Weekend Preview: Three great matchups, headlined by two top ten battles

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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 9 Gonzaga at No. 3 Arizona, Sat. 5:15 p.m.

There may not be five games this season that are more intriguing than seeing the two best teams on the west coast square off. Kevin Pangos has been the best guard in the country this season — I’m not sure it’s all that close — but he will be forced to square off against a tough, veteran defender in T.J. McConnell. Up front is where it gets even more interesting, as Arizona’s massive front line will be forced to deal with the versatility that Mark Few has at his disposal.

The game is at the McKale Center in Tucson, which means that the Wildcats will enter the game as the favorites. But they are going to have to find a way to score, because Gonzaga is one of the toughest teams to matchup with in the country. The key may end up being how the Zags deal with the size of Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on the wing.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 6 Texas at No. 1 Kentucky, Fri. 7:00 p.m.

As good as this game is on paper, I’m not sure that it will end up being all that close come 9:00 p.m. on Friday night. There are two reasons for that: 1. The game is being played at Rupp, and with the way that Kentucky is playing right now, I’m not sure anyone can beat them in Rupp; and 2. Texas will be without guard Isaiah Taylor, the lightning quick penetrator that would help them negate the size advantage the Harrisons have in the back court. The good news for Texas? They won’t get pushed around inside. The Longhorns have just as many bigs that are just as, well, big as Kentucky’s front line.

THE OTHER, OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 7 Virginia at VCU, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

You won’t find a better matchup of styles all season long. Virginia likes to grind it out, controlling tempo and clock and running their sets until they get a good look, even if it takes 30 seconds to do so. VCU? They’re ‘Havoc’. They’re flying all over the court, trying to force turnovers and make the game as choppy as possible. What wins out?

Perry Ellis (AP Photo)


  • Florida at No. 11 Kansas, Fri. 9:00 p.m.: Fair to say that these have been the two most disappointing preseason top ten teams? Kansas looks like they’ve turned a corner. Florida? Not so much.
  • No. 2 Wisconsin at Marquette, Sat. 12:30 p.m.: Rivalries don’t get much more heated than this. The problem? Marquette is rebuilding and Wisconsin is pissed they just lose to Duke.
  • Boise State at Saint Mary’s, Sat. 11:30 p.m.: Saint Mary’s is probably better than they are getting credit for right now, and Boise State should matchup well with them.
  • Creighton at Nebraska, Sun. 7:00 p.m.: Wisconsin-Marquette isn’t the only in-state rivalry game being played. This game becomes that much better now that both programs are good.
  • St. Joseph’s at No. 10 Villanova, Sat. 1:00 p.m.: There’s a reason this is called ‘the Holy War’.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 13 San Diego State at Washington, Sun. 9:00 p.m.

Washington is better than anyone is giving them credit for this season, although I’m not sure that actually means all that much. They won the Wooden Legacy last month and have one of the nation’s most underrated point guards in Nigel Williams-Goss running the show. SDSU is good — really good — but a road game late on a Sunday night is never an easy one to play.


  • Yale at UConn, Fri. 7:00 p.m.: Yale is the second-best team in the Ivy, they have a powerful front line and UConn’s all kinds of banged up right now.
  • Green Bay at No. 15 Miami, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: The Phoenix may not pull this off, but Angel Rodriguez vs. Keifer Sykes will make watching them try worth the time.
  • Towson at Georgetown, Sun. 12:00 p.m.: A local battle, as the Tigers are from right up I-95 in Baltimore. Should we call this the Annual Jerelle Benimon Classic
  • FGCU at UMass, Sun. 2:00 p.m.: UMass is in a bit of a rebuilding mode this season. FGCU? They have as good of a back court as you will find at the mid-major level. They’re not #DunkCity, but they can play.
  • No. 18 Arkansas at Clemson, Sun. 5:00 p.m.: The Razorbacks are not very good on the road, at least not historically. Clemson isn’t all that good either, but Arkansas has a tendency to lose games like that upon occasion.


1. Saint Louis at No. 8 Wichita State, Sat. 6:00 p.m.: The Shockers are coming off of their first loss in the regular in 35 games. How will they bounce back?

2. St. John’s at Syracuse, Sat. 5:15 p.m.: Two only Big East rivals square off.

3. Eastern Kentucky at No. 1 Kentucky, Sun. 6:00 p.m.: The nation’s best team will be in action for the second time this weekend.

4. Wyoming at SMU, Fri. 7:00 p.m.: SMU desperately needs a marquee win, and believe it or not, Wyoming is actually a pretty good win. They are one of the best teams in the MWC and already own a 23-point win over Colorado.

5. Ole Miss at Oregon, Sun. 4:00 p.m.: Ole Miss had a rough start to the year, but they’ve turned things around in recent weeks. Can Oregon, who lost to Michigan and VCU last week, do the same?

George Mason Final Four star Tony Skinn hired as hoops coach

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FAIRFAX, Va. – Tony Skinn, who helped lead 11th-seeded George Mason to the Final Four during March Madness as a player in 2006, was hired Thursday to coach men’s basketball at the school.

Skinn replaces Kim English, who left George Mason for Providence after Ed Cooley departed Providence for Georgetown.

“Tony Skinn is the right man for this moment in Mason’s basketball program,” university President Gregory Washington said in the news release announcing the hiring. “His coaching style will galvanize our student-athletes and his connection to our finest hour on the court is sure to electrify our alumni and fans.”

Skinn was a starting guard for the Patriots 17 years ago when they picked up a series of surprising wins – including against UConn in the regional final in Washington, about 20 miles from campus – to make the semifinals at the NCAA Tournament.

George Mason’s coach at the time, Jim Larrañaga, is now at Miami and has the Hurricanes in this year’s Final Four.

Skinn was most recently an assistant coach at Maryland. He also has worked at Ohio State, Seton Hall and Louisiana Tech.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to step back on campus,” Skinn said. “I’ve had some of my greatest memories here and I’m looking forward to making new ones with our fans and our community.”

Gonzaga’s Timme among five finalists for men’s Wooden Award

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LOS ANGELES – Drew Timme of Gonzaga is one of five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award as the men’s college basketball player of the year.

He’s joined by Zach Edey of Purdue, Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana, Houston’s Marcus Sasser and Jalen Wilson of Kansas.

Timme took his team farthest in the upset-riddled NCAA Tournament with Gonzaga losing in the Elite Eight. Sasser helped Houston reach the Sweet 16. Purdue lost in the first round, while Indiana and Kansas were beaten in the second round.

The winner will be announced April 4 on ESPN. All five players have been invited to Los Angeles for the 47th annual presentation on April 7.

Also among the top 10 vote getters were: Jaime Jaquez Jr. of UCLA, Brandon Miller of Alabama, Penn State’s Jalen Pickett, Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky and Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis.

Voting took place from March 13-20.

South Carolina’s Dawn Staley will receive the Legends of Coaching Award during the ceremony at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

Indiana’s Teri Moren wins AP Coach of the Year

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DALLAS – Teri Moren has led Indiana to some unprecedented heights this season.

The team won its first Big Ten regular season championship in 40 years, rose to No. 2 in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll and earned the school’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Moren was honored Thursday as the AP women’s basketball Coach of the Year, the first time she has won the award. She received 12 votes from the 28-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. South Carolina’s Dawn Staley was second with eight votes. Utah’s Lynne Roberts received five and Virginia Tech’s Kenny Brooks three.

Voting was done before the NCAA Tournament.

“I think a lot of people were like this is going to be a year where Indiana is reloading, rebuilding, they won’t be as good as they had been the year prior. We were picked third in the Big Ten,” Moren said.

Moren was surprised by her team, who told her she won in an elaborate ruse.

“Anytime you can share it with people that made it happen. the staff, the players, the most important people who have been instrumental in the season and this award is special. I was speechless.”

Moren accepted the award at the Final Four, sharing the stage with AP Player of the Year Caitlin Clark to complete a Big Ten sweep.

The team has come a long way from when Moren was a young girl growing up in southern Indiana. She was a diehard fan of the Indiana basketball team. The men’s one that is.

She would attend men’s games with her family when she was a kid and was a big fan of coach Bob Knight. She has a constant reminder of the Hall of Fame coach in her office as a picture of his infamous chair-throwing incident hangs by the door. Moren said it’s the last thing she sees before heading to practice.

As far as the women’s team, they just weren’t very good. Times have changed, as Moren has built the program into a blue-collar team that focuses on defense and is a consistent Top 25 team the last few seasons, appearing in the poll for 75 consecutive weeks starting with the preseason one in 2019-2020. That’s the fourth-longest active streak.

Before that, the Hoosiers had been ranked for a total of six times.

“People still talk to me about living in Bloomington and they couldn’t afford a ticket to the men’s game. Not that they settled, but became women’s basketball fans. At that moment, you could walk in and find any seat you wanted and watch women’s basketball,” Moren said.

“There were 300-400 people in the stands, now to what it is today, it’s an unbelievable thing to watch it grow. Things you dream about to see fans and bodies up in the rafters.”

The Hoosiers had six of the school’s top 10 most attended games this season, including crowds of over 13,000 fans for the first round of the NCAA Tournament and 14,000 for the second round game – a shocking loss to Miami.

“It stings right now, but that last game doesn’t define our season,” Moren said.

AP source: Alabama’s Brandon Miller declares for NBA draft

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Alabama All-American forward Brandon Miller is heading to the NBA after displaying versatile talent and athleticism in a lone season of college ball that was blemished by revelations he was present at a fatal shooting in January near campus.

ESPN first reported on Miller’s decision, and a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed the report to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Miller hadn’t yet made an official declaration for the draft.

The 6-foot-9, 200-pound freshman, who was one of the nation’s top high school recruits, is projected as a potential top 5 draft pick.

Miller displayed his accurate 3-point shooting and athleticism in the most productive season of any freshman in Alabama history. He led the Tide to their first No. 1 ranking in 20 years and first No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed.

Miller averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds while hitting 38% from 3-point range. But he was scoreless in his first March Madness game, and went 3 of 19 and scored just nine points in a Sweet 16 loss to San Diego State.

Miller was described as a cooperating witness after the Jan. 15 shooting and was never charged with a crime.

But he and the Tide were dogged by off-court questions for the final two months of the season. Former Alabama player Darius Miles and another man were charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Jamea Harris, who was killed in early on Jan. 15.

Miller and fellow freshman Jaden Bradley were placed at the scene as well. According to police testimony, Miller brought Miles his gun. Miller’s attorney said the Tide forward was on his way to pick Miles up when Miles texted asking him to bring the weapon, but that Miller never handled the gun and didn’t know any criminal activity was intended.

Miller received threats after the news came out, and was accompanied by a university-provided security guard. “It doesn’t bother me,” Miller said of the threats at the NCAA regional in Birmingham, Alabama, “I send it to the right people and they handle it.”

Alabama finished the season 31-6 and won the Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament titles.

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark wins AP Player of the Year

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DALLAS — Caitlin Clark has put together one of the greatest individual seasons in NCAA history with eye-popping offensive numbers.

Iowa’s junior guard, though, saved her best performance for the game’s biggest stage, recording the first 40-point triple-double in NCAA history to get Iowa to the Final Four for the first time in 30 years.

Clark was honored Thursday as The Associated Press women’s basketball Player of the Year. She received 20 votes from the 28-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. Voting was done before March Madness began.

“It’s a huge honor,” Clark said. “I picked a place that I perfectly fit into and that’s allowed me to show my skill set. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t mean something. It’s not the reason you play basketball, it’s just something that comes along with getting to do what you love.”

The Iowa coaching staff surprised Clark by sharing that she won the award while they were visiting the Iowa Children’s Hospital – a place near and dear to her. It also has huge ties to the Hawkeyes athletic department.

They put together a video of some of the children in the hospital congratulating Clark on an outstanding season, and in the middle of it, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder popped on the screen to tell her she won.

“I’m there for inspiring the next generation and being there for the people that you know are going through a hard time,” said Clark, who grew up in Iowa. “Being able to give joy to people that watch you play and watch your team play is amazing.”

She averaged 27.0 points, 8.3 assists and 7.5 rebounds during the season to help Iowa go 26-6. Clark has 984 points, the sixth-most in a season by any player in Division I women’s history. She also has over 300 assists.

“She is spectacular. I don’t know how else to describe what she does on the basketball court,” Bluder said.

Next up for the Hawkeyes is undefeated South Carolina in the national semifinals. The Gamecocks are led by Aliyah Boston, last season’s winner of the award. She garnered the other eight votes this season.

“There’s so many great players, more than just me and (Aliyah),” Clark told the AP. “You can go on and on and list the tremendous players. I think that’s really good for our game when there’s a lot of great players. That’s what is going to help this game grow more than anything else.”

Whether it’s hitting deep 3s from the Hawkeye logo at home games, hitting off-balance game-winning shots or throwing pinpoint passes to teammates for easy baskets, Clark has excelled on the court this year to get Iowa to a place it hasn’t been in a long time.

“It’s funny, because the better the opponent, almost the better she plays,” Bluder said. “It’s like she locks in on those, when we’re playing against Top 25 teams. That’s when her statistics even go up even more, against great opponents.”

Clark is the second Iowa player to win the AP award in the past few seasons, joining Megan Gustafson who won it in 2019.