Late Night Snacks: Mid-major tournament upsets litter college hoops landscape

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Game of the Day: Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72 

This one didn’t look like a candidate for this spot in the first half, as the Cowboys were in firm command and led 42-24 at the half. But Travis Ford’s team didn’t retain control of the game, and the end result was Baylor’s Pierre Jackson getting one last shot for the win. Jackson scored 24 of his 31 points in the second half to get Baylor back into the game, but if anything the result is a microcosm of the season for the Bears. Scott Drew’s team will in all likelihood end up in the NIT, while Oklahoma State advances to take on Kansas State in the Big 12 semifinals.

Important Outcomes

1. Illinois 51, Minnesota 49 

Brandon Paul’s jumper as time expired proved to be the difference in a game the Fighting Illini looked to be in control of for much of the first half. John Groce’s team will hear its name called on Sunday, regardless of what happens against Indiana on Friday afternoon. Poor offensive execution and early foul trouble (and Tubby Smith’s refusal to play either Trevor Mbakwe or Austin Hollins with two fouls) put Minnesota in a tough spot, and they don’t have the look of a team that will be around very long next week.

2. Iowa State 73, Oklahoma 66 

Will Clyburn sparked a 12-0 second half run the Cyclones needed in order to avoid possibly landing squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble. Clyburn finished with 17 points and eight rebounds, and forward Melvin Ejim led ISU with 23 points and 12 rebounds. The victory gives Iowa State one more shot at Kansas, who beat them twice during the regular season (with the loss in Ames being a controversial one). Is Iowa State in? Only the selection committee knows for sure but Thursday’s result certainly doesn’t hurt.

3. Utah 79, California 69 (OT)

While the victory is certainly a good one for Larry Krystkowiak’s Utes the concern is what this defeat does to Cal’s resume. At 20-11 on the season the Golden Bears do have five RPI Top 50 wins to their credit according to warrennolan.com, but the loss to Utah is their first to a team ranked outside of the Top 100 this season. If anything this could be more of an issue from a seeding standpoint rather than whether or not Cal will get into the NCAA tournament. But if they’re going to be successful next weekend, the Golden Bears need a third scoring option to emerge alongside Justin Cobbs (26 points) and Allen Crabbe (21).

Starred

1. G Olivier Hanlan (Boston College)

The ACC Rookie of the Year went off in the Eagles’ 84-64 win over Georgia Tech, scoring 41 points and grabbing five rebounds. At one point Hanlan made 12 consecutive field goals, and his point total sets an ACC tournament record for points in a game by a freshman.

2. F Chris Evans (Kent State) 

Evans accounted for 25 points (10-of-17 FG) and 15 rebounds to lead the Golden Flashes past Buffalo, 70-68, in a MAC quarterfinal.

3. G Pierria Henry (Charlotte)

The 49ers won the wildest game of the day 68-63 over Richmond, and without Henry they wouldn’t have been in position to take advantage of the Spiders’ meltdown. Henry finished the game with 28 points (8-of-14 FG), 12 rebounds, four assists and no turnovers.

Struggled

1. G Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati) 

Kilpatrick shot 2-of-12 from the field (0-of-8 3PT), scoring just four points in the Bearcats’ 62-43 loss to No. 5 Georgetown in a Big East tournament quarterfinal.

2. F Rodney Williams (Minnesota) 

Five points (2-of-7 FG), two rebounds and four turnovers in the Golden Gophers’ 51-49 loss to Illinois in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal.

3. G Darrun Hilliard and G Ryan Arcidiacono (Villanova) 

Hilliard and Arcidiacono struggled against the Louisville pressure, combining for ten points (4-of-14 FG), five assists (three by Hilliard) and ten turnovers (Hilliard- 7) in the 74-55 defeat.

Three Facts 

1. There were a number of mid-major favorites that met their demise on Thursday, including WAC co-champions Louisiana Tech and Denver, and in the MEAC none of the top four seeds reached the semifinals.

2. Both UCLA and Arizona advanced on Thursday, meaning that the Wildcats get a third shot at the Bruins this season. UCLA swept the season series, and if Arizona is to have a shot at winning Friday night they need to defend as they did in the first half of their win over Colorado.

3. Villanova struggled mightily against Louisville’s pressure defense, turning the ball over 24 times in their 74-55 loss to No. 4 Louisville. By head coach Rick Pitino’s estimation the Cardinals tallied 58 deflections, and if they can continue to play that well defensively Louisville may repeat as Big East tournament champions. Russ Smith, playing with a heavy heart following the passing of his high school coach, scored a game-high 28 points.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Former Western Michigan basketball player cleared of murder

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A jury has acquitted a former Western Michigan basketball player of murder in the shooting death of a fellow student but convicted him of armed robbery and a weapons charge.

The Kalamazoo County jury deliberated two days before returning the verdict for Joeviair Kennedy. He faces a possible life sentence when he’s sentenced July 16.

Nineteen-year-old Jacob Jones was killed near the campus on Dec. 8, 2016.

Co-defendant Jordan Waire of Muskegon was convicted last month of felony murder, armed robbery and weapons charges.

Prosecutors said it was Waire who shot Jones. Kennedy has said they took marijuana and about $25.

Kennedy’s attorney, Eusebio Solis, said his client agreed to the robbery but not the killing.

Kennedy was arrested in 2016 at the start of his second basketball season.

Kansas, Missouri to play alumni game for charity

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Kansas and Missouri are putting their differences aside for charity.

Kareem Rush, a former Missouri Tiger and the brother of Brandon Rush, a former Kansas Jayhawk, is organizing a game called “Rivarly Renewed“, which will pit alumni from Missouri against alumni from KU.

On July 28th, the two teams will face-off in a game where the proceeds will go towards benefitting the Boys and Girls Club as well as Kareem Rush’s “Rush Forward Foundation”.

It’s also a chance for the Tigers and the Jayhawks to reignite a rivalry that has been dormant since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC, although they did play a scrimmage prior to the start of last season. There is no lack of hatred between those two fan bases and any chance they get to square off is a good thing.

There should also be some big names involved. According to the Kansas City Star, Mario Chalmers, Cole Aldrich, Drew Gooden, Kim English, Ricky Paulding and Marcus Denmon are among the players that will be participating.

I love it.

Can we make sure that Bill Self is invited so that he can get convinced to play the Tigers in a non-conference game?

Doppelgangers Grayson Allen, Ted Cruz finally meet

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Ever since Grayson Allen burst onto the national scene during the 2015 Final Four, the former Duke star has been called a Ted Cruz lookalike.

That, frankly, is not exactly a compliment, and it is a comparison that Allen initially bristled at, but now that his college career, Allen seems to be embracing the long-running joke.

We know that because Allen met Cruz this weekend as he helped the senator from Texas beat Jimmy Kimmel in a game of one-on-one:

The actually game won’t be broadcast until Monday night so we won’t know exactly how Cruz won or what Allen did to help, but Cruz did beat Kimmel 11-9.

We will get getting our answers this evening.

2018 NBA Draft: What top ten picks are the most likely to be busts?

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The 2018 NBA Draft is loaded with top-end talent and potential future all-stars.

The fascinating thing about this group in the top ten is that you can make a solid case that most of these guys could become stars.

On the flipside, all of them also have some kind of glaring weakness.

Deandre Ayton is likely going No. 1 overall and there is a healthy contingent of draft analysts and skeptics who point to his lack of defensive presence as a 7-footer.

Some of these same detractors also believe the NBA is continually going smaller — meaning giants like Ayton will get played off the floor by certain small-ball lineups like the Golden State Warriors just did to some teams during another title run.

That’s just one example.

Going down the list of top-ten prospects and you can point to a lot of potential flaws that could lead to downfalls. But here are two top-ten prospects who could wind up being busts.

MICHAEL PORTER JR.

Before his freshman season at Missouri, I thought Michael Porter Jr. was going to put up monster numbers and be a Player of the Year candidate. His top-five status in the 2018 NBA Draft appeared to be safe. After a decorated high school career in which he destroyed most challengers and played well on the international stage with USA Basketball, Porter looked like he could be a jumbo scoring wing at the game’s highest level.

Then the back and hip issues began.

Porter only played in three games during his lone season with the Tigers — including two uninspiring postseason efforts in which he couldn’t get his shot to fall while trying to prove that he was healthy. And now it feels like there are a million questions about MPJ and his health.

During the NBA Draft process, Porter has cancelled and rescheduled pro days, kept medical records private for long lengths of time and given plenty of teams pause as to whether or not he is truly healthy. If Porter’s back and hip stay as a lingering issue then it changes who he is as a basketball player. Already a bit rigid, with hips that aren’t particularly fluid, Porter could have trouble moving laterally in an increasingly quick and nimble league that is only getting smaller.

Porter’s jumper also uses his whole body to elevate. It didn’t look nearly the same during those March games where he tried to gut it out. And Porter has been such a gifted scorer during his high school career that he’s never had to worry about passing or making others around him better.

Some have also questioned Porter’s ego and his ability to be a willing teammate — which are legitimate questions in a league that often sees its stars feud with others and move on to new teams.

Again, if Porter is fully healthy and ready to go, he could be a double-double threat on the wing and a 20-point per game scorer. But if Porter isn’t healthy? Some team is taking a big risk on not only taking an injured player but passing on a talented healthy player who could morph into an all-star.

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TRAE YOUNG

Perhaps the most fascinating prospect in the draft because of his insane range and overall offensive ability, Young is going to be one of the names to watch on draft night.

Some mock drafts feel he’s a top-three talent, or even the best prospect overall because of his new-age ability to pull-up and hit threes from 30 feet away. Others feel like he’s a potential defensive liability who doesn’t necessarily play winning basketball all the time because of his shot selection and high number of turnovers.

While Young could be a monster steal for some team hoping to get the next Steph Curry, those comparisons are also going to be dangerous, while likely following Young the rest of this career.

For Young, it could be all about fit and who winds up taking him.

When Young was in high school, he was at his best when he had elite talent around him. Michael Porter Jr. was the go-to scorer on a MoKan team that won the Nike Peach Jam. Young also looked solid during stretches with USA Basketball when he had tons of weapons around him.

Once teams in the Big 12 figured out his individual offensive tendencies after a hot start last season, they forced him into being a playmaker and the Sooners struggled to win games. Of course, the lack of talent around him doesn’t fall on Young, who didn’t recruit his teammates at Oklahoma. But what happens if Young falls to a dysfunctional franchise like the Orlando Magic? He’ll be expected to be a savior right away with minimal help — while also having to overcome glaring deficiencies like perimeter defense and a high number of turnovers.

And how do you think NBA players are going to react to the task of guarding Young? There’s an old Dream Team story about Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen practically fighting so they could defend future Chicago Bulls teammate Toni Kukoc one-on-one during the ’92 Olympics. They had heard about the hype surrounding Kukoc, even though he had never played in an NBA game.

After being a national media darling much of last season, Young is going to get a lot of strong one-on-one defenders who are hungry to slow him down. Game plans will revolve around limiting Young’s touches and ability to launch shots. Teams and veteran players are going to do everything they can to frustrate Young and make life tough.

Young is talented and skilled enough to make all of these questions go away. He’s a unique talent who could very well end up being worthy of all of the hype. But he’s going to need some help reaching his full potential, and some of those things are out of his control.

Middle Tennessee loses four returnees during the week

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Middle Tennessee has been one of the best mid-major programs in the country over the last few years but now the Blue Raiders will be facing a major rebuild.

With former head coach Kermit Davis taking the Ole Miss job and new head coach Nick McDevitt coming over from UNC Asheville, the program experienced some major roster turnover this week as four returnees left the program.

Earlier in the week, junior guard David Simmons opted to transfer out of Middle Tennessee after he averaged 17.9 minutes per game for the Conference USA regular-season champions last season.

On Friday, the losses continued, as three more players left the team. Rising junior point guard Tyrik Dixon announced his intention to transfer while the program dismissed guard Antwain Johnson and forward Davion Thomas. Dixon was a valuable floor leader for Middle Tennessee the past two seasons while Johnson, a rising senior guard, would have been the team’s returning leading scorer after putting up 10.3 points per game last week.

Since so much of the successful core of the past three seasons is now gone from Middle Tennessee, it will be on McDevitt to bring in new talent to sustain the recent great stretch of play. The Blue Raiders made two Round of 32 appearances in a row before missing the NCAA tournament last season after winning C-USA’s regular season crown.

Now, with Western Kentucky making a power play by bringing in five-star big man Charles Bassey, and the power has shifted very quickly in one of the most competitive mid-major conferences in the country.