Sweet 16 Preview: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee

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On Wednesday and Thursday, we will be breaking down all eight of the Sweet 16 matchups. Here is our look at No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee:

RELATED: Sweet 16 Power Rankings | Top 16 Players | Eight Critical Individual Matchups

WHEN: Friday, 7:15 p.m.

WHERE: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis (Midwest Region)

MAJOR STORY LINES: Tennessee fans did not want Cuonzo Martin anymore. They wanted Bruce Pearl back, and they wanted him so badly that an online petition to fire Cuonzo and hire Bruce collected more than 36,000 signatures. That looks silly now, as Martin has the Vols in the Sweet 16 with a really good chance to make it all the way to the Elite 8. His team now ranks No. 6 on KenPom. In other words, Tennessee has had a terrific year and it was barely enough to keep the good folks in Knoxville happy. That’s pretty wild.

KEY STATS: Michigan shoots 39.8% from beyond the arc and gets more than 34.9% of their points off of threes, which is 21st highest-rate nationally. It’s quite clearly a massive part of their powerhouse offensive attack, but Tennessee is one of the best teams in the country at chasing shooters off of the three-point line. On the other hand, the Vols are top five nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. Michigan isn’t bad on the defensive glass, but they are going to have to be much better than ‘not bad’ to keep Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon from getting second chance buckets.

SWEET 16 PREVIEWS: Stanford-Dayton Wisconsin-Baylor | Florida-UCLA | Arizona-SDSU

Iowa State-UConn | Michigan-Tennessee | Virginia-Michigan State | Louisville-Kentucky

KEY PLAYERS: I’ve written before and I’ll write it again: the most important matchup here is going to be the battle of the fours. Tennessee’s front line might as well be the Titans’ offensive line, as Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon are both about as strong and physical as an NFL left tackle. Michigan? When their best lineup is on the floor, Glenn Robinson III plays the four. What wins out? Can the Vols bully Michigan on the offensive glass enough that John Beilein is forced to use a bigger lineup, or will Robinson be able to capitalize on the advantages he will have over whoever Cuonzo Martin decides to put on him?

POINT SPREAD: Michigan (-2.5)

THREE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. Who guards Nik Stauskas?: Josh Richardson is probably the best perimeter defender that Tennessee has on the roster, but the scouting report on defending Stauskas is to put a smaller guard on him, someone that can keep him from coming off of screens cleanly and that can prevent him from using his array of moves off the dribble. As good as Stauskas is, he hasn’t really developed his postgame to the point where he can capitalize on a size advantage. Will Martin use the smaller Antonio Barton to guard him?

2. Josh Richardson: Richardson is playing his bet basketball of the season right now. After missing his first five shots against Iowa in the First Four, he’s hit 20 of his last 28 from the floor and is averaging 19.3 points in the three tournament games. Jarnell Stokes is a hoss and Jordan McRae is probably Tennessee’s most talented player, but when the Vols have a tertiary scoring threat, they become that much more dangerous.

3. Jordan Morgan’s fouls: Maymon and Stokes both draw a ton of fouls. Jordan Morgan, Michigan’s best interior player, cannot get into foul trouble. It’s as simple as that.

CBT PREDICTION: Tennessee

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.

Kansas State’s Barry Brown withdraws from NBA Draft

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Kansas State, a preseason top ten team, announced on Friday afternoon that Barry Brown will be returning to school for his senior season.

“Although the process was more than enjoyable, I have decided to withdraw my name from the 2018 NBA Draft,” Brown said in a statement. “Thank you to everyone who supported me, and I am looking forward to finishing my senior season as a Wildcat!”

Brown declared for the draft nearly two months ago. According to Kansas.com, Brown was invited to two workouts with NBA teams but did not get an invite to the NBA Draft Combine last weekend in Chicago. There was not a great chance that he would be drafted had he kept his name in the mix.

A second-team all-Big 12 selection a season ago, Brown averaged 15.9 points, 3.2 boards and 3.1 assists for a team that won 25 games and advanced to the Elite Eight as a No. 9 seed.

Kansas State is currently No. 8 in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.

VIDEO: Deandre Ayton NBA Draft Prospect Profile

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Over the course of the next month, I will be putting together NBA Draft Prospect Profiles for our sister site, Pro Basketball Talk, of the most talented and promising prospects from the college ranks.

Today, the first example of those profiles went live. It’s of Deandre Ayton and you can read all of the 1,500 words here. We take a good long look at why he’s the best prospect in the draft and the reasons why he may never actually reach his immense ceiling.

If you’re not into reading, here is a four-minute video breakdown of his strengths, his weaknesses and how he can turn the latter into the former.