A Sweet 16 primer on the teams in Midwest, South

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The quick breakdown of the team playing Thursday is here. Here are the teams playing Friday.

SOUTH

No. 1 KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Record
: 34-2
How it got here: Beat No. 16 Western Kentucky 81-66; beat No 8 Iowa State 87-71.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2011
Next up: No. 4 Indiana

Essential info: The tournament favorite played like it in two wins, displaying a knack for elevating its play when challenged by opponents. The defense has been good; the offense has been better. The Wildcats’ performance against Iowa State was similar to what they did at home vs. Florida last month. And now they’re playing one of the two teams to beat them this season. Motivation won’t be a problem.

No. 3 BAYLOR BEARS
Record
: 29-7
How it got here: Beat 14 South Dakota State 68-60; beat No 11 Colorado 80-63.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2010
Next up: No. 10 Xavier

Essential info: Perry Jones III wasn’t much of a factor vs. Colorado, but who needs him when you’ve got a guy who hits 9 3-pointers? The Bars seem poised to reach their second Elite Eight in three years, provided Heslip and guard Pierre Jackson provide a portion of the scoring they did vs. Colorado. The frontcourt can do the rest.

No. 4 INDIANA HOOSIERS
Record
: 27-8
How it got here: Beat 13 New Mexico State 79-66; beat No. 12 VCU 63-61.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2002
Next up: No. 1 Kentucky

Essential info: Thanks to a dramatic rally and clutch jumper vs. VCU, the Hoosiers now face a team they’ve already beaten once this season. But this time, Kentucky gets Indiana at a neutral site. No other Sweet 16 game will receive as much attention as this one. Unless Cody Zeller (15 ppg, 9.5 rpg during the tourney) stays out of foul trouble and has a massive day, it might not live up to the hype.

No. 10 XAVIER MUSKETEERS
Record
: 23-12
How it got here: Beat 7 Notre Dame 67-63; beat No. 15 Lehigh 70-58.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2010
Next up: No. 3 Baylor

Essential info: The Sweet 16 didn’t seem possible three weeks ago. Xavier was inconsistent and wrapping up a third-place finish in the A-10. But thanks to an impressive rally vs. Notre Dame (Tu Holloway, 25 points, the hero) and overpowering Lehigh (Kenny Frease, 25 points), Xavier’s back. But can it contain the Bears? That’s the question.

MIDWEST

No. 1 NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
Record
: 31-5
How it got here: Beat No. 16 Vermont 77-58; beat No. 8 Creighton 87-75.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2011
Next up: No. 13 Ohio

Essential info: Yes, the Heels rolled into the Sweet 16. But until they know more about how much – if at all – point guard Kendall Marshall can play, everything’s up in the air for their title hopes. They still have plenty of size and talent, but Marshall’s the guy who puts it all together.

No. 2 KANSAS JAYHAWKS
Record
: 29-6
How it got here: Beat No. 15 Detroit 65-50; beat No. 10 Purdue 63-60.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2011
Next up: No. 11 N.C. State, Friday

Essential info: When Thomas Robinson struggled vs. Purdue, junior guard Elijah Johnson delivered his one of his best performances of the year, scoring 18 points and hitting two clutch 3-pointers. KU is the onlyone of two 2 seeds remaining in the field and is one of two Big 12 teams left.

No. 11 NC STATE WOLFPACK
Record
: 24-12
How it got here: Beat No. 6 San Diego St 79-65; beat No. 3 Georgetown 66-63.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 2006
Next up: No. 2 Kansas, Friday

Essential info: The Wolfpack are rolling. They’re getting scoring from all positions – C.J. Leslie’s averaging 15.5 ppg in the tourney, with Richard Howell and Lorenzo Brown right behind – while the defense has been outstanding. There might not be any other team in the field with better chemistry right now.

No. 13 OHIO BOBCATS
Record
: 29-7
How it got here: Beat 4 Michigan 65-60; beat No. 12 South Florida 62-56.
Last Sweet 16 appearance: 1964
Next up: No. 1 UNC, Friday

Essential info: History isn’t with the Bobcats. They’re the seventh team seeded 13 or higher to reach the Sweet 16, but none of those teams ever won their next game. It’s not a big team, but it’s quick, fairly deep and has an offense that’s clicking, scoring at least 1.02 points per possession in 10 of its last 11 games.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

 

West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate returns to school

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The nation’s most entertaining shot-blocker is back for another season.

Sagaba Konate, a 6-foot-9 center from Mali, will return to school for his junior season to anchor West Virginia’s defense for yet another season, according to ESPN.

Konate declared for the draft and went through the combine, and while his shot-blocking and intensity shined through there as it did throughout the season, he’s more of a mid-to-late second round pick than he is a first rounder at this point.

As a sophomore, Konate averaged 10.8 points, 7.6 boards and 3.2 blocks. He also shot 79 percent from the free throw line.

So let’s sit back and enjoy what we get to see for another year:

Luke Maye to return to North Carolina for senior season

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Here’s something I never thought I’d say: Luke Maye is returning to North Carolina for his senior season, meaning that the Tar Heels will have their preseason National Player of the Year candidate back in the fold.

Who saw that coming?

“I have had a great experience learning from the NBA process and growing as a basketball player during the past couple weeks,” Maye wrote on Instagram. “I would like to thank my family, friends, coaches and teammates for all of their support. Through this process, I have decided that I am going to comeback to school to improve as a player and finish my college career. I am looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that I will face and there is no better group to do it with than my teammates and the Carolina family! Time to finish the right way with two of the best players and leaders that I know! Let’s finish our legacy the right way!”

Maye, who averaged 16.9 points and 10.1 boards as a junior, declared for the draft last month, but he did not get invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. The 6-foot-9 forward is a stretch four that will fit perfectly at the four for the Tar Heels this season, with Nassir Little, Cam Johnson and Kenny Williams on the perimeter and a trio of sophomore bigs to handle the five.

Getting Maye back was key, but expected. UNC reaching their ceiling this season will depend on whether or not their point guard play is up to par. With Jalek Felton gone and Joel Berry II graduated, that is going to come down to whether or not Seventh Woods can handle the lead guard role or if Coby White can step in and start as a freshman.

Old Dominion lands former four-star center

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Elbert Robinson came out of high school in 2014 as a borderline top-50 recruit with offers from the likes of Florida, Kansas and Louisville before he ultimately chose to attend LSU.

The 7-foot-1 center, though, never even averaged 10 minutes a game in Baton Rouge and now will be finishing his career as a graduate transfer at Old Dominion, according to multiple reports.

“Old Dominion was perfect for him,” Lawrence Johns, Robinson’s grassroots coach, told the Virginian-Pilot. “I know for a fact that nobody in (Conference USA) is over 7 feet.

“I told him to go there and show people why he was the No. 1 center the year he came out.”

Robinson, who sat out last year for medical reasons, could step right into a major role with the Monarchs, who lost their starting frontcourt this offseason. He averaged 2.1 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.4 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.