Weekend Preview: The NFL Playoffs aren’t the only huge games this weekend



source: AP
Jerian Grant, LaDontae Henton (AP Photo)

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 3 Virginia at No. 13 Notre Dame, Sat. 6:00 p.m.

There may not be a more intriguing matchup all season long than this one. As I diagrammed earlier this week, Virginia runs a defense known as the Pack-Line, and they are the best in the country at doing it. The way to beat the Pack-Line is by spreading the floor with shooters and letting playmakers penetrate and get those shooters open looks. That’s precisely what Notre Dame does. So what we get on Saturday is strength on strength, one of the nation’s best defenses squaring off against a team with as potent of an offense as you’re going to find in the college ranks.

This game won’t bring with it the kind of hype that Louisville-Kentucky or Duke-Wisconsin did. Hell, Virginia plays Duke in two week and Louisville the week after that. This will be a blip on the radar compared to those to games. But when you combine the Pack-Line vs. Notre Dame’s shooters with the fact that both teams have an all-american on their roster — Jerian Grant and Justin Anderson — and this is the kind of game that you, at the very least, throw on the iPad while you watch the NFL playoffs.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 5 Louisville at No. 18 North Carolina, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

Does anyone know what to make of North Carolina yet? I don’t. I thought they were a top ten team entering the season and then they went and lost to Butler and Iowa. I thought they were back on the upswing in the last three weeks, and then they went and lost to Notre Dame at home. A visit from the Cardinals will be a chance for the Tar Heels to make a statement, but Louisville will be looking to prove a point of their own. They’ve been up and down this season as well, with their success hitched to the Chris Jones wagon. Which Chris Jones shows up on Saturday? The one that played like an all-ACC point guard against Wake Forest or the one that looked like bad Russ Smith reincarnated against Kentucky?


  • No. 17 Iowa State at No. 14 West Virginia, Sat. 8:00 p.m.: The Cyclones entered the season as a favorite in the Big 12, and while they lost a couple of games in non-conference play, they still look like a team that will finish in the top four of the league. But West Virginia has looked that way as well. I’m not fully bought-in on the new-look Mountaineers and their full-court press, but a win over Iowa State will go a long way towards convincing me.
  • No. 22 Ohio State at Indiana, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: D’angelo Russell vs. James Blackmon is a matchup between the two best freshmen that get no hype.
  • Kansas State at No. 16 Oklahoma, Sat. 7:00 p.m.: After mollywhopping Texas in Austin, Oklahoma looks like the favorite in the Big 12. Kansas State has struggled mightily, but they — or Marcus Foster — took a huge step in the right direction
  • No. 1 Kentucky at Texas A&M, Sat. 1:00 p.m.: ‘Unbeatable’ Kentucky’s first conference road trip of the season.
  • DePaul at No. 8 Villanova, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: DePaul is in sole possession of first place in the Big East at 3-0. Seriously. No, that’s not a joke. They really are. Really. And if they’re ‘for real’, they’ll give Villanova a fight in Philly.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 10 Texas at Oklahoma State, Sat. 5:00 p.m.

We all saw what Oklahoma did to Texas on Monday night. That was in Austin. On Saturday afternoon, the Longhorns will be headed to Stillwater to take on an Oklahoma State team that has been one of the bigger surprises in the country this season. The Pokes have yet to put together a win that can be considered a statement win, but knocking off the Longhorns at home would definitely fall into that category. It will be interesting to see how Travis Ford decides to deal with the massive Texas front line.


  • No. 11 Maryland at Purdue, Sat. 2:30 p.m.: Maryland, who is supposed to be the second-best team in the Big Ten, is coming off of a loss at Illinois. Purdue isn’t the Purdue of the Gene Keady years, but they are tough at home and have a pair of really good seven-footers.
  • No. 19 Seton Hall at Creighton, Sat. 2:15 p.m.: The Pirates shot into the top 25 with wins over St. John’s and Villanova at home. They were beaten pretty solidly at Xavier. You can tell how good a team is by how they play on the road in league play.
  • No. 2 Duke at N.C. State, Sun. 2:00 p.m.: Wake Forest almost picked off Duke in Winston-Salem on Wednesday. Jahlil Okafor won’t be overpowering BeeJay Anya in the paint.
  • No. 15 Wichita State at Loyola (IL), Sun 5:00 p.m.: Loyola is 12-3 this season and playing at home in what will be their most important league game of the season.
  • No. 25 Old Dominion at Western Kentucky, Sat. 5:30 p.m.: The Monarchs will be playing their third straight game on the road on Saturday. Eventually, that will catch up with you.


1. George Washington at La Salle, Sat. 12:30 p.m.: The Colonials will be challenged by La Salle on Saturday in a game that will be shown on NBCSN.

2. No. 21 Baylor at TCU, Sat. 4:00 p.m.: TCU entered Big 12 play undefeated and then proceeded to lose their first two games. Baylor hasn’t fared much better, however, as they are 0-2 in the league as well.

3. Cincinnati at UConn, Sat. 11:00 a.m.: Cincinnati will be playing without head coach Mick Cronin for the rest of the season. Just how good can the Bearcats be without him?

4. South Carolina at Ole Miss, Sat. 5:00 p.m., and Georgia at LSU, Sat. 9:00 p.m.: The power structure of the SEC is going to be tough to figure out. Kentucky is the best. Arkansas is probably second-best. These four teams all have a claim at No. 3.

5. Xavier at Butler, Sat. 4:30 p.m.: We’re midway through the season and I’m still not sure what to make of either of these teams.

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.