Xavier’s hurting entering Sweet 16 matchup vs. Baylor

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Xavier is one of just four programs to have made the Sweet 16 in four of the past five years, putting their name along side Michigan State, Kansas and North Carolina.

But given that the Musketeers are the only team from outside a power conference left in the NCAA tournament, the dreaded “mid-major” label will undoubtedly get pulled out at some point during their Sweet 16 matchup with Baylor tonight.

While calling this program a mid-major is unfair — and likely to get you an earful from head coach Chris Mack — what is fair to say is that the Musketeers are the underdogs. Beyond the fact that they are a No. 10 seed and needed a run in the Atlantic 10 tournament just to get an at-large bid, Baylor is the No. 3 seed, fourth-place finisher in the Big 12 and a team with NBA talent up and down their roster.

Making matters worse for Xavier is that they are beat up.

Dez Wells, who is Xavier best athlete as a well-built, 6’5″ wing, played just eight minutes against Lehigh on Sunday after injuring his toe. According to Mack, “he’s not 100 percent, but he’s going to give it what he can.”

“It’s going to be a game-time decision. It really hasn’t changed from the beginning of the week.”

Wells isn’t the only game-time decision for the Musketeers. Andre Walker took a shot to the head against Notre Dame and only played 20 minutes against Lehigh.

“He’s had some migraine headaches over the last couple of days,” Mack said. “It’s just smarter for us, especially with a fifth-year player who’s been through the rigors of college basketball and knows what the NCAA tournament is all about, to just sort of stay back and continue to get rest so he can be able to go.”

The Musketeers are going to have their work cut out for them tonight, and playing with two banged up starters certainly isn’t going to help matters.

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

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.