The 10 first-round NCAA tournament games you can’t miss


There are 32 games on Thursday and Friday. It’s been impossible to watch them all in the past, but the new staggered TV times makes it possible.

Still, not everyone can watch everything. So here are the 10 games you can’t miss.

10. (2) Kansas vs. (15) Detroit: With Ray McCallum Jr. at the point the Titans have the floor general needed to author an upset, but they’ve also got multiple options inside to help deal with Thomas Robinson. Eli Holman and LaMarcus Lowe are both experienced big men who will offer up challenges to the Jayhawks, especially if Jeff Withey struggles. The Titans are experienced and they’re talented as well, and unlike most high-major teams in a position like Kansas’ the Jayhawks don’t enjoy a huge edge in the depth department.

9. (7) Gonzaga vs. (10) West Virginia: Gonzaga makes the trek east for their NCAA tournament games, taking on the Mountaineers in Pittsburgh. The Steel City may be 90 miles away from Morgantown but given the “Backyard Brawl” it’s tough to figure out how much of an advantage Bob Huggins’ team will enjoy with regards to the crowd. A bigger concern for the Bulldogs is defending Kevin Jones, who led the Big East in both scoring and rebounding. Elias Harris and Robert Sacre’ counter Jones and Deniz Kilicli, and in Kevin Pangos the Bulldogs have one of the best freshman guards in the country. WVU will need smart decisions from Truck Bryant if they’re to advance.

8. (3) Georgetown vs. (14) Belmont: This Midwest Region battle in Columbus has the potential to result in an upset due to the caliber of the underdog. Rick Byrd’s Bruins go eight deep and are led by guard Kerron Johnson, one of the top players in the Atlantic Sun. Belmont also has two big men in Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders capable of defending Henry Sims, and from a style standpoint this match-up could be a better fit for them than last year’s game against Wisconsin. Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson have played well for the Hoyas and freshman Otto Porter has improved as the season’s progressed, but this has the look of a game that could go down to the wire.

7. (4) Wisconsin vs. (13) Montana: This East Region battle will feature some very good guards, and while most of the country will know of the Badgers’ Jordan Taylor the Grizzlies have a pair of very good guards as well. Junior Will Cherry and sophomore Kareem Jamar are integral parts of the Montana attack, with Cherry the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year and Jamar the conference tournament MVP. Wisconsin relies heavily on the three-point shot but the Grizzlies were the best in the Big Sky when it came to defending the three. Bo Ryan’s system is tough to attack if unfamiliar with it, but Montana does have the ability to pull off the upset.

6. (4) Louisville vs. (13) Davidson: With this West Regional match-up taking place in Portland, from a crowd standpoint things could turn on the Big East tournament champions from the start. But there’s also the question of which Louisville team shows up at the Rose Garden: the one that won four games in New York or the one that struggled with consistency for much of the season. Davidson, who beat Kansas in Kansas City earlier this season, has three players who can compete with anyone in De’Mon Brooks, Jake Cohen and J.P. Kuhlman. If Peyton Siva, who played well last week, struggles with decision-making a Davidson win is more than possible.

5. (8) Memphis vs. (9) Saint Louis: On one side there’s an immensely talented team that’s playing its best basketball of the season at just the right time in Memphis. On the other side is a Saint Louis team that’s played better than expected back in October coached by one of the game’s best in Rick Majerus. That will offer up a contrast that shouldn’t fail to entertain viewers, with Memphis looking to pressure defensively while SLU will do more in the half court. Will Barton’s played at an All-America level this season for the Tigers, and while undersized Brian Conklin has been one of the leaders inside for Saint Louis.

4. (5) New Mexico vs. (12) Long Beach State: Two of the top teams in the western United State face off in Portland, and the tenor of the game will likely be determined by the health of Long Beach State wing Larry Anderson. He sat out the Big West tournament with a sprained knee, and while he’s expected back it remains to be seen if there’s any rust. The Beach will need to find an answer to the question of defending Drew Gordon, but they do have the conference’s all-time leading rebounder in T.J. Robinson. UNM is talented on the perimeter and was one of the best defensive teams in the Mountain West. Casper Ware (LBSU) and Kendall Williams (UNM) are two other players to watch in this one.

3. (7) Notre Dame vs. (10) Xavier: Xavier isn’t a “run and gun” team by any stretch of the imagination but they will be tested from a discipline standpoint as they attempt to deal with Notre Dame’s “burn” offense. Mike Brey’s Irish will look to limit the number of possessions within a game, and young guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant have done a good job of that this season. Of course the Musketeers can counter with Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, but neither may be their most important player in this battle. That would be Kenny Frease, who has to hold his own with Jack Cooley if Xavier is to win.

2. (8) Iowa State vs. (9) Connecticut: The winner gets Kentucky, and while many have assumed that it will be the Huskies who advance, don’t eliminate the possibility of Fred Hoiberg’s team winning. The Cyclones use 6’9″ Royce White as their point guard, and his ability to work on the perimeter makes him a tough match-up. Can Roscoe Smith guard him on the perimeter? Yes, but he’ll also need to be strong enough to deal with White inside as well. ISU also has capable perimeter shooters, which could pose a problem for Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and Jeremy Lamb. The Huskies haven’t lived up to the preseason expectations while the Cyclones have surpassed theirs, and both are capable of advancing.

1. (5) Wichita State vs. (12) VCU: The team that made the run to the Final Four last season matches up with one of the trendy picks to do so this season. Shaka Smart’s Rams believe in “havoc”, a style of play that brings about a frenzied level of play within each possession. In Wichita State they’ll have to deal with a team that’s got good guards (led by Joe Ragland) and takes care of the basketball. Gregg Marshall also has a seven-footer in Garrett Stutz, who was a First Team All-MVC selection. D.J. Haley and Juvonte Reddic will need to play well inside if the Rams are to win, and the battle to control the tempo will be a game within the game.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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

marquette smart
1 Comment

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

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

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.