WEEKEND PREVIEW: Crosstown Shootout, Wichita State’s key game, Kentucky on upset alert

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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 23 Cincinnati at No. 12 Xavier, Sat. 5:30 p.m.

The last time these two teams got together in the Cintas Center, almost four years ago to the day, the Bearcats and the Musketeers got together for what ended up being one of college basketball’s ugliest brawls. Seven players ended up getting suspended, Xavier’s Kenny Frease was left bleeding from a gash on his cheek, Tu Holloway told reporters after the game that “we zipped them up” and one of college basketball’s fiercest rivalries was forced to make a change. The Crosstown Shootout was renamed and moved to a neutral court for two years before the powers that be decided that it would be possible to play this game on campus without having it turn into a fistfight.

Last season, the game was played at Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena. This year, it makes its triumphant return to Xavier’s home floor, and while I doubt that we will see the two sides throwing hands again anytime soon, don’t doubt for a second that there is a healthy dislike between the two programs. What makes this even better is that both Cincinnati and Xavier are as good as they’ve been in recent memory, particularly Xavier, who looks like a legitimate Final Four contender right now. Cincinnati isn’t quite on that level, but they have a big, aggressive and athletic front line that anchors a team that looks like it’ll compete for the American title.

THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Utah at Wichita State, Sat. 3:30 p.m.

Jakob Poeltl is special, man. Last season, the 7-foot Austrian was a guy that caught some dunks and blocked some shots and had some nifty plays working in ball-screen actions with Delon Wright. This year? He’s a monster, averaging 21.3 points, 9.9 boards and 2.5 blocks as the centerpiece of an offense loaded with shooting and a team that may be the best in the Pac-12. But Wichita State now has a healthy Fred VanVleet back, and a healthy VanVleet makes them a top 15 team. There is some added drama here as well, as Wichita State’s early losses put them into a situation where they may have to win this game to have enough in their non-conference schedule to be seriously considered for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.


  1. On Saturday afternoon, Arizona State will pay a visit to No. 5 Kentucky in a game that could end up tripping the Wildcats up. Arizona State is not a super-talented team, but they are a scrappy group of dudes that play like they’ve got something to prove. (A shocker coming from a team coached by a Hurley, right?) Kentucky is still working through some kinks, namely toughness. I think it is fair to say that their biggest issue this season has been that their big men have a tendency to play soft, and Skal Labissiere deserves as much of the blame as anyone.
  2. No. 3 North Carolina will be paying a visit to Austin to take on a Texas team that has been playing better of late. In theory, the Longhorns are the kind of team that could give UNC some trouble. They have enough size up front that UNC’s bigs won’t be able to dominate the paint and Shaka Smart’s pressure defense could give the Tar Heels trouble; their question-mark the last couple of years has been at the point guard spot. That said, I can’t see UNC dropping this game … which, of course, means they’ll lose by 25.
  3. The rivalry between Marquette and Wisconsin is intense. While Saturday afternoon’s game probably won’t get the national attention it would have if both of these teams looked destined for the Sweet 16, there will still be quite a few bragging rights on the line. This year’s game will be played in the Kohl Center.
  4. Florida will be paying No. 1 Michigan State a visit in a rematch of the 2000 national title game. The Gators haven’t quite come around yet this season. They have the pieces to be the fourth-best team in the SEC, if not better. And while John Egbunu and Dorian Finney-Smith have played well, guys like Devin Robinson and Kasey Hill — both of whom were five-star recruits — have yet to come into their own.
  5. Oregon stumbled last weekend when they played a de-facto road game against UNLV in Las Vegas, and on Saturday night they’ll pay a visit to another pesky Mountain West team, Boise State. The Broncos are good, but they have a guy named Nick Duncan who is a 6-foot-8, 260 pound Australian dude that runs around off of screens and jacks up threes. He’s my spirit animal. Your’s too, probably.


  • La Salle at No. 9 Villanova, Sun. 5:00 p.m.
  • Ohio State at UConn, Sat. 12:00 p.m.
  • Kansas State at Texas A&M, Sat. 5:30 p.m.
  • BYU at Colorado, Sat. 8:00 p.m.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: UCLA at No. 20 Gonzaga, Sat. 10:00 p.m.

Gonzaga is not the same team without Przemek Karnowski. They blew a 12-point lead at home to Arizona last weekend — just their tenth loss in 11 seasons playing at The Kennel — and they needed a 45 percent three-point shooter to miss a wide-open three to avoid overtime at home against Montana on Tuesday. The issue is the guard play and a front line that doesn’t have their best rim protector. UCLA is a confounding team — they may be the most talented team on the west coast, only they rarely play up to their potential. They do, however, seem to show up for big games, and on the road against Gonzaga certainly qualifies as a big game. If they show up this weekend in Spokane, they have the pieces to give the Zags problems.

WHAT WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT ON MONDAY: After the first couple weeks of the season, the consensus seemed to be that the Pac-12 was going to be down this year. Cal had that disastrous trip up to Vegas where they lost to Richmond and San Diego State. Arizona lost to Providence in the Wooden Legacy. Utah got worked by Miami. UCLA lost to Monmouth at home. When four of the top five teams in the league take a questionable loss in the first two weeks of the season, there are going to be doubters.

That sentiment has changed a bit in the last two weeks.

Providence has turned out to be pretty damn good. Miami, too. UCLA bounced back with a convincing win over then-No. 1 Kentucky. Arizona won at Gonzaga. Oregon has been without two starters and has looked like they might be the best team in the league. This weekend will be a significant test for a number of teams in the league. Utah, Oregon and UCLA all get tough road tests against teams from smaller conferences. Arizona State gets a shot at Kentucky. Colorado gets a shot at BYU at home.

The Pac-12, as a conference, has a chance to make a pretty significant statement this weekend, and while I’m not predicting they’ll win all of those games, I think they will do enough to make us take notice. Maybe the league is better at the top than we realized.

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.

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.