Team of the Week: Minnesota Golden Gophers

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Team of the Week: Minnesota

It’s crazy to think about, but Minnesota’s season may have been saved by six minutes of basketball from Trevor Mbakwe. He came out and set the tone against Indiana on Tuesday, knocking the Hoosiers — and, more importantly, Cody Zeller — back on their heels as Minnesota, for the first time in almost two months, looked like they were playing a confident brand of basketball.

And, in the end, that’s what the issue was for the Gophers. We knew that this team wasn’t going to win games based on talent alone. They don’t have a true point guard, they don’t have all that many shooters and they don’t have a great low-post scorer. What they do have, however, are a team full of players with size, athleticism and toughness. They’re at their best when they’re defending and crashing the offensive glass. Effort, hustle and determination are how the Gophers succeed, and they finally got back to those winning ways this week.

They have their senior center to thank for that.

Team deserving of a shoutout:

Creighton: Not only did the Bluejays go 2-0 this week and avoid the indignity of falling from the top 15 nationally to the bubble, but in the process they not only beat an in-conference rival in Wichita State, but they did so in the MVC regular season title game. Both the Shockers and the Bluejays were tied for the league lead entering the final game of the regular season, and Creighton won in dominating fashion. Think about this: They shot 33-47 from the field (70.2%), 11-21 from three (52.1%), 22-26 from inside the arc (84.6%) and 14-16 from the line (87.5%), which was why they were able to post 1.38 PPP.

VCU: What VCU did to Butler wasn’t exactly a surprise, as the Rams were playing at home against a team that was mildly overrated and at a complete disadvantage given how the two teams matched up. But that doesn’t change the fact that pasting the No. 20 Bulldogs 82-54 was about as impressive as wins get.

Louisville: The Cardinals picked up a big win on Saturday, as they went into the Carrier Dome and knocked off No. 12 Syracuse. The Cardinals have now won five straight games and eight of their last nine, but this was the first impressive win that Rick Pitino’s club has notched in a month. Hard to believe I’m typing this, but it feels like Louisville is a bit of a sleeper heading into the NCAA tournament.

Marquette: The Golden Eagles are still sitting there at the top of the Big East, tied with Louisville for second place in the conference, one game behind Georgetown, thanks to wins this week over Syracuse and Notre Dame. And, unlike a lot of other teams this week, their success wasn’t the result of a single virtuoso performance by one player; Marquette is as balanced as any team in the country this season.

Boise State: The Broncos have put themselves into great position to get into the NCAA tournament thanks to 38 points from Derrick Marks in a win over Colorado State on Saturday. with a trip to UNLV and a home game against San Diego State left before the MWC tournament, Boise State doesn’t have many chances left to make a major mistake before Selection Sunday.

UCLA: Believe it or not, UCLA is currently tied for the Pac-12 lead with a trip to the Washington schools standing between them and a share of the league title. Who saw that coming back in November, when the Bruins were hemorrhaging transfers, losing to Cal Poly and hearing on a daily basis about how Ben Howland was on the verge of being fired? This week, they beat Arizona State and Arizona in Pauley Pavilion.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Arizona PF Ira Lee cited for DUI

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Tuesday afternoon it was announced that Arizona sophomore power forward Ira Lee was been cited for driving under the influence on Saturday.

Lee was ultimately released, and according to the Arizona Daily Star he faces misdemeanor charges for failing to yield at an intersection, driving under the influence as a minor (Lee is 20 years old) and extreme DUI involving a blood-alcohol content above .20. Lee is set to be arraigned on September 10.

In a release the Arizona basketball program announced that the incident has been referred to the Dean of Students for review and “the Athletics Department is reviewing the incident for team consequences.”

As a freshman Lee served as a reserve behind starters Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic in the Arizona front court, averaging 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game. With Ayton and Ristic both off to the professional ranks, Lee is expected to be a key contributor in an Arizona front court that includes transfers Chase Jeter (Duke; sat out last season) and Ryan Luther (Pittsburgh), sophomore Emmanuel Akot and freshman Omar Thielemans.

Loyola celebrity nun Sister Jean celebrating 99th birthday

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CHICAGO (AP) — Sister Jean is celebrating her 99th birthday months after gaining national attention as chaplain of the Loyola-Chicago basketball team that reached the NCAA Final Four.

The university held a campus party with students and school staffers Tuesday for Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt. The Catholic nun became a celebrity last March for her fandom and for praying before each game for her Ramblers — and for their opponents.

Schmidt says her health is better some days than others as she’s been recovering since last year from a broken hip. She received a number 99 basketball jersey and a birthday cake frosted in the team’s maroon and gold colors.

Players say they’re still inspired by her example.

Ramblers guard Marques Townes describes her simply as “Genuine, sincere, passionate, loving, caring, sweetheart.”

NC State PG Blake Harris granted immediate eligibility

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When former Missouri point guard Blake Harris transferred to NC State in January, the expectation was that he would not be eligible to compete until the end of the fall semester. However that will not be the case, as Tuesday afternoon NC State announced that Harris has been granted immediate eligibility.

Harris started nine of the 14 games in which he played at Missouri, averaging 3.8 points and 3.1 assists in just under 14 minutes per game. The addition of the former 4-star prospect gives NC State head coach Kevin Keatts additional depth and talent at the point, which is key given the up-tempo, pressure style the Wolfpack generally play.

In addition to Harris, NC State will also be able to call upon sophomore Braxton Beverly and junior Markel Johnson, with those two being part of a team that won 21 games and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015 last season.

In total NC State will have three transfers from Division I schools eligible to compete in 2018-19, with guards Devon Daniels (Utah) and C.J. Bryce (UNCW) ready to go after sitting out last season.

One player who will not be available for the Wolfpack this season is forward Manny Bates, with it being announced that he will redshirt after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder. Bates, a 6-foot-11 forward from Fayetteville, North Carolina, dislocated the shoulder in early August.

The NC State front court will be led by newcomers, with grad transfer Wyatt Walker (Samford) and junior college transfer Derek Funderburk among the options.

Xavier lands commitment from four-star big man

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Xavier picked up their third commitment in the Class of 2019, adding an under-the-radar prospect in Zach Freemantle, a 6-foot-9 forward out of New Jersey.

Freemantle currently ranks 129th in 247 Sports composite ranking, but will likely move up after a strong July landed him a handful of high-major offers.

He’ll join Elias King and Daniel Ramsey, two more four-star prospects, in Travis Steele’s first real recruiting class for the Musketeers.

VIDEO: You need to see this Zion Williamson mixtape

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Zion Williamson made waves across the internet over the weekend as we got our first chance to get a glimpse of college basketball’s resident Viral King in Duke’s exhibition trip up to Canada.

So with that in mind, let’s go back and look at Williamson’s mixtape from his senior season of high school. I’ve never seen someone make in-game windmills and between-the-legs dunks look so commonplace.