CBT Roundtable: Sweet 16 surprises

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Connecticut v Louisville

Yesterday, we took you through what we believed to be the biggest surprise heading into the Sweet 16. Today, our stable of writers makes a prediction: What will be the most surprising thing that happens over the course of these next eight games?:

RELATEDSweet 16 Power Rankings | Top 16 Players | Eight Critical Individual Matchups

Rob Dauster: There will be no teams left from the state of Michigan and three schools left from the SEC by the time Saturday rolls around. It goes against everything that I picked in my bracket and everything that I’ve predicted in typing out the Sweet 16 previews, but the matchups all seem to lean in that direction. Tennessee’s playing their best basketball of Cuonzo Martin’s tenure and has the size and strength up front to overwhelm the Wolverines. The same can be said about Kentucky, assuming the Wildcats can find a way to slow down Russ Smith. And Michigan State’s Keith Appling still isn’t 100%, which will be a major problem against Virginia’s staunch half court defense. In other words, my bracket — which actually looks pretty good right now — will be one hot, steaming pile of garbage by the time the Sweet 16 is done and overwith.

Scott Phillips: I had Baylor getting past Creighton and into the Sweet 16 because I believed the Bears had the length and the athleticism to get past the Bluejays, but Baylor is playing great ball right now and looks like a team that isn’t done winning. The Bears have that aforementioned length and the athleticism to matchup well with Wisconsin and they won’t be concerned about the Badgers’ ability to space the floor as long as they can hit some shots of their own. Scott Drew’s team is playing with a lot of confidence down the stretch and Wisconsin isn’t playing in their home state anymore. I think Baylor gets by Wisconsin and gives a heck of a game against Arizona for the right to get to the Final Four.

SWEET 16 PREVIEWSDayton-Stanford | Wisconsin-Baylor | Florida-UCLA | Arizona-SDSU

Raphielle Johnson: These two teams have a lot in common with regards to their respective skill sets and athletic ability, as evidenced by the game they played in November that was closer than the nine-point margin. But here’s one difference now that wasn’t the case then: Dwayne Polee II is giving them quality minutes off the bench. That wasn’t the case in November, and while Arizona is different without Brandon Ashley they’re well-adjusted to not having him. If Polee can give SDSU quality bench minutes as he has the last few weeks, an upset is well within reach for the Aztecs.

Matt Giles: Florida has faced just one team this season with an offense as efficient as UCLA’s: the Gators allowed Wisconsin to score nearly one point per possession in the loss. It is worth noting that Scottie Wilbekin, UF’s best on-ball defender, was suspended and missed that game, and his presence drastically changes the team’s defense, but stopping Kyle Anderson & Company will still pose a challenge for Florida. There are so many potential mismatches — who guards Anderson? Will Travis Wear draw Patric Young away from the interior, or will Will Yeguete draw that assignment? — that Thursday night’s contest could result in an top-seed upset for the Bruins.

Terrence Payne: Biggest surprise of this week will be Tennessee continuing its run through the NCAA tournament to the Elite 8. The consensus was on Selection Sunday, that the Midwest Region was going to be the most difficult part of the bracket. Despite being loaded with top teams, I believe the Volunteers will punch one of the region’s two tickets to the Elite 8. Jeronne Maymon and especially Jarnell Stokes have been a handful on the boards, which is something Michigan could have trouble with in the Sweet 16. Add in Jordan McRae and Josh Richardson, who is averaging 19.3 points per game in the tournament, and it looks like Tennessee is poised for its fourth tournament win. We’ve seen it before with First Four teams causing chaos in the tournament, whether it’s VCU or La Salle. I think Tennessee can continue that trend on Friday night.

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft

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Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.

Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.

If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Dewan Huell returning to Miami for junior season

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Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.

After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”

A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.

Bruce Weber receives contract extension at Kansas State

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Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.

After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.

Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.

“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”

With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.

Northwestern loses incoming freshman point guard

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Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.

It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.

“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”

Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.

While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.

Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr. returning to school

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Nebraska received some important news on Friday night as senior guard James Palmer Jr. will be back for next season.

The 6-foot-6 Palmer had tested the NBA draft waters, but he decided to return to the Cornhuskers. After putting up 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season, Palmer is expected to be an All-Big Ten candidate once again this season. Palmer shot 44 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three-point range last season.

After transferring in from Miami, Palmer became the Huskers’ go-to scorer last season in helping Nebraska to a 22-win season and NIT appearance.

With Palmer back, Nebraska will have some legitimate expectations for the upcoming season, especially if the team’s second-leading scorer, Isaac Copeland Jr., also returns from the NBA draft process.