WEEKLY AWARDS: Utah’s Jakob Poeltl shines, UNC’s big week

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Jakob Poeltl, Utah

Poeltl has turned into a full-fledged monster in the season’s first month, and it was on full display this past week. On Wednesday, when the Utes hosted arch-rival BYU at the Huntsman Center, Poeltl put together arguably his best game of the season, finishing with 26 points, 13 boards and five blocks in a game that Utah dominated for more than 36 minutes. He followed that up with 21 points, six boards and six assists (!) in a win over IPFW. On the week, Poeltl shot 21-for-28 (75%) from the field and upped his numbers on the season to 21.9 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 2.5 bpg while shooting 69.2 percent from the floor.

Poeltl’s presence is critical for the Utes. This team is different than the one that Delon Wright had control of last season — that team was young and needed leadership, these guys don’t — but what they miss more than anything is a guy to give the ball to where they know they’ll get a good look out of it. It’s a good bet right now that giving Poeltl a touch will either get Utah a high-percentage shot or get them to the foul line, and that’s before you factor in the six assists he had on Saturday.

The Pac-12 is wiiiiiiiide open this year. When Poeltl plays like this, Utah is good enough to win the league.


  • Ben Bentil, Providence: Bentil averaged 22.0 points and 7.0 boards on the week, including a 23-point, eight-board performance in a win at in-state rival Rhode Island that also happened to include a game-winning tip-in. Bentil has turned into the perfect complement to Kris Dunn.
  • Brandon Ingram, Duke: Ingram had the best week of his college career, going for 24 points in a win over Indiana and following that up with 23 points against Buffalo. Ingram’s potential is off the charts, but he’s struggled with the physicality of college basketball this season.
  • Taurean Waller-Prince, Baylor: Waller-Prince had the best game of his college career in Baylor’s come-from-behind win over No. 16 Vanderbilt, scoring 30 points while showing off his versatility.
  • Thomas Welsh, UCLA: Welsh was the best big man on the floor as the Bruins knocked off No. 1 Kentucky on Thursday night, finishing with 21 points, 11 boards and two blocks. He followed that up with 15 points and 10 boards in a win over LBSU.
  • A.J. Hammons, Purdue: Isaac Haas has been sensational for Purdue this season, but Hammons was their best center this week. He had 24 points and 12 boards in a win at Pitt, following that up with 16 points and 11 boards, including a number of critical buckets down the stretch, in a home win over New Mexico.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: North Carolina Tar Heels

What a difference a Paige makes.

Marcus Paige played for the first time this season, and it totally changed the product that the Tar Heels put out. He had 20 points and five assists in a win over No. 2 Maryland on Tuesday night and followed that up with 13 points in a blowout win over Davidson on Saturday. It’s amazing what happens when an all-american is added into the mix, isn’t it?

When Marcus Paige is healthy, he’s a legitimate National Player of the Year contender, and with him in the mix, North Carolina may just very well be the best team in the country.

It’s good to have him back and have him healthy, isn’t it?


  • Arizona Wildcats: Few were sold on the Wildcats after a less-than-stellar performance in the Wooden Legacy, and rightfully so. There isn’t the kind of talent on this roster that were accustomed to from a Sean Miller team. But that didn’t matter on Saturday when they went into Spokane and beat Gonzaga on a night where Kyle Wiltjer went bananas. I’m not sure there are five more impressive wins this season than that …
  • UCLA Bruins: … but one of those five might actually be UCLA’s win over No. 1 Kentucky on Thursday night. The Bruins are the most frustrating team in the country. They lose to Monmouth and struggle with Cal Poly and LBSU but they manhandle the Wildcats? Ay yi yi. This team may cost Steve Alford that beautiful head of hair.
  • Georgetown Hoyas: There were more impressive wins this season — hell, this week — but I promise that none were as satisfying for the winners as the Hoyas landing a win in the Verizon Center against rival Syracuse.
  • Butler Bulldogs: A 14 point home win over Indiana State is solid, but the reason the Bulldogs are on this list is because they went into Cincinnati and knocked off the No. 17 Bearcats on a last-second jumper from Roosevelt Jones.
  • Wisconsin Badgers: Remember when we had all written Wisconsin off this season? Did we speak too soon? Wisconsin won at No. 14 Syracuse in overtime in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and followed that up by beating Temple at home on Saturday.


  • No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 8 Villanova, Mon. 7:00 p.m. (Hawaii)
  • No. 20 West Virginia vs. No. 10 Virginia, Tue. 7:00 p.m. (Madison Square Garden)
  • Florida at No. 21 Miami, Tue. 7:00 p.m.
  • Michigan at No. 22 SMU, Tue. 9:00 p.m.
  • No. 2 Maryland at UConn, Tue. 8:30 p.m. (Madison Square Garden)
  • Dayton at No. 16 Vanderbilt, Wed. 9:00 p.m.
  • Iowa at No. 5 Iowa State, Thu. 9:00 p.m.
  • No. 17 Cincinnati at No. 18 Xavier, Sat. 5:30 p.m.
  • UCLA at No. 13 Gonzaga, Sat. 10:00 p.m.

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.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

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MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.