Weekend preview: Oregon, Belmont, Michigan St. primed to pull upsets


UPSET SPECIAL: Fri. 10:00 pm: Oregon @ No. 7 Vanderbilt

This sounds silly, right? I mean, Oregon is a team that is only a year removed from a mass exodus from the program stemming from the firing of Ernie Kent and the subsequent, embarrassing 37 day coaching search. But that search was more-than-successful, as Oregon stole Dana Altman away from Creighton. Altman led a team expected of next-to-nothing to seven league wins and the CBI title. And while Oregon lost three of their top four scorers from last season, this year’s team will be better.


Because Dana Altman cleaned up on the recruiting trail. Not only did he land talented front court transfers in Olu Ashaolu, who averaged 14.2 ppg and 9.4 rpg from Louisiana Tech last season, but he also brought in the troubled big-man Tony Woods, who sat out last season after leaving Wake Forest. Throw in returners EJ Singler (the second leading scorer on the Ducks last season), Jeremy Jacobs and Tyrone Nared, and the Ducks have a really talented front line. Why is this significant? Because Vanderbilt will be without their star center Festus Ezeli, who was suspended for the first six games before spraining knee ligaments, which will keep him out until December.

Oregon is more than just a big front line, however. Jonathon Loyd was a dynamic playmaker in the limited minutes he saw at the point last season. Garrett Sim will once again start in the back court as well, but the x-factor will end up being freshman Jabari Brown. He comes in with quite a bit of hype, but hype doesn’t always yield immediate results. Will he be the kind of big-time scoring threat in his first game that most expect him to be before his career is over in Eugene?

The Ducks are a major sleeper in the Pac-12, but there is legitimate reason for Vanderbilt being in the top ten. Even without Ezeli, this is a group with quite a bit of experience, some capable-to-good big men and a veteran perimeter attack that includes future first round picks John Jenkins and Jeff Taylor. But the Commodores better come out ready to play.


Fri. 7:00 pm: No. 1 North Carolina vs. Michigan State: We all know about how talented North Carolina is. You don’t need me to tell you that in this space. But for the first time in recent memory, Michigan State heads into the season with almost no expectations. But I like this Spartan team. They have the makeup of the perennially over-achieving teams that Tom Izzo is known so well for. I’m expecting a big year out of Keith Appling, Izzo has had success with modified point guards (see Drew Neitzel), but I also think that Brandon Wood and Branden Dawson are the perfect, tough-minded kind of perimeter players that thrive under Izzo. Draymond Green is going to have to have a big game, and big men Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne are going to need to play up to their potential and not down to their history, but given the unusual conditions of this game, don’t be surprised if a scrappy Michigan State team pulls off the shocker.

Fri. 9:00 pm: Belmont @ No. 6 Duke: Belmont is a very good basketball team. They won 30 games last year and return nine of the 11 players from that team’s rotation. They have a couple of quality back court pieces, headlined by junior Ian Clark, and have two quality big men in Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders. In fact, I don’t think its crazy to say that Belmont’s posts are better than the three Plumlees. The Bruins run a pressing system that forces turnovers, and with Duke having two combo-guards in their back court — neither Seth Curry nor Austin Rivers is a true point guard — I can see Belmont giving Duke some issues defensively. Most importantly, the Bruins won’t be scared. This is the same program that lost to Duke by one in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.

Fri. 10:30 pm: Loyola Marymount @ No. 20 UCLA: Last year was a bit of a disaster for LMU as they finished 2-12 in the WCC, but that record doesn’t reflect the amount of talent that is in this program. The Lions struggled keeping their players healthy last season and couldn’t win a close game, going 2-7 in games that were decided by one possession or went to overtime. Even with star Drew Viney out following foot surgery, the Lions have enough size on their front line to matchup with a UCLA team that is headlined by a potentially-injured Reeves Nelson and an overweight Josh Smith. Point guard Anthony Ireland, who really came on strong late in his freshman season, may be the best point guard on the floor on Friday as well. If Nelson doesn’t play, or plays at less than 100%, and Edgar Garibay and Godwin Okojoni can hold their own against the Bruin front line, the Lions, who are a sleeper in a very good WCC, should give the Bruins all they can handle.

Sun. 9:30 pm: George Washington @ No. 24 Cal: Let me say this before I go any further — I am high on Cal. There is a reason that I picked them to finish second in the Pac-12 this season. That said, I’m also a big fan of George Washington. I know they have undergone a coaching change and I know that their 10-6 record and fourth place finish in the A-10 last season was partially the result of an easy league schedule, but this is still a team that returns their entire roster — including all-conference point guard Tony Taylor — and finally gets a healthy Lasan Kromah back.


Fri. 8:00 pm: Bucknell @ Minnesota: This should be one of the better matchups between a high-major and a low-major program this weekend. Bucknell is the consensus favorite to win the Patriot League after returning the majority of their roster from last season. Minnesota has some talent and will definitely have a major athleticism advantage over the Bison, but the Gophers don’t have a true point guard on their roster; freshman Andre Hollins will be sliding over and playing the point this season. If anything, this game will be worth the watch if, for nothing else, to see Mike Muscala, the reigning Patriot League Player of the Year, go up against Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson.

Fri. 9:00 pm: Oral Roberts @ West Virginia: This will be a big game for Oral Roberts. The Golden Eagles bring back essentially their entire roster, headlined by star forward Dominique Morrison, and have a team that is good enough that they can feasibly make a push for an at-large bid if they make enough statements during a tough non-conference schedule. West Virginia is a potential tournament team, but they may be a long way from reaching that potential. Their roster is basically made up of Truck Bryant, Kevin Jones, Deniz Kilicli and a bunch of freshmen. The Mountaineers are coming off of a loss in an exhibition and reportedly got worked by Xavier in a closed-door scrimmage.

Fri. 9:05 pm: BYU @ Utah State: The rivalries between the Division I programs in Utah is intense, and this game is no different. Utah State fans have been camping out for days to get tickets to the game. Both programs appear to be down this season, but its worth noting that both Dave Rose and Stew Morrill are terrific at developing talent. While, on paper, it appears as if both schools lose a tremendous amount of talent from last season, I feel confident saying that the drop-off both teams experience won’t be as dramatic as most expect. When it comes to rivalry games, record don’t matter. This game is no different.



7:00 pm: Marist @ No. 2 Kentucky: This will be the first time we get to see Kentucky’s talented freshmen — and a new-and-improved Terrence Jones in a real game, although it won’t necessarily come against “real” competition.

9:00 pm: Wright State @ No. 3 Ohio State: Just how good is the slimmed-down Jared Sullinger going to be? Tonight is our first glimpse.

7:00 pm: Columbia @ No. 4 UConn: With the amount of athleticism on the UConn roster, I feel confident saying that there are going to be some impressive highlights coming out of this game. Also, Andre Drummond anyone?

7:00 pm: Tennessee-Martin @ No. 8 Louisville: Just how good Louisville will end up being this season will likely be a direct result of two things: a) how healthy they are and b) just how good Peyton Siva ends up being.

7:00 pm: Jackson State @ No. 10 Florida: I can’t be the only one curious as to how Billy Donovan is going to split minutes — and shots — between the four talented back court players he has on his roster.

7:00 pm: Albany @ No. 11 Pitt: Any time Ashton Gibbs is playing, I’m watching. Basketball purists should agree.

10:00 pm: Texas Southern @ No. 12 Baylor: Baylor’s first game without Perry Jones and our first glimpse at who will operate the point guard spot for the Bears.

8:00 pm: Towson @ No. 13 Kansas: Towson may lose by fifty, and while most will be focused on just how good Thomas Robinson is, I’m more concerned with a first look at a team that claims Tyshawn Taylor as its leader.

7:00 pm: Morgan State @ No. 15 Xavier: Xavier will be playing this game without Tu Holloway. Could that mean the Musketeers are primed for an upset?

8:00 pm: North Florida @ No. 17 Alabama: The Crimson Tide heads into this season with quite a bit of hype. Will it be justified?

9:00 pm: Mt. St. Mary’s @ No. 21 Marquette: The x-factor for Marquette this season may end up being Davante Gardner. Is the big fella in shape?

11:05 pm: Eastern Washington @ No. 23 Gonzaga: Which Elias Harris shows up this season? The potential lottery pick or the banged-up, out-of-shape player from last season.

10:30 pm: UC Irvine @ No. 24 Cal: Are the Bears really a team that can compete for the Pac-12 title? Or Mike Wilder’s hair?

8:00 pm: SE Missouri State @ No. 25 Missouri: The biggest question in the Big 12: how good will Missouri be without Laurence Bowers?

7:00 pm: Jacksonville @ Florida State: We all know that Florida State is going to be a stalwart defensive team once again this season, but the question is, without Ian Miller, how is this team going to create points?

7:00 pm: Tennessee Tech @ Miami FL: The Hurricanes are playing very shorthanded thanks to injuries and suspensions. Tennessee Tech is good team, led by star Kevin Murphy and the most clutch player in college hoops in Zac Swansey.

7:30 pm: Rhode Island @ George Mason: If only this game could have been played in January, when Billy Baron and Andre Malone are eligible for URI and Andre Cornelius is back from his suspension for GMU.

8:00 pm: Texas A&M-CC @ Oklahoma State: LeBryan Nash. That is all.

9:00 pm: Loyola (IL) @ Illinois: I’m not necessarily in the minority when I say I think that Illinois could be better this year without the headaches that came along with Jereme Richmond and Demetri McCamey.

10:00 pm: Missouri State @ Nevada: A terrific mid-major matchup. Kyle Weems tries to lead a MSU team back to an MVC title with a new roster and coaching staff, while Nevada looks to live up to the talent on their roster.


4:00 pm: Fordham @ No. 5 Syracuse: This should be a blowout, but it will be interesting to see Fordham star Chris Gaston go up against the huge front line of Syracuse. Also: Fab Melo? You showin’ up this year, bro?

4:30 pm: Presbyterian @ No. 6 Duke: Will Presbyterian have a shot with Duke playing two games in two d … yeah, no.

1:00 pm: Kennesaw State @ No. 14 Wisconsin: Kennesaw State knocked off Georgia Tech last year. Can they pull off another upset?

3:00 pm: Butler @ Evansville: Evansville knocked off Butler in Hinkle last year. Can a new-look Butler team return the favor this year? Also: just how good are Butler’s youngsters?

7:00 pm: Northern Iowa @ Old Dominion: Two very good mid-major programs square off in a battle of rebuilding years.


1:00 pm: No. 1 North Carolina @ UNC-Asheville: JP Primm and Matt Dickey gives Asheville a solid starting backcourt.

2:00 pm: Cleveland State @ No. 7 Vanderbilt: No more Norris Cole for Cleveland State.

4:00 pm: Lamar @ No. 8 Louisville: The Pat Knight era at Lamar gets their first true test.

6:00 pm: Rider @ No. 11 Pitt: Remember what I said about Ashton Gibbs?

7:00 pm: Jackson State @ No. 12 Baylor: Quincy Miller enters the collegiate ranks with quite a bit of hype, but he’s also coming off of a torn ACL. Will he be healthy?

6:00 pm: Ball State @ No. 16 Arizona: This will be the third time we get to see Arizona play. They have yet to answer the question marks about the youth in their back court.

4:00 pm: Southern @ No. 19 Texas A&M: Will Billy Kennedy be on the bench?

7:00 pm: Alabama State @ No. 22 Cincinnati: Is Yancy Gates actually in shape? Will Sean Kilpatrick be a star? If both answers are year, the Bearcats have a shot at being very, very good.

7:00 pm: Boston U. @ Texas: Texas kicks off the Myck Kabongo era. Can this freshman point guard carry the Longhorn team?

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

Report: Notre Dame closing deal with PSU’s Shrewsberry

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame is finalizing a deal to make Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry its new men’s basketball coach, two people with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because contract details were still being completed and needed school approval.

Shrewsberry, in his second season at Penn State (23-14), led the Nittany Lions to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011 and a tournament victory for the first time since 2001.

The Nittany Lions beat Texas A&M and were eliminated by Texas in the second round.

Notre Dame has been searching for a replacement for Mike Brey, who spent the last 23 season as coach of the Fighting Irish. He announced in January that this would be his last season with Notre Dame

The Irish finished 11-21.

Shrewsberry grew up in Indianapolis and went to school at Division III Hanover College in Indiana.

He was the head coach at Indiana University South Bend, an NAIA school located in the same city as Notre Dame, from 2005-07.

He later worked as an assistant coach at Butler and Purdue, with a stint as an assistant with the Boston Celtics in between.

ESPN first reported Notre Dame was close to a deal with Shrewsberry.

Bacot says he’s returning for fifth season at North Carolina

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina forward Armando Bacot is returning to play a fifth season for the Tar Heels.

Bacot announced his decision Wednesday, giving North Carolina fans a bit of good news after the Tar Heels failed to reach the NCAA Tournament.

The 6-foot-11 Bacot is North Carolina’s career leader in rebounds, double-doubles and double-figure rebounding games.

Bacot led North Carolina to a runner-up finish in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and his decision to return was a major reason the Tar Heels were ranked No. 1 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25.

The Tar Heels didn’t come close to meeting those expectations. They went 20-13 and opted against playing in the NIT. Bacot earned Associated Press All-America third-team honors and averaged 15.9 points and 10.4 rebounds.

He averaged 16.3 points and 13.1 rebounds in 2021-22. He capped that season by becoming the first player ever to have six double-doubles in one NCAA Tournament.

Bacot participated in North Carolina’s Senior Night festivities this year. He has a fifth year of eligibility because of the waiver the NCAA granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ed Cooley takes over at Georgetown with lofty aspirations

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Ed Cooley’s task at Georgetown is to bring a once-storied program back to prominence in a competitive conference that has three teams still part of March Madness in the Sweet 16.

Cooley’s lofty aspirations go beyond lifting the Hoyas up from the bottom of the Big East Conference. After leaving Providence, which he took to the NCAA Tournament seven times in 12 years, he already is talking about trying to coach Georgetown to its first championship since 1984.

At his introductory news conference Wednesday that felt like a pep rally, Cooley said he wanted current and former players to envision cutting down nets and watching “One Shining Moment” with the nets hanging around their necks. He promised wins – many of them – and plotted a path forward that he knows will involve some tough times.

“It’s a process, and the process now, because you have a changing landscape in athletics, you’ll have an opportunity to probably move it quicker than you would have 10, 20 years ago,” Cooley said. “We’re going to lose some games. It’s OK. Losing’s part of growth. But over the course of time, it will pay off.”

Georgetown has lost a lot the past couple of years under Patrick Ewing, who was fired earlier this month after six seasons. The team went 7-25 this season after going 6-25 last season and lost 37 of 39 games in Big East play.

While Cooley at Providence was responsible for four of those defeats, the 53-year-old distanced himself from Georgetown’s recent run of losing.

“I don’t have anything to do what happened yesterday,” he said. “My job is to move us forward from today.”

Cooley’s mere presence is an acknowledgement that Georgetown needed a major change to become relevant again. After late Hall of Fame coach John Thompson’s 27-year-old run led to longtime assistant Craig Esherick succeeding him and then son John Thompson III and Ewing getting the head job, Cooley is the school’s first outsider in the position in a half-century.

His only connection to the Hilltop – beyond coaching in the Big East – is his daughter, Olivia, attending Georgetown. Cooley, a Providence native, said her desire to live in the Washington area played into his decision to leave for a conference rival.

It was certainly no accident that athletic director Lee Reed and school president John J. DeGioia used phrases like “new era” and “new chapter” when discussing Cooley. DeGioia said he believes Cooley will “uplift and restore this team” to compete at the highest levels of the sport.

“He has a proven record of success,” Reed said. “We knew we needed a leader, someone who understood our identity and could reimagine Georgetown basketball to fit today’s unique basketball landscape.”

That landscape, including players being able to profit off the use of their name, image and likeness (NIL) and more easily transfer schools, are the biggest changes Cooley has seen since landing his first head job at Fairfield in 2006. He expects to be aggressive, and given the high volume of Georgetown players coming and going via the transfer portal, could rebuild the roster in his image sooner rather than later.

“You have to find student-athletes that fit the way you want to play, your style of play, that fit you as a coach,” Cooley said. “We need to find players that can play for me that can attend Georgetown, not the other way around.”

Cooley acknowledged that some luck is needed but also stressed recruiting local talent to keep the best players in the region around. That’s just one building block to putting Georgetown back on the map, which Cooley wants the time and latitude to do.

“The word patience is always hard because everybody wants it and they want it right now,” he said. “Everybody wants it right now. Have a little bit of patience.”

Texas’ Arterio Morris plays amid misdemeanor domestic violence case

Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

AUSTIN, Texas — In a season when Texas fired coach Chris Beard after a felony domestic violence arrest, it has allowed a reserve guard to keep playing while he awaits trial on a misdemeanor charge of assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

Second-seed Texas has advanced under interim coach Rodney Terry to the program’s first Sweet 16 since 2008, and the Longhorns play No. 3 Xavier in Kansas City, Missouri.

Arterio Morris, a freshman who was one of the top recruits in the country last year, was initially scheduled to stand trial March 29, three days before Final Four weekend. Denton County prosecutors were granted a delay to an unspecified date.

Beard was fired Jan. 5, about three weeks after he was arrested on suspicion of a felony charge of choking his fiancée in a fight during which she also told police he bit, and hit her. She later recanted the choking allegation and the Travis County district attorney dismissed the case, saying prosecutors were following her wishes not to got to trial and that the charge could not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

Morris is charged with Class A misdemeanor assault causing bodily injury to a family member, which in Texas includes dating relationships. It stems from a June 2022 confrontation in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. The charge carries penalties ranging from probation and fines to up to a year in jail if convicted.

Morris’ attorney, Justin Moore, said the charges against Beard and the player are different.

“(Beard) was charged with a felony family assault,” Moore said. “That was far more serious as to what Arterio was alleged to have to committed. We maintain Arterio’s innocence.”

According to police, the ex-girlfriend said Morris grabbed her arm and pulled her off a bed, and later pulled the front of her sports bra, causing an injury to her neck and shoulder area. Police reported seeing a sizable bruise or scratch.

Texas officials declined comment. Beard said before the season that school officials he would not identify determined the freshman could play this season.

Moore defended Texas officials’ decision to not suspend Morris.

“I do believe Texas has taken this seriously. They’ve also allowed Arterio to enjoy his due process rights,” Moore said.

Morris has played in all 36 games this season, although his minutes and have been limited on a senior-dominated team. He averages nearly 12 minutes and 4.7 points per game. His biggest moment was a soaring alley-oop dunk against Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament championship game.

Attempts to reach Morris’ ex-girlfriend through family members were not successful. According to online records, prosecutors sought the trial delay to “procure witness availability.” Prosecutor Jamie Beck did not immediately return messages.

Wichita State hires ORU’s Paul Mills to lead program

Russell Lansford-USA TODAY Sports

Wichita State hired Paul Mills away from Oral Roberts to turn around its languishing men’s basketball program, landing what has been one of the hottest names among mid-major coaches.

The 50-year-old Mills led the the Golden Eagles to two of the past three NCAA Tournaments, engineering upsets of Ohio State and Florida as a No. 15 seed in 2021 before going 30-5 this past season and losing to Duke as a No. 5 seed.

He replaces Isaac Brown, who was fired after three seasons as the Shockers slowly slipped toward mediocrity.

“My family and I are extremely excited about being a part of Wichita State,” said Mills, who will be introduced during a news conference Thursday at Charles Koch Arena. “The rich history, winning tradition and unbelievable community support will keep us working on behalf of the greatest fans in all of college basketball.”

Mills got his break in coaching when he joined Scott Drew’s first staff at Baylor in 2003, working alongside future Kansas State coach Jerome Tang in helping to turn around a program that had been mired in controversy. Mills stayed for 14 years, helping to reach seven NCAA Tournaments, before replacing Scott Sutton at Oral Roberts before the 2017 season.

“I absolutely love Paul Mills. He’s like a brother to me. So happy for him and his family, for Wendy and the girls,” said Tang, who has Kansas State playing Michigan State in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night. “He’s going to be incredible because he is passionate about young people and about developing young men.

“There’s no throttle, like, hold-back governor on him in terms of love and what he pours into his guys.”

Mills went just 11-21 each of his first two seasons in Tulsa, but the seeds of a turnaround had been planted, and the Golden Eagles have not had a losing season since. The biggest step came two years ago, when Mills led Oral Roberts to the Sweet 16 of an NCAA Tournament played entirely within an Indianapolis “bubble environment” because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Golden Eagles slipped to 19-12 the following year before winning 30 games and the Summit League title this past season, when they were led by high-scoring guard Max Abmas, an honorable mention All-American selection.

“He’s the one that told me, he said, ‘Tang, 10s hangs with 10s and one hangs with ones,’” Tang said, “and he’s a 10 and he’s going to have some 10s around him.”

The hiring of Mills comes as the Shockers try to position themselves at the forefront of a new-look American Athletic Conference. Perennial powerhouse Houston is joining Central Florida and Cincinnati in leaving for the Big 12 after this season, and six new schools are due to arrive from Conference USA for the start of next season.

Wichita State, a power under Ralph Miller and Gene Smithson in the 1960s, returned to prominence when Mark Turgeon took over in 2000. But it was under Gregg Marshall, who resigned in November 2020 amid allegations of verbal and physical abuse of players, that it began to soar. The Shockers advanced to the Final Four in 2013, finished the regular season unbeaten the following year and at one point went to seven consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

Brown, who was Marshall’s top recruiter, led them back to the NCAA Tournament in his first year. But the Shockers were just 15-13 last year and 17-15 this past season, leading Saal to decide that a coaching change was necessary.

Turns out the answer Saal was looking for was just a few hours south at Oral Roberts.

“Paul Mills’ heart for people, passion for life and approach to the development of young people and programs is energizing,” Wichita State athletic director Kevin Saal said in a statement. “He aligns with Shocker Athletics’ core values, facilitates a first-class student-athlete experience and fuels broad-based competitive excellence.”