Friday’s Shootaround: UNC bounces back and Illinois falls back


No. 8 North Carolina 82, Virginia Tech 68: There was a lot of good and a lot of bad to take out of the Tar Heel’s 14 point win over Virginia Tech on Thursday night.

The good? After allowing the Hokies to hang around for far to long in the first 24 minutes or so, UNC turned it on in a big way. They used a 19-0 run that they extended into a 31-5 surge to turn a 44-36 deficit into a 67-49 lead. After their debacle at Florida State last weekend, the Heels needed to make a statement in this game. Virginia Tech borders on awful this season, and while Seth Greenberg’s teams are always tough at home, UNC needed to come out and show the country that they are not the team that was beaten into submission — both literally and figuratively — in Tallahassee.

And while it took them a half to wake up (I would pay a good amount of money to see Roy Williams’ halftime speech to his team), when they finally did, the Heels put on a show. Harrison Barnes looked like the guy that is at the top of every NBA Draft board. John Henson and Tyler Zeller were dominant in the paint. As a team, the Tar Heels looked every bit the offensive juggernaut that they were supposed to be all season long, and they were playing some defense, too.

The bad? Dexter Strickland injured his knee. There has been no diagnosis yet, but the way that his knee buckled when he planted … it looked bad. Strickland is UNC’s best perimeter defender, and with Leslie McDonald already out of action with a torn acl, UNC’s perimeter depth is at a premium. If Strickland is gone for an extended period of time, it could be a huge blow to UNC.

Penn State 54, No. 25 Illinois 52: After their win over Ohio State last week, I said that the key to the Illini’s season was whether or not they would be able to find a consistent way to get production out of Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard. On Thursday night, Illinois got 20 points out of Paul and 15 points out of Leonard on a combined 23 shots. And they still lost. That’s what will happen when your supporting cast goes 6-26 from the field and scores all of 17 points.

A couple of things worth noting: Tim Frazier is one of the best point guards in the country you’ve never seen play. He had 12 points and nine assists, including the game-winner. Also, Brandon Paul hit a pair of tough threes down the stretch, including another ridiculous three off of a curl with a hand in his face. Color me impressed.

Vanderbilt 69, Alabama 59: The Commodores were incredibly impressive in their win at Alabama on Thursday night. They were down by 17-11 midway through the first half when they completely took the game over. They outscored the Crimson Tide 15-2 to end the first half and began the second half with a 15-5 surge. But as good as Vandy looked, I can’t help but wonder whether this loss says more about Alabama. I love that team, but they haven’t done anything with anything close to a modicum of consistency this season. Is it possible that their offensive woes are a bigger issue than we thought?

No. 4 Duke 91, Wake Forest 73: The story of this game wasn’t the 18 point win we all expected and it wasn’t the seven threes that Andre Dawkins hit in the first half. It was that Austin Rivers, Coach K’s star freshman guard, was benched at the start of the game. He was told on Monday, after a four point performance against Clemson, and Rivers was not happy about it. After the game, he said:

The past three days I haven’t slept. I’ve been thinking. I was so angry. You have no idea how angry I was. … But I realize that I need to mature. That’s what (Krzyzewski’s) intention was. I mean, he’s a genius. He knows what he’s doing. He’s going to make me better and this team is going to make me better.

Admittedly, I didn’t like Rivers body language on the bench. But Coach K’s tactics worked. Rivers had 20 points, 14 of which came in the second half. Rivers has the talent to be something special. Whether or not he’s able to accept the fact that, the higher the level of basketball he reaches, the fewer the number of shots he is going to get is a different story.

Loyola Marymount 82, BYU 68: There was quite a bit of speculation this season that the six game round robin between Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and BYU would determine the winner of the WCC this season, and while that still may end up being true, the fact that the Cougars dropped this game to LMU — at home, none the less — is a major blow to BYU’s chances of winning the league outright. To be fair, the Lions are finally healthy this season. Anthony Ireland was terrific as usual, finishing with 27 points, five assists and five steals, but Drew Viney showed up with 21 points in this one.


Cal 69, Washington 66: The Bears are starting to look like the best team in the Pac-12. Allen Crabbe had 16 points and 10 boards and Justin Cobbs went for 14, but the most important player in this game was Robert Thurman. Filling in for the ineligible Richard Solomon, Thurman, a walk-on, went for 16 points and seven boards. Can he keep up that kind of production? I’m not terribly concerned about Washington just yet, but this is a worrisome outcome.

Washington State 81, Stanford 69: This is a bad loss for Stanford. The Cardinal came into this game tied for first place in the conference with Cal and jumped out to a ten point lead in the first half. But Stanford simply had no answer for Faisal Aden, who finally woke up by coming off the bunch for 33 points.

Oregon 65, USC 62: What do we make of Oregon? They continued their solid start in Pac-12 play, but struggling with USC at home isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for Dana Altman’s team. Garret Sim and Devoe Joseph combined for 36 points.

Oregon State 87, UCLA 84: Maybe I am expecting too much out of the Beavers this season, but I wasn’t surprised by this win over UCLA as much as I was surprised by OSU’s 1-5 start in league play. Jared Cunningham has 21 points in the win, but more importantly Devon collier had 20 and got 12 shots from the floor.

– Colorado 69, Arizona State 54
– Arizona 77, Utah 51

Other notable scores:

– No. 17 Virginia 70, Georgia Tech 38
– No. 23 St. Mary’s 61, Pepperdine 47
– Davidson 87, Charleston 69
– Charleston Southern 93, UNC-Asheville 88
– NC State 76, Boston College 62
– VCU 69, William & Mary 68 OT
– Butler 57, UIC 49
– Denver 63, Louisiana-Monroe 48
– Weber State 81, Northern Arizona 67
– Gonzaga 74, San Francisco 63

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

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

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.