Late Night Snacks: No. 16 Iowa State, N.C. State among Friday’s winners

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Friday’s Bubble Banter

GAME OF THE DAY: Arkansas State 116, Arkansas-Little Rock 114 (4OT)

The wildest game of the day was played at the Sun Belt tournament in New Orleans, with the Red Wolves final beating the Trojans after four overtimes were played and 230 points were scored. Melvin Johnson III’s three-point play with six seconds remaining in the fourth overtime was the difference for Arkansas State, who will face top-seed Georgia State in Saturday’s semifinals. Ed Townsel led five Arkansas State players in double figures with 32 points, and Leroy Isler paced six Trojans in double figures with 25.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1) No. 16 Iowa State 94, No. 10 Kansas 83

Not having Joel Embiid in the lineup certainly impacts the way Kansas defends, and that was the case in their loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 semifinals. Iowa State shot 54% from the field and 11-for-19 from beyond the arc, and all five starters scored in double figures with Georges Niang scoring 25 points. Perry Ellis scored 30 points in a losing effort with Andrew Wiggins adding 22 (on 7-for-21 shooting), but the shoddy defense was too much to overcome.

2) N.C. State 66, No. 11 Syracuse 63

The Orange lost for the fifth time in their last seven games Friday night, dropping a three-point decision to N.C. State in Greensboro. T.J. Warren scored 28 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Wolfpack, who will play No. 7 Duke in the ACC semifinals, but the issue for Syracuse was their offense. C.J. Fair shot 3-for-16 and Trevor Cooney 1-for-6, and as a team the Orange shot 32.7%. Syracuse has shot 40% or better in just two of their last eight games.

3) No. 24 Ohio State 71, Nebraska 67

With just under 14 minutes remaining the Huskers led 48-30 and looked poised to reach the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament for the first time in their short time as a member of the league. But Ohio State decided to take better shots and not turn the ball over, and the Buckeyes were able to come back and win as a result. LaQuinton Ross scored 26 points and Amedeo Della Valle gave the Buckeyes some really good minutes off the bench, scoring 12 points.

STARRED 

1) Russ Smith (Louisville) 

Smith scored a career-high 42 points (14-for-22 FG) to go along with three rebounds and three assists in the Cardinals’ 94-65 win over Houston in an American semifinal.

2) Ed Townsel (Arkansas State)

Accounted for 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the Red Wolves’ 116-114 quadruple overtime win over UALR in a Sun Belt quarterfinal.

3) LaDontae Henton (Providence) 

Scored 26 points (9-for-13 FG) and grabbed 14 rebounds in Providence’s 80-74 win over Seton Hall in a Big East semifinal.

STRUGGLED

1) Andre Hollins (Minnesota) 

Hollins shot 2-for-14 in Minnesota’s 83-57 loss to No. 12 Wisconsin in a Big Ten quarterfinal.

2) C.J. Fair (Syracuse) 

Fair made just three of his 16 shot attempts in Syracuse’s 66-63 loss to N.C. State in an ACC quarterfinal.

3) Kendall Anthony (Richmond) 

Anthony shot 2-for-15 from the field in the Spiders’ 71-53 loss to VCU in an Atlantic 10 quarterfinal.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS 

  • ACC: No. 7 Duke withstands furious Clemson rally
    Up 12 in the second half the Blue Devils looked to be on their way to another ACC semifinal appearance, but their taking the air out of the basketball helped get Clemson back into the game. Two Rodney Hood free throws with 3.8 seconds remaining gave Duke the 63-62 win, but they’ll need to be better against N.C. State. The other winners on Friday were top-seed Virginia and five-seed Pittsburgh, with the latter beating North Carolina and adding a quality win to its resume.
  • American: No. 21 UConn eliminates top-seed No. 13 Cincinnati
    Kevin Ollie’s Huskies put forth one of their best defensive efforts of the season, limiting the Bearcats to 37.9% shooting in their 58-56 win. Shabazz Napier scored 15 points and DeAndre Daniels added 14 and nine rebounds, with Ryan Boatright, Niels Giffey and Amida Brimah also contributing. UConn will play No. 5 Louisville in the title game, with the Cardinals whipping Houston 94-65 in the other semifinal.
  • Atlantic 10: St. Bonaventure upsets top-seed Saint Louis
    The will be a new champion in the Atlantic 10, as Jordan Gathers’ three-pointer as time expired gave the Bonnies a 71-68 win over the 18th-ranked Billikens. Mark Schmidt’s team will face Saint Joseph’s in one semifinal, with Langston Galloway’s three-pointer with 17.9 second remaining giving the Hawks the lead for good in their 70-67 win over Dayton. The other semifinal matches VCU and George Washington, with the Rams beating Richmond and GW holding off UMass.
  • Big 12: Baylor moves to 10-1 in its last 11 games
    Scott Drew’s Bears are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time, with their latest victory being an 86-69 whipping of Texas. Brady Heslip scored 24 points and Cory Jefferson added 20 to go along with 13 rebounds and three blocks. Baylor takes on No. 16 Iowa State in the title game.
  • Big East: Providence, Creighton advance to title game
    Of the two winners Providence, still fighting to lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament field, had more to lose. LaDontae Henton scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the Friars’ 80-74 win over Seton Hall. As for the Bluejays, they continued their march with an 86-78 win over Xavier and Doug McDermott led the way with 32 points.
  • Big Sky: North Dakota, Weber State move on to Saturday’s final
    Weber State needed five extra minutes in their semifinal, beating Northern Colorado 66-63 in overtime. Their opponent in Saturday’s title game will be North Dakota, which beat Portland State 79-63. Davion Berry (Weber State) and Troy Huff (North Dakota) on the same court should be fun to watch.
  • Big Ten: Did No. 12 Wisconsin punch Minnesota’s ticket to the NIT?
    That’s the question some Minnesota fans may ask themselves in the aftermath of the Badgers’ 83-57 pasting of the Golden Gophers, and that may turn out to be the case. Next up for Wisconsin is No. 22 Michigan State, who took care of Northwestern. The first semifinal matches No. 24 Ohio State and No. 8 Michigan, with the Wolverines beating Illinois 64-63 in the first game of the day.
  • Big West: Cal Poly picks off UC Irvine
    One day after eliminating two-seed UCSB the Mustangs were at it again, this time beating top-seed UC Irvine 61-58. The opponent for the seven-seed in Saturday’s title game: five-seed Cal-State Northridge, which beat Long Beach State 82-77 in the nightcap. Given both teams’ records the winner is almost a lock to be headed to Dayton for the First Four.
  • Conference USA: Louisiana Tech rolls over Southern Miss
    The semifinals matched the four teams that finished tied atop the C-USA standings, and the game between Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss wasn’t very close with the Bulldogs winning 88-70. Louisiana Tech will take on Tulsa for the league’s automatic bid, with the Golden Hurricane holding on to beat Middle Tennessee in the other semifinal.
  • MAC: Top two seeds advance to title game
    Western Michigan (beat Akron in overtime) and Toledo (beat Eastern Michigan) took care of business Friday night in Cleveland, meaning that the top two seeds will play for the league’s automatic bid. What it also means is that the West Division will represent the MAC in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004, when Western Michigan beat Kent State in the final.
  • MEAC: North Carolina Central one win away
    Levelle Moton’s North Carolina Central squad moved one step closer to its goal of reaching the NCAA tournament with a 68-45 win over Norfolk State. Next up for the Eagles is Morgan State, which beat Coppin State 79-64 in the other semifinal.
  • Mountain West: Round three set up for Saturday night
    With No. 8 San Diego State and No. 20 New Mexico splitting the regular season series, a third meeting to determine the league’s tournament champ isn’t a bad deal at all. SDSU held off UNLV 58-51, with the Lobos hanging on to beat Boise State 70-67 in the other semifinal.
  • Pac-12: No. 4 Arizona, UCLA roll into title game
    For some reason there was just one regular season meeting scheduled between the Wildcats and Bruins. Luckily fans will get to see a second meeting, as both Arizona and UCLA coasted into the title game with commanding wins Friday night. Arizona clamped down on Colorado in the first game, with UCLA blitzing Stanford right out of the gates in the nightcap.
  • SEC: Top four seeds advance
    Missouri had a chance to enhance its profile with a win over No. 1 Florida, but a 12-0 second half run sparked by Scottie Wilbekin put an end to that drama. The Gators will face Tennessee in one semifinal, with Kentucky and Georgia meeting in the other. Florida/Kentucky, round three? Maybe, but the Volunteers have played well recently.
  • Southland: Stephen F. Austin wins 27th straight game
    It was close down the stretch but the Lumberjacks made the plays they needed to make late in order to hold off Northwestern State, 85-78. Standing in between SFA and a trip to the NCAA tournament is Sam Houston State, which beat two-seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the other semifinal.
  • SWAC: Texas Southern, Prairie View A&M advance to title game
    The best team in the SWAC eligible for postseason play, Mike Davis’ Tigers are one win away from the NCAA tournament after beating Alabama State 73-61. Next up for Aaric Murray and company is eight-seed Prairie View A&M, which upset Alabama A&M 55-49 in the other semifinal.
  • Sun Belt: Xavian Rimmer leads Louisiana past UT Arlington
    Xavian Rimmer scored 24 points and dished out three assists in the Ragin’ Cajuns’ 91-85 win over the Mavericks, setting up a semifinal matchup with two-seed Western Kentucky. The other semifinal will match top-seed Georgia State and four-seed Arkansas State, with the Red Wolves coming off of a four-overtime win.
  • WAC: Idaho eliminates top-seed Utah Valley
    Stephen Madison scored 25 points as five-seed Idaho beat the regular season champions 74-69. Idaho will meet preseason favorite New Mexico State in the title game, with the Aggies beating Bakersfield 69-63.

Kyle Guy says he’s staying in the draft, will not return to Virginia

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Kyle Guy is off to the professional ranks.

The Virginia junior had already declared for the NBA draft, but announced Monday that he plans to stay in the draft and not return to the Cavaliers next season, as he would be allowed to under NCAA rules.

“I am officially keeping my name in the draft. I know it’s the right step after much prayer and thought with my family,” Guy wrote on social media.

Players retain the option to return to school up until the end of next month, but Guy’s announcement makes it clear he has no intention of utilizing that avenue as he plows ahead toward a professional career after being named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player as Virginia won its first-ever national championship earlier this month in Minneapolis.

The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in Virginia’s slow-paced offense while shooting 49.5 percent from 3-point range. Right now, Guy’s draft ceiling would appear to be in the second round with going undrafted a possibility as well. If he does make it at the next level, it’s pretty clear it’ll be the 3-point shooting that gets and keeps him there in a league that covets that skill now more than ever.

For Virginia, Guy’s decision simply crystalizes what was likely the reality already – they’re going to have a completely remade roster, which certainly isn’t uncommon for national championship winners. There’s a reason no one since Florida in 2006 and 2007 has repeated as champions. With Guy gone and Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite all having declared, Tony Bennett and Co. could be looking at more modest expectations following the greatest season in program history.

Duke adds to 2019 class with top-30 guard Cassius Stanley

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Duke’s already monster 2019 class got even stronger Monday.

Cassius Stanley, a four-star guard from California, pledged to the Blue Devils to give them their fifth recruit rated in the top-35 nationally in the class.

“I’ll be joining the brotherhood. Go Duke,” Stanley said in his announcement video posted to social media.

“He wants to come in and start or contribute as a starter on a highly competitive team,” Jerome Stanley, Cassius’ father, told 247Sports. “He’s used to winning and he plans to come in there and win. He doesn’t plan to be a project, he wants to step on the floor immediately and help them win.”

Stanley’s commitment only further reinforces how strong Duke is on the recruiting trail as it now has five-stars Vernon Carey, Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore signed along with top-40 Boogie Ellis of San Diego.

The Blue Devils may have lost their high-profile trio of Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, but with these major additions along with Tre Jones, Marques Bolden and Alex O’Connell slated to return, they’ll be looking at another top-10 (and maybe higher) preseason ranking after a disappointing Elite Eight departure from the NCAA tournament last month.

Udoka Azubuike returning to Kansas for senior season

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Injuries have robbed Kansas center Udoka Azubuike of nearly two full seasons of college basketball. They also likely played a major part on while he’ll be back for his fourth year on campus.

The 7-footer will return to Lawrence and the Jayhawks for his senior season rather than declare for the NBA draft, the school announced Monday.

“We’re all very excited about Udoka making the decision not to enter the draft,” Kansas coach Bill Self said in a statement released by the school. “Unfortunately for him, injury is the reason as he still cannot participate (at) what would be the NBA combine or workouts for the NBA teams. We really anticipated that this would be the year he would enter the draft but that was also based on him having an injury-free year.”

Azubuike was averaging 13.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 70.5 percent from the field before a wrist injury cut his season short in January after just nine games. He also played just 11 games as a freshman due to injury.

In his lone full healthy season, Azubuike averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds per game as he made 77 percent of his shots from the field, making him nearly an unstoppable force for teams across the Big 12. His return makes Kansas, the 10th-ranked team in our preseason Top 25, an even stronger favorite to regain its Big 12 crown after Texas Tech and Kansas State shared the league title last year to deprive Kansas of its spot atop the league for the first time in 14 years as it battled injuries, suspensions and lackluster play.

The 21 most important ‘stay-or-go’ NBA draft early entry decisions

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This single most important and influential decision when if came to this year’s NBA draft belonged to Cassius Winston.

The Grand Maester of the Michigan State offense, Winston put together an All-American season as he led Michigan State to the 2019 Big Ten regular season title, tournament title and a trip to the Final Four. Over the weekend, the 6-foot point guard announced that he will be returning to school for his senior season, immediately ensuring that the Spartans will be the No. 1 team in the NBC Sports preseason top 25 and locking them in as favorites to win next year’s national title.

But he is far from the only important decision that is left to be made in this year’s NBA draft process. At 11:59 p.m. on April 21st, the deadline to declare for the NBA draft came and went. The players who put there name into the mix — more than 130 that we know of — will have until May 29th to pull their names out of the draft.

Here are 21 decisions that will have the biggest impact on the 2019-2020 college basketball season.

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KERRY BLACKSHEAR

Blackshear might be the single-most influential player in all of college basketball, but to figure out where he is going to have influence, the 6-foot-10, 250 pound forward has a couple of decisions to make. For starters, he has declared for the NBA draft, and given that he is 22 years old and more or less fully developed as a player, now may be the best time for him to make the jump to the professional ranks. If he does decide to return to school, he’s going to have to decide where to play: He’s a redshirt junior and a graduate transfer, which means that the Virginia Tech big man may end up being a former Virginia Tech big man. Every school in college basketball will want to get involved. We’ll see where he ends up.

IGNAS BRAZDEIKIS and JORDAN POOLE, Michigan

Michigan essentially had two players on their roster last season that you could trust to be threats on the offensive end of the floor night in and night out: Poole and Brazdeikis. Now it looks like there is a real chance that both of them to could end following Charles Matthews lead and remain in the NBA draft despite the fact that neither look like they will be a first round pick.

That’s a major concern for John Beilein, because with Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske and Isaiah Livers all back, Michigan will have a case to be the preseason No. 1 team in the country if both Iggy and Swaggy Poole return. If both end up gone, the Wolverines may never break 60 points in a game next year.

DEVON DOTSON, QUENTIN GRIMES and UDOKA AZUBUIKE, Kansas

This one is tricky because we have yet to get official word on whether or not Azubuike has actually declared for the draft*; he did last season and ultimately opted to return to school. Of the three, I think Dotson is probably the most important, as the Jayhawks don’t have anyone nearly as good as he is at the point. If Azubuike opts to enter the draft, Bill Self does still have David McCormack on his roster, who will be an adequate replacement. Grimes is the x-factor here. A former top ten recruit, I think he’s probably the most likely to keep his name in the draft this year even if it’s as a second round pick. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily the best plan of action — I do think there is still a chance that he could come back to Kansas and play his way into the first round with a big sophomore year — but I get it. If he’s gone, the Jayhawks do have some perimeter pieces that will be able to fill the void in Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett.

With all three back, we’re talking about Kansas as the surefire best team in the Big 12 and potentially as a top five team. If they’re all gone, then it is going to be a long, long season in Lawrence.

*(Since this posting, Azubuike has announced that he is returning to school.)

Grant Williams (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

GRANT WILLIAMS and JORDAN BONE, Tennessee

This may sound counterintuitive, but I think that it is true: Bone is the more likely of the two to leave school this year, but Williams would have a much bigger impact on the Tennessee program if he opts to return. Bone was a bit inconsistent as a junior, but when he was at his best, he was the best guard in the SEC. Losing that hurts, but the truth is that with Lamonte Turner, Jordan Bowden and Josiah James in the mix, there is enough backcourt talent in Knoxville to withstand his departure.

I’m not sure that is true with Williams. Tennessee does have some big bodies on their roster, but Williams would be in the conversation with Cassius Winston for preseason National Player of the Year if he opts to come back to Tennessee for another run at a national title. And with Williams back, they would very much be in that conversation. As it stands, Tennessee is No. 22 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

A source close to the situation told NBC Sports that they think there’s a “50-50” chance that Williams is back.

KYLE GUY and MAMADI DIAKITE, Virginia

I fully expect that both Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter will remain in the NBA draft for good. That leaves Guy and Diakite as the players who are up in the air. Everyone should know about Guy by now. The reigning Final Four MOP, Guy led Virginia in scoring last season and is one of the best shooters in all of college basketball. For a program that lacks perimeter depth, Guy’s return would obviously be enormous.

But Diakite’s return is just as impactful. He’s such a monster on the defensive end of the floor, and I’m not sure people realize just how good he is. His offensive game is coming along, but the value is that he would be a perfect pairing next to Jay Huff if Virginia wants to play big and that he is versatile enough to defend on the perimeter if needed when Virginia plays small. It’s not a coincidence that the most productive six-game stretch of Diakite’s career came during the run to the NCAA title, when he averaged 10.5 points, 8.2 boards and 2.7 blocks.

Kyle Guy (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

JORDAN NWORA, Louisville

There are a few Louisville players that have declared for the NBA draft, but for my money, Nwora is the one that matters the most, and it is not close. One of college basketball’s most improved players, Nwora is will be a first-team All-ACC player and a potential All-American if he comes back. He will be the veteran scorer that the Cardinals need as Chris Mack brings in a loaded, six-man recruiting class. With Nwora back, the Cards will be a top ten team.

KILLIAN TILLIE and ZACH NORVELL, Gonzaga

Assuming that Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke are both gone, Tillie becomes the most important player on Gonzaga’s frontcourt if he opts to return to school. And Norvell slides right in as the projected leading scorer. Frankly, with those two and Corey Kispert on the roster, I think the Zags will have more than enough scoring to keep things rolling as their talented six-man recruiting class gets some experience.

The reason they are as low on this list as they are is that I still think there is a ceiling to what Gonzaga can be because of their point guard situation. Right now, they are in a position where they’ll have to decide between freshman Brock Ravet and sophomores Greg Foster Jr. and Joel Ayayi. I would not be surprised if there was a grad transfer that was in the mix here at some point.

ANTHONY COWAN, Maryland

The Terps already got word that they are getting Jalen Smith back for his sophomore season. With the rest of last year’s promising recruiting class in the mix — Aaron Wiggins, Eric Ayala, Ricky Lindo — the only thing they need to ensure that they are a preseason top ten team is their star point guard. Cowan, if he returns, will be in the mix for preseason All-American honors.

MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall

This one isn’t difficult. Seton Hall returns basically everyone from last season if Powell comes back. They should still be relevant in the Big East if he doesn’t, but he was arguably the most dangerous scorer in college basketball this side of Markus Howard last year, and assuming he’s back in the fold, we have the Pirates at No. 12 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

Myles Powell (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

PAYTON PRITCHARD and KENNY WOOTEN, Oregon

Assuming that Louis King ends up staying in the draft, Pritchard and Wooten are the two guys that will matter for Oregon next season. They are the two pieces that allow Dana Altman’s system to work the way that it is supposed to work — a high-scoring lead guard and an uber-athletic five that can protect the rim and finish lobs. With both of them back, I think Oregon is a top 10-15 team and the best team in the Pac-12.

E.J. MONTGOMERY, Kentucky

Montgomery is interesting here. He’s super-talented, and he plays a position for Kentucky where the Wildcats are going to really lack some depth this season, but we’ve yet to see him prove that he is anything more than ‘loaded with potential’ at the SEC level. I think Kentucky needs him because they need to keep bodies in their frontcourt, but I’m on a wait-and-see mode before I decide just how much of an impact I think that he is going to make.

CHUMA OKEKE and JARED HARPER, Auburn

I would make the argument that these two were the two most important players on Auburn’s team this past season. If I had to guess, I would say that Okeke is probably gone. He proved just how good he is this past season, and his recovery from the torn ACL he suffered in the NCAA tournament likely won’t be complete until December. If he returns to school, it might end up being a two-year decision, but if he comes back and is fully healthy, he is miles better than Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore and the other options the Tigers have in their frontcourt.

Harper is a bit more up in the air, and while he was terrific this past season, especially in March, I do think that J’Von McCormick’s emergence has given Bruce Pearl some breathing room. He can do a lot of the things that Harper does, just not quite as well.

NEEMIAS QUETA, Utah State

Utah State is currently the No. 16 team in the NBC Sports preseason top 25, and much of that has to do with the fact that we are assuming Queta ends up returning to school. His size, his ability to protect the rim and how well he finishes makes him extremely valuable in the Mountain West and helps the Aggies matchup with teams from bigger conferences.

Lawsuit filed after two casinos couldn’t take March Madness bets

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A casino operator is suing a tech company after a contract dispute shuttered its sports betting platform at two West Virginia casinos ahead of the NCAA Tournament.

A Friday news release from Delaware North says it’s filed a civil suit seeking monetary damages against United Kingdom-based Miomni Gaming and its CEO, Michael P. Venner.

Miomni’s contract dispute with a third-party technology supplier has prevented Delaware North’s Mardi Gras Casino in Nitro and the Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack from taking new sports wagers since March 6.

The casino operator’s lawsuit says Miomni misrepresented its ownership of a key part of the sports betting platform.

A voicemail left with Miomni was not immediately returned.

The suit was filed late Thursday in Delaware.