Weekly Awards: Karl Towns shows us his best, Oklahoma State back in the Big 12 convo

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Karl Towns (Getty Images)

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Karl Towns, Kentucky

Kentucky put together a pair of solid wins this week, knocking off Georgia at home before going into the O-Dome and taking Florida’s best shot before beating the Gators. Towns, in those two games, played his best basketball since he arrived in Lexington, averaging 17.0 points, 10.5 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.0 blocks in the two wins.

It’s not just the numbers for Towns, because if he were consistently playing 31 minutes every night on a team where the offensive was built around him, he could probably put up numbers like that for an entire season. It’s the little things that he showed an ability to do, like a deft over-the-head pass for a dunk out of a double-team or reading a defender trying to anticipate how Towns would use a screen. We know Towns can block shots and we know that he can get to the offensive glass. We’ve even seen him do a decent job switching onto guards while defending ball-screens.

If there’s a knock on Kentucky this season, it’s that they don’t score all that well in half court settings. When Towns is making plays like that, the Wildcats are that much more dangerous.

THE ALL ‘THEY WERE GOOD, TOO’ TEAM

  • Marcus Posley, St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies went 2-0 this week, and Posley is the one to thank. He hit buzzer-beating game-winners in wins over No. 18 VCU and Davidson.
  • Joseph Young, Oregon: Young led the Ducks to wins over the Washington schools this week, averaging 30.5 points, 6.5 boards and 5.0 assists. He shot 22-for-37 from the floor and 7-for-14 from three, and suddenly, the Ducks are tied for third in the Pac-12, just two games behind Arizona and Utah.
  • Rico Gathers, Baylor: The Bears have won five of their last six games, including a pair of blowout wins against TCU and at West Virginia. Gathers had 31 points and 33 boards in those two wins.
  • Justise Winslow, Duke: Winslow went for 15 points and 10 boards in a win over Georgia Tech, following that up with 19 points and 11 boards in Saturday’s beatdown of Notre Dame. He’s now notched three straight double-doubles.
  • Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga: In a pair of road wins for the Zags, Wiltjer was the best player on the floor, averaging 25.5 points and 8.5 boards.
  • Notables: Schadrac Casimir (Iona), Jamel Artis (Pitt), Jalen Cannon (St. Francis NY)
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TEAM OF THE WEEK: Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Pokes landed a pair of critical wins this week, as they went into Texas and knocked off the Longhorns in overtime, following that up with a win over No. 8 Kansas at Gallagher-Iba Area. The Big 12 might be a bit overrated at this point, but there is no denying how much of a meat-grinder league play is in that conference. Winning two straight games against teams that could end up making the NCAA tournament — particularly when coming off of a loss — is huge. The wins also put Travis Ford’s club in a much better position in regards to the NCAA tournament.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Virginia: The Cavaliers beat North Carolina and Louisville this week, solidifying their place at the top of the national rankings, but they also lost Justin Anderson in the process.
  • Iowa: The Hawkeyes bounced back from a three-game losing streak with blowout wins at Michigan and over No. 17 Maryland at home.
  • Boise State: The Broncos are suddenly in the bubble conversation and tied for first place (in the loss column) in the Mountain West after wins at Utah State and over San Diego State this week. They’ve won seven straight.
  • Arizona State: The Sun Devils beat arch rival Arizona at home on Saturday afternoon. It won’t be enough for them to get into the NCAA tournament picture, but a win over a rival can make a bad season worthwhile.
  • Harvard: The Crimson have now won four straight road games in Ivy League play, culminating with a win at Yale on Saturday night.

SET YOUR DVR

  • No. 11 Iowa State at No. 21 Oklahoma, Mon. 9:00 p.m.
  • No. 1 Kentucky at LSU, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
  • No. 19 Baylor at No. 8 Kansas, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
  • No. 18 VCU at George Washington, Sat. 2:00 p.m.
  • No. 7 Villanova at Butler, Sat. 6:00 p.m.

Matt Haarms decides to leave Purdue, enter transfer portal

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue center Matt Haarms has entered the transfer portal and intends to play his final college season at another school, coach Matt Painter announced Monday.

The slim, 7-foot-3 Haarms was one of the Big Ten’s top defenders and played a key role during the Boilermakers’ 2019 NCAA Tournament run, when he replaced injured center Isaac Haas in the starting lineup.

But Haarms lost the starting job following a hip injury in December and wound up averaging 8.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2 blocks per game while shooting 52.4% from the field.

He finished fourth on Purdue’s career list for blocks with 210.

Louisville’s Nwora enters NBA draft after All-America season

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville forward Jordan Nwora has announced on social media that he will enter the NBA draft.

Nwora was selected to The Associated Press All-America third team as a junior. His decision to turn pro was expected after limited participation in last year’s NBA combine because of a knee injury. He returned to the Cardinals and was named Atlantic Coast Conference preseason player of the year before going on to average 18 points and 7.7 rebounds per game while shooting 44% from the field. The 6-foot-7 Nwora was named to the AP’s All-ACC first team.

The Buffalo, New York, native said on his verified Twitter account that the abrupt end to the season was “heartbreaking and awful” because he believed No. 14 Louisville (24-7) was ready to win the NCAA championship. But he noted that community health and safety should be the priority because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Nwora called Cardinal teammates and coaches his family in his post and added, “I will proudly represent Louisville wherever I go.”

Florida guard Scottie Lewis returning for sophomore season

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida guard Scottie Lewis, one of the Southeastern Conference’s top defenders, is returning for his sophomore season.

Lewis made the announcement Monday via social media by saying “we have some unfinished business.”

“My dream of playing in the NBA is still a top priority, but my heart is in Gainesville!” he added. “I am excited for the journey that lies ahead. My story hasn’t even started, and trust me the best is yet to come!”

A McDonald’s All-American in high school, the 6-foot-5 Lewis had been considered a one-and-done prospect when he arrived in Gainesville last summer. But his defensive prowess overshadowed his offensive skills for much of his first collegiate season.

The New Jersey native averaged 8.5 points and 3.6 rebounds to go along with a team-leading 36 blocks. He was second on the team with 36 steals.

He was at his best in SEC play, averaging 9.2 points and shooting 43.6% from 3-point range. He scored a career-high 19 points in the team’s regular-season finale against Kentucky. The postseason was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Gators (19-12, 11-7 SEC) now await word on a pair of sophomores: point guard Andrew Nembhard and versatile forward Keyontae Johnson.

Nembhard entered the NBA draft last year before withdrawing his name and returning for a second season. Johnson led Florida in scoring this season, averaging 14 points, and was second on the team with 7.1 rebounds. He also led the team with 38 steals.

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Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey declares for the NBA draft

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Kentucky freshman Tyrese Maxey announced on Monday that he will be declaring for the NBA draft and forgoing his final three seasons in college.

Maxey is projected as a lottery pick after averaging 14 points, 4.3 boards and 3.2 assists for the Wildcats this past season. He burst onto the college basketball scene on the first night of the season when he went for 26 points in a win over No. 1 Michigan State during the Champions Classic, and while he was not quite capable of keeping up that pace throughout the season, he did enough to prove himself as a quality pro prospect.

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Taking a risk on Tyrese Maxey high in the 2020 NBA Draft means betting on the fact that his 29 percent three-point shooting as a freshman had more to do with adjusting to the college level than it does his actual shooting ability. Coming through high school, Maxey had the reputation for being a big-time scorer because of his ability to make deep jumpers off the bounce and because of the way that he can finish around the rim with a variety of floaters and layups.

And while he would show flashes of being the dominant scorer Kentucky needed him to be, the Wildcats late-season surge was a direct result of Immanuel Quickley’s improvement, not Maxey finding consistency. We spent the entire season saying “just wait until Maxey finds his stroke” and he never really did. He needs to be able to make that shot because the rest of his game is somewhat limited. He’s not a natural creator, he’s wired to score more than anything else, and he certainly isn’t an elite athlete by NBA combo-guard standards, although he is a pretty good on-ball defender. He’s also a worker, and by all accounts a great kid and competitor. I think there’s a real chance his ceiling is as a second-unit scorer, but if it all comes together I can see him putting together a career on par with Lou Williams.

Mike Tirico to host NBC Sports’ new daily sports talk show ‘Lunch Talk Live’

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A new daily sports talk shot called Lunch Talk Live will debut on NBCSN at noon ET on Monday, April 6th.

The show will feature Mike Tirico joined like by special guests every single day, including a lineup of NBC Sports’ on-air personalities, current and former athletes and prominent people in sports media.

The show will focus on how the sports world is navigating the coronavirus pandemic, providing a platform for intelligent discussion on the state of sports and how we, as a society, are adapting to living in this challenging time. the goal is to detail personal stories of how different people from across the sports industry are functioning in the day-to-day.

“In these challenging times, we are all missing sports and the people who make sports memories,” said Tirico. “Hopefully, we can bring a midday connection with some of them to help fill the void.”

“We’re excited to bring viewers fresh programming every day with unique, topical conversations from prominent individuals in all corners of sports,” said Sam Flood, the Executive Producer & President of Production for NBC Sports. “This will be a daily lunch date to share sports and stories we miss during these unique times.”

The show will be an hour long. It will air on weekdays at Noon ET on NBCSN and will be streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. Additionally, content will also be provided on the NBC Sports’ YouTube channel as well as other social media platforms.

All episodes of the show will be hosted remotely.

Here is the schedule for the week:

Monday 4/6

12:00p- Justin Leonard // Peter King
12:15p- Cris Collinsworth & Dale Earnhardt Jr
12:30p- Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski
12:40p- Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
12:50p- Jeff Burton & Steve Letarte

Tuesday 4/7

12:15p- Rebecca Lowe & Kathryn Tappen
12:30p- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman
12:40p- NASCAR Driver Denny Hamlin

Wednesday 4/8

12:15p- Al Michaels & Doc Emrick
12:30p- PGA Golfer Justin Thomas
12:50p- Kyle Petty & Dale Jarrett

Thursday 4/9

12:50p- Keith Jones & Eddie Olczyk

Friday 4/10

12:15p- Michele Tafoya & tbd
12:40p- Dan Hicks & Paul Azinger
12:50p- Robbie Mustoe & Robbie Earle