled. This team isn’t as good as last year – and that Temple squad was crushed in the first round by Cornell. Temple has similar issues as other slow-paced, possession-prizing teams – when the shots aren’t falling, things turn south. Temple tries using its outside shooters – Juan Fernandez, Moore and Randall – to take some of the pressure off Allen inside, but it doesn’t always work. Allen’s a force inside, especially on the glass and blocking shots. Yet he’s not an accomplished offensive player, occasionally leaving Temple as a one-dimensional offensive team. The defense isn’t good enough to make up for those deficiencies against an athletic team, either. A win against Penn State? Maybe. But against North Carolina? No way.

No. 8 Michigan Wolverines

Location: Ann Arbor, Mich.

Conference: Big Ten

Coach: John Beilein

Pre-tournament record: 20-13, 9-9

Best wins: Clemson, Illinois, Oakland

Surprising losses: UTEP, Northwestern

Team stats

Key players: Sophomore guard Darius Morris, freshman guard Tim Hardaway Jr., freshman center Jordan Morgan.

Full team roster

Strengths: Ball-handling, shooting.

Weaknesses: Offensive rebounding, forcing turnovers, interior defense.

Outlook: The Wolverines got hot at the right time, winning nine of their last 13 games. However, none were against elite teams as Michigan came up short against both Ohio State and Wisconsin late in the year. That’s this team’s M.O – they hang with most everyone, but can’t close out for wins. That’s partly because the Wolverines are young. Morris, Hardaway and Morgan spent the season adjusting to the rigors of Big Ten play and did well most of the time. Consider this team lucky to be in the NCAA tournament, and even luckier if they get a win. The future, however, looks very bright.

No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers

Location: Knoxville, Tenn.

Conference: Southeastern

Coach: Bruce Pearl

Pre-tournament record: 19-14, 8-8

Best wins: Pittsburgh, Villanova, Vanderbilt (twice), Belmont (twice)

Surprising losses: Charlotte, Arkansas, Miss State, Oakland

Team stats

Key players: Junior guard Scotty Hopson, freshman forward Tobias Harris, junior wing Cameron Tatum, senior center Brian Williams.

Full team roster

Strengths: Offensive rebounding, shot blocking.

Weaknesses: Shooting, ball-handling, fouls.

Outlook: The Vols are vying for the crown of team with the oddest season. And in a field like this, that’s saying something. Tennessee handed Pitt its first loss of the year, then turned around and lost to Charlotte and Oakland. It dealt with the eight-game suspension of Pearl, the maddeningly inconsistent play of Hopson and a defense that showed flashes of greatness. At times. Could Tennessee sneak under the radar and get to the Elite Eight again? No. Could they sneak into the Sweet 16? Well, that depends on the matchup. And Hopson. Don’t bank on either.

No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions

Location: College Station, Penn.

Conference: Big Ten

Coach: Ed DeChellis

Pre-tournament record: 19-14, 9-9

Best wins: Wisconsin (twice)

Surprising losses: Maine, Ole Miss

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Talor Battle, senior forward Jeff Brooks, senior forward David Jackson.

Full team roster

Strengths: Ball-handling, defensive rebounding.

Weaknesses: Everything else on defense.

Outlook: Penn State’s lucky to be here. Two wins against Wisconsin and a .500 Big Ten record was enough to overlook an otherwise unimpressive season. The Lions play slow, ugly and not very well on defense. (Their biggest defensive virtue? Keeping foes off the free-throw line.) Battle’s a guard who lives up to his name, fighting through bigger defenders for baskets, but he’s one of the few shining lights. Brooks is a nice player, but not much else. Penn State won’t be around long, no matter how much they ugly up a game.

No. 11 Missouri Tigers

Location: Columbia, Mo.

Conference: Big 12

Coach: Mike Anderson

Pre-tournament record: 23-10, 8-8

Best wins: Vanderbilt, Kansas State

Surprising losses: Oklahoma State, Colorado

Team stats

Key players: Junior guard Marcus Denmon, junior wing Kim English, sophomore guard Michael Dixon, junior forward Ricardo Ratliffe.

Full team roster

Strengths: Forcing turnovers, ball-handling, shooting.

Weaknesses: Rebounding, fouling.

Outlook: Missouri is fun to watch. Their pressure defense usually creates a fast-paced game full of turnovers, exciting sequences and high scores. But lately it has backfired. Teams with mobile big men feast on Missouri’s lackluster frontcourt, while capable guards can handle the press when needed. You’ll hear a lot about the Tigers’ road issues, and with good reason. They’ve won two games away from home since Dec. 22. Missouri can frustrate teams who aren’t prepared for the press or don’t pay enough attention to shooters like Denmon or Dixon. Anderson is 5-1 in first-round games, but think carefully when studying their matchup. Will Cincy’s Yancy Gates dominate the Tigers’ frontline? Can Mizzou force enough turnovers on the Bearcats’ guards?

No. 12 Memphis Tigers

Location: Memphis, Tenn.

Conference: Conference USA

Coach: Josh Pastner

Pre-tournament record: 25-9, 10-6

Best wins: Gonzaga, UAB (twice)

Surprising losses: SMU, East Carolina

Team stats

Key players: Freshman guard Will Barton, freshman guard Joe Jackson, freshman forward Tarik Black, freshman guard Antonio Barton.

Full team roster

Strengths: Offensive rebounding, raw talent.

Weaknesses: Ball-handling, 3-point shooting, defensive rebounding.

Outlook: The Tigers are lucky. They have the potential to be good, but it’s been a lot of luck. They’re 15-1 in games decided by five points or less. Maybe it’s because they’re relying on talented freshmen and don’t run much on offense, which usually creates close games that allows guys like Jackson and Will Barton to make winning plays late. It’s not a rip (well, it’s kind of a rip), just a statement about Memphis’ season. It oozes talent. But that talent lacks cohesiveness on the court. They could go one of two ways in the NCAA tournament – the talent rises to the top and Memphis makes the Sweet 16, or it flames out early because it can’t hit shots and has too many defensive lapses. Lean toward the latter.

No. 13 Oakland Golden Grizzlies

Location: Oakland, Mich.

Conference: Summit League

Coach: Greg Kampe

Pre-tournament record: 25-9, 17-1

Best win: Tennessee

Surprising loss: IUPUI

Team stats

Key players: Senior forward Keith Benson, junior guard Reggie Hamilton, senior forward Will Hudson.

Full team roster

Strengths: Shooting, offensive rebounding, shot-blocking.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, perimeter defense.

Outlook: Oakland played seemingly every major-conference team during its non-conference schedule, losing to the likes of Ohio State, Purdue, West Virginia, Michigan State and Illinois. By the time the Grizz beat the Vols, people had seen enough of them to know they could play. It was no surprise to see Kampe’s team roll through the Summit League. They were tested and have better players, starting with Benson, who’s bound for the NBA. He and Hamilton are the two playmakers on an offense that runs, shoots and scores as well as anyone around. That doesn’t leave much for defense, but that’s by design. Oakland’s topped 100 points six times this season. That might be enough for an NCAA tournament win, even against Texas’ stellar defense.

No. 14 Bucknell Bison

Location: Lewisburg, Pa.

Conference: Patriot League

Coach: Dave Paulson

Pre-tournament record: 25-8, 13-1

Best win: Richmond

Surprising losses: Wagner, Army

Team stats

Key players: Sophomore forward Mike Muscala, senior guard Darryl Shazier, sophomore guard Bryson Johnson.

Full team roster

Strengths: Ball-handling, 3-point shooting, defensive rebounding.

Weaknesses: Forcing turnovers, offensive rebounding.

Outlook: The Bison have won of their past 20 games. The last time they were that hot was 2006 when they knocked off Arkansas in the NCAA tournament as 9 seed. This year’s squad might have some of that magic in ‘em. Bucknell lost by 11 at Marquette and by four at Boston College. Pulling off an NCAA tournament win will mean amplifying a couple of things at which they thrive: Shooting more 3-pointers and hitting the defensive glass. The Bison make 40 percent of their 3s (D-I average is 34.4), but those 3s only account for 29 percent of their total points. If they boost that to 40 percent of their points and limit UConn’s second-chance opportunities, they’ll have a shot.

No. 15 Northern Colorado Bears

Location: Greeley, Colo.

Conference: Big Sky

Coach: B.J. Hill

Pre-tournament record: 21-10, 14-3

Best wins: Montana (twice)

Surprising losses: Louisiana Monroe, Denver

Team stats

Key players: Senior guard Drew Beitzel, senior forward Chris Kaba, senior forward Neal Kingman.

Full team roster

Strengths: 3-point shooting, rebounding.

Weaknesses: Turnovers, perimeter defense.

Outlook: The Bears are one of the tournament’s best stories. The school made the transition from Division II a few years ago and has only been eligible for postseason play since 2007. Now, a team with four seniors is off to its first NCAA tournament. Those seniors, led by Big Sky player of the year Devon Beitzel, can be fun to watch, too. Northern Colorado plays faster than most, doesn’t hesitate on 3-pointers and has pulled out its share of close games. That’s not promising for their tournament hopes, though. The berth is as good as it’ll get for the Bears.

No. 16 Hampton Pirates

Location: Hampton, Va.

Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic

Coach: Edward Joyner, Jr.

Pre-tournament record: 24-8, 11-5

Best wins: Colorado State, Boston

Surprising losses: Florida A&M (twice)

Team stats

Key players: Junior forward Darrion Pellum, junior guard Kwame Morgan, senior forward Charles Funches.

Full team roster

Strengths: Defensive pressure, ball-handling.

Weaknesses: Shooting, rebounding.

Outlook: Hampton pulled off one of the biggest first-round upsets ever in 2001 when it beat No. 2 seed Iowa State. The odds of that type of upset happening again? Mighty slim. The Pirates struggle to score. They’re among the nation’s worst shooting and rebounding teams. That’s not their focus – defense is – but those are severe obstacles. Unless they can harass Duke like they did during MEAC play, they’re going to lose. And lose big.

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.”