Previewing your college hoops weekend: Marquee matchups are few


Game of the weekend: Sat. 2:30 pm: No. 22 Texas A&M @ No. 13 Florida

This is the one and only game this weekend between ranked teams, and there is good reason to be excited about it as it presents an interesting battle of strengths. Texas A&M really struggled offensively without Khris Middleton in the lineup. Middleton is back in the lineup now, and while he is a guy capable of scoring off the dribble, he’s not a big-time slasher or creator. He thrives as a mid-range scorer and saw his production drop-off last season when Big 12 play came around.

Florida, on the other hand, is a powerhouse offensively. Thanks to their terrific three-point shooting and the emergence of Patric Young in the paint. While they have their struggles on the defensive end of the floor, the Gators are the most efficient offensive team in the country.

Where Texas A&M’s strength lies is in their defense. More specifically, in their perimeter defense. Its not because they are a great rebounding team or force a ton of turnovers, its because they simply do not allow you to get good looks from the field, particularly from three; only Virginia Tech and Alabama State force opponents into shooting a worse percentage from beyond the arc.

So what wins out? Texas A&M’s defense or Florida’s shooters?

Seven more games to keep an eye on

Sat. 2:00 pm: No. 7 Baylor @ BYU: The Bears are a frustrating team to watch. And its not because they are playing poorly; its because they haven’t played anyone yet. Their schedule is 341st in the country to date. Baylor has enough talent to make the Final Four this season, but we thought the same thing about this team last year. The pieces never came together. BYU may not be the same team that they were with Jimmer and Jackson Emery, but they will undoubtedly be the best team that the Bears have faced to date. Let’s see how they fair.

Sat. 2:30 pm: Temple @ Texas: Before the season started, Temple was thought to be the favorite to unseat Xavier from the top of the Atlantic 10. That sentiment may still be true, but with Michael Eric sidelined, the Owls are simply not the same team. They do have a ton of talent on their perimeter, however, and the same can be said for Texas. There may not be a lot of posting up in this game, but seeing these two perimeter attacks go back and forth will be worth the price of admission.

Sat. 4:00 pm: Memphis @ No. 4 Louisville: Two old rivals take the court as the Tigers and the Cardinals meet up in Louisville. The intrigue in this game lies solely in the Tigers. This Memphis team was thought by many to be a Final Four contender heading into the season, and that sentiment hasn’t exactly changed as much as it has been put on hold. For all the talent on their roster, Memphis simply has not been able to perform up to expectations. The key may lie in their effort, or lack thereof, on a nightly basis. Louisville is a stout defensive team that should give the Tigers fits, but the Cardinals have had issues scoring the ball all season long.

Sat. 4:00 pm: Arizona @ Gonzaga: Coming into the year, the sentiment was that these were the best two teams on the west coast. And while that still may end up being true once the season ends, the flaws in both of these teams have been exposed early in the season. Arizona lacks interior depth and playmaking guards that can stay on the court (ahem, Josiah Turner). Gonzaga’s issues lie in the inconsistency in their talented front court — specifically Elias Harris — and the inability of their back court to defend playmakers.

Sat. 5:00 pm: UNLV @ No. 19 Illinois: Illinois is a bit of a question mark at this point in the season. The Illini have made it through the first month of the season with an unblemished record, but they have yet to truly prove themselves. They have some unimpressive wins over uninspiring teams. UNLV, on the other hand, seemingly proved themselves with a win over North Carolina over Thanksgiving weekend, but since then the Rebels have struggled, getting taken to double overtime by UC-Santa Barbara and losing to both Wichita State and Wisconsin in a lackluster fashion. We should learn a lot about both teams in this game.

Sat. 8:00 pm: Villanova @ St. Joe’s: When we talk about heated rivalries, Villanova and St. Joe’s rarely gets mentioned. But The Holy War is widely considered the most intense rivalry in the Big 5. The game has lost some of its luster over the last two years due to the struggles of St. Joe’s, but with the Hawks returning to relevancy and Villanova struggling, we’re looking at what should be a heckuva battle. Believe it or not, St. Joe’s may actually have a better perimeter attack than the Wildcats this year.

Sat. 10:00 pm: Kansas State @ No. 21 Alabama: If you like defense and gritty, gutty basketball, this game is perfect for you. We all know about the kind of team that the Wildcats field under Frank Martin — physical, aggressive, defensive-minded, voracious rebounders. Alabama is similar. They can lock-down defensively as well as anyone in the country, but they struggle to score the ball. Those struggles won’t get any easier against Frank Martin’s team.

Who’s getting upset?: Fri. 10:30 pm: Weber State @ Cal

Cal may actually be the best team in the Pac-12, which isn’t exactly saying much, but with Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe and Harper Kamp on the roster, the Bears have enough talent to be an NCAA Tournament team. But don’t sleep on Weber State. Damian Lillard is leading the country at 26.9 ppg, capable of putting up some impressive scoring displays — he had 41 points in a win over San Jose State and went for 36 (including 21 straight in the second half) at St. Mary’s. Throw in players like Scott Bamforth, Kyle Tresnak and Kyle Bullinger, and the Wildcats have enough to knock off the Bears.

Five more teams on upset watch

Fri. 10:30 pm: UC-Santa Barbara @ Washington: Once again, Washington has been an enigma this season. They have plenty of talent on their roster — enough that they lost by a combined eight points to both Marquette and Duke in NYC — but they’ve also lost to the likes of Nevada and St. Louis this year. UCSB, on the other hand, has one of the best players in the country that you’ve never heard of in Orlando Johnson. With Joe Nunnally also on the roster, the Gauchos are one of the best mid-major teams in the country.

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 16 Mississippi State @ Detroit: Mississippi State has a shot to be one of the better teams in the SEC this season, but Detroit actually matches up with them fairly well. Ray McCallum is a talented lead guard, and while he isn’t the same player as Dee Bost, there is a reason that so many high-major programs were disappointed when he opted for the Titans. Eli Holman is a good enough big man that he should be able to hand with rnett Moultrie on the block. Throw is leading scorer Chase Simon and the location of this game — Dickie V Court — and the Bulldogs better show up ready to play.

Sat. 2:00 pm: Central Connecticut State @ Northwestern: Normally, it would be a concern if a team was getting just 4.6 ppg out of their fourth-leading scorer. Not with CCSU, however. The Blue Devils have three players averaging more than 19.3 ppg, which should be enough to give Northwestern issues. The Wildcats are 8-1 on the year, but that one loss was a dismantling at home at the hands of Baylor.

Sat. 4:30 pm: Ole Miss @ Southern Miss: The Rebels are an interesting team this season. They are 9-1 on the season and they’ve put together a couple of decent wins this season, but in their one true test they were beaten by 30 by Marquette. Southern Miss lost a lot to graduation last year, but they’ve bounced back nicely this season, putting together a couple of wins against decent opponents en route to a 7-2 record early in the year. More than anything, this game is a chance for us to see if either of these two teams are for real.

Sat. 5:30 pm: Indiana State @ No. 25 Vanderbilt: We all know about the issues that Vanderbilt has had early in the season. They have questionable decision-makers in their back court and they struggle to defend. The good news, however, is that Festus Ezeli is back in the lineup for the ‘Dores. Ezeli will be a problem for Indiana State in the paint, but the Sycamores have more talent than you may think coming from a team that doesn’t look like it will crack the top three in the MVC. At the very least, this game is worth tuning in for to see Jake Odum play.

Mid-major matchups of the weekend: Sun. 1:00 pm: Oral Roberts @ No. 9 Xavier

I know, I know. Its blasphemy saying that Xavier is a mid-major team. But I wanted to write about this game, and its the only place that fit. Oral Roberts is quality Summit League team led by a veteran front court, one good enough to give Gonzaga a fight in Spokane on Thursday night. Xavier will be heading into this game short-handed, as Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons and Dez Wells will all begin their suspensions stemming from the brawl last weekend.

Five more mid-major matchups to watch

Sat. 1:00 pm: Iona @ Vermont: Iona is one of the most entertaining teams in the country to watch, regardless of conference affiliation. With Scott Machado, Michael Glover and Momo Jones on their roster, it should be no surprise that this team has been able to pull-off a couple of impressive wins early in the season. But the Catamounts are a tough team to beat at home.

Sat. 5:00 pm: Old Dominion @ Central Florida: Old Dominion is clearly not the same team that they were last season, although that isn’t exactly unexpected given the amount of talent that graduated from Blaine Taylor’s roster. Central Florida, on the other hand, is fairly loaded and already has a win over UConn on their resume.

Sat. 6:30 pm: Boise State @ Denver: This will be one of the more interesting games to keep an eye on this weekend. Both Boise and Denver managed to put together some solid wins early in the season despite not having overwhelming expectations coming into the season. The Broncos match-up well with the Pioneers, who run a Princeton-style offense that loves to control the tempo.

Sat. 7:00 pm: Richmond @ Bucknell: Its never easy to replace players of the caliber of Kevin Anderson and Justin Harper, particularly if you are a program like Richmond. Coming off of a fairly solid beat down at the hands of Iona in their own building, the Spiders must head to Bucknell, the Patriot League favorite.

Sat. 8:00 pm: Oakland @ Valpo: Oakland’s Reggie Hamilton is one of the single-most entertaining players in the country to watch, and this season his Grizzly team has managed to regroup despite losing Keith Benson to graduation. But Valpo looks like they will be a contender in the Horizon this season, coming into this game with a 7-3 record.

The rest of the top 25:

Sat. 6:30 pm: No. 1 Syracuse @ NC State: In their first game with the No. 1 ranking in the country, the Orange leave New York for a non-conference game for the first time three years. NC State is a bit of a sleeper in the ACC this year, but they’ll need big games out of CJ Leslie, Lorenzo Brown and Scott Wood to handle the Orange.

Sat. 12:00 pm: No. 2 Ohio State @ South Carolina: Bruce Ellington is finally back in the lineup for South Carolina. But Jared Sullinger has returned for the Buckeyes as well. I think the latter will be more important.

Sat. 8:00 pm: Chattanooga @ No. 3 Kentucky: After watching Terrence Jones sulk his way through a loss at Indiana, I am certainly not the only person that has stated concerns for what kind of player he is going to end up being. Its not so much that he had an off-night shooting the ball, its that he had an off-night effort-wise. That cannot happen. Let’s see how he bounces back.

Sat. 6:00 pm: Appalachian State @ No. 6 UNC: Kendall Marshall is an exquisite passer, but I think that his ability to get Harrison Barnes open looks from the perimeter has helped fuel the theory that Barnes is nothing but a streaky jump-shooter.

Sun. 3:00 pm: William & Mary @ No. 8 Missouri: When you are going up against a team that has been absolutely lethal using a four-guard lineup, its not necessarily a good thing to be a team that puts a four-guard lineup on the floor.

Sun. 1:00 pm: Holy Cross @ No. 10 UConn: I can’t be the only one waiting to see if Alex Oriakhi can break out of the season-long struggles he’s had.

Sat. 4:00 pm: Northern Colorado @ No. 11 Marquette: Chris Otule’s knee injury looks like it will keep him out of the lineup for a while. Will that affect the Eagles?

Sat. 6:00 pm: South Carolina State @ No. 14 Pitt: It will be really interesting to see if Khem Birch is on the court — or even on the roster — when this game is played.

Sat. 12:00 pm: American @ No. 17 Georgetown: Its impossible to overstate how much Henry Sims has improved this season. He’s been one of the best big men in the Big East and a perfect fit for John Thompson III’s offense.

Sat. 12:00 pm: Alabama A&M @ No. 18 Michigan: Michigan deserves much of the credit, along with Indiana, for being the reason that everyone is talking about how good the Big Ten is this season.

Sat. 7:00 pm: Bowling Green @ No. 23 Michigan State: The Spartans have made their way back into the top 25 this season. College hoops is better when Tom Izzo’s team matters.

Sat. 8:05 pm: Houston Baptist @ No. 24 Creighton: How will the Bluejays bounce back from a loss to St. Joe’s?

Other notable games:


– 12:00 pm: Florida Atlantic @ Miami FL
– 2:00 pm: Texas A&M-CC @ West Virginia
– 2:00 pm: Radford @ Cincinnati
– 2:00 pm: Butler @ Purdue
– 2:30 pm: Fordham @ St. John’s
– 3:00 pm: UC-Davis @ UCLA
– 4:00 pm: Campbell @ Virgnia Tech
– 5:30 pm: Notre Dame @ No. 20 Indiana
– 8:00 pm: Arkansas State @ Murray State
– 8:00 pm: San Diego @ Stanford
– 8:00 pm: Alabama State @ St. Louis
– 8:00 pm: Houston @ Oklahoma
– 10:30 pm: New Mexico @ Oklahoma State


– 12:00 pm: Mercer @ Seton Hall
– 2:30 pm: Loyola MD @ St. Bonaventure
– 3:00 pm: South Dakota State @ Washington
– 3:00 pm: Loyola Marymount @ Florida State
– 5:30 pm: Virginia @ Oregon
– 10:00 pm: Portland State @ Oregon State

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

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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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

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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
Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

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.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.