WEEKEND PREVIEW: There are some great games to watch while you’re snowed-in

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GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 13 Baylor, Sat. 12:00 p.m.

If you want to know how wild the Big 12 has been this season, this game is the only example that you need to know. The last two teams to be ranked No. 1 in the country — Kansas and the current No. 1, Oklahoma — are both members of the league, but entering this weekend, the team that currently sits all alone at the top of the league table is Baylor.

Yes, that Baylor. The one that is coached by Scott Drew, a running internet joke for bad coaching. The one that was ruthlessly embarrassed by Kansas in Phog Allen Fieldhouse in the conference opener, a game that the Bears lost by 28 and trailed by 20 just seven minutes into the game. But if they can take care of business against the Sooners at home, the Bears will be 6-1 in league play and destined for a top ten ranking come Monday morning.

In a conference that includes the Sooners, the Jayhawks, Iowa State, West Virginia and Shaka Smart, we’re a third of the way through league play and Baylor is one win away from sitting in the driver’s seat.

This season, man.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 7 Maryland at No. 11 Michigan State, Sat. 6:30 p.m. 

The Big 12 isn’t the only league that’s whacked.

The Big Ten is, too.

Iowa is sitting in first place, Michigan State has lost three straight and already has four league losses, and Maryland took a loss at Michigan, needed a buzzer-beater at Wisconsin and got taken to overtime by Northwestern. In a weekend where the top four teams in the conference are all squaring off — more on that in a second — this is the game with the most intrigue. Can Maryland get back to playing like a national title contender? Will Michigan State get back to playing like … a tournament team?

THE OTHER, OTHER GAME OF THE WEEKEND: No. 22 Purdue at No. 9 Iowa, Sun. 1:00 p.m.

Maryland-Michigan State might get all the hype, but the best game in the Big Ten this weekend might actually be No. 22 Purdue paying a visit to No. 9 Iowa on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. The Hawkeyes are the most surprising team in the conference, having already swept the Spartans and erased a 19-point deficit in a win at Purdue. The Boilermakers, who may have the best front line in college basketball, will be out for revenge this weekend. The key story line here: Iowa, the last couple of years, has earned the reputation of being choke artists that are better off shooting themselves with Papa Doc’s handgun. It looks like they’ve kicked that habit, and a win on Saturday would give them a sweep of both Michigan State and Purdue.

Iowa forward Jarrod Uthoff (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa forward Jarrod Uthoff (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

THESE WILL BE GOOD, TOO

  1. There’s another great game this weekend, as the best team in the Big East — No. 4 Villanova — will host No. 16 Providence and the best player in the Big East — Kris Dunn. One thing to keep an eye on: The massive storm that is expected to pound the east coast this weekend. Providence will be flying in on Thursday to beat the snow, but there could be as much as two feet of snow dumped on the city. It’s already been rescheduled until Sunday afternoon. How many fans will make it to the game?
  2. No. 21 USC fell at Oregon on Thursday night, and it wasn’t really all that close. On Sunday afternoon, the team that has looked like the Pac-12’s biggest challenger to Arizona will look to right the ship at Oregon State. Dunk City West will be squaring off with a team that features Gary Payton II. There will be highlights.
  3. On Wednesday, No. 6 West Virginia found out what happens when their press doesn’t work, as they lost at home to Texas in spectacularly ugly fashion. On Saturday, the Mountaineers will look to bounce back from that loss at Texas Tech, which has been a tough place for visitors to get a win this season.
  4. No. 8 SMU will put their perfect record on the line at Temple on Saturday night in an 8:00 p.m. tip. The Owls have been a tough out in AAC play, having swept Cincinnati, won at UConn and lost at Memphis by two points. This will be one of the toughest stops left on SMU’s slate.
  5. N.C. State snapped a four-game losing streak in ACC play this week as they went into Pittsburgh and blew out the Panthers. No. 20 Duke, on the other hand, is still skidding, as they lost their third straight game on Monday night to Syracuse. On Saturday, the Blue Devils will head to Raleigh to take on the Wolfpack, a game that both teams desperately need to win.
  6. There will be two games shown on NBCSN and the NBC Live Extra App on Saturday, as Davidson visits Richmond at 12:30 p.m. and St. Bonaventure heads down to VCU at 2:30 p.m.

WHO’S GETTING UPSET?: No. 18 Butler at Creighton, Sat. 7:30 p.m.

Creighton has proven to be a tough out this season. They beat Georgetown. They won at Seton Hall. They came within one banked-home jumper of taking Providence to overtime. They’re a team that still has an outside chance of making a run at the NCAA tournament, but they desperately need some quality wins on their résumé. Butler would qualify as that, and the Bulldogs have been anything but impressive through Big East play. They’re 2-4 in league play, but all five of their losses this season have come against quality competition. Creighton needs this, but Butler needs it, too.

WHAT WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT ON MONDAY: I have absolutely no idea.

Seriously.

No clue.

I could guess — we’ll probably end up talking about Iowa and Villanova and why Baylor is for real and if Michigan State is even a Final Four team these days — but I don’t even know if it would be an educated guess at this point. That’s the way this season has been. West Virginia looked like the best team in the Big 12 … then they lost at home to Texas. Duke and Kentucky are barely top 25 teams. Providence and Michigan State were both ranked in the top ten with a National Player of the Year candidate, and neither has played well since it became 2016.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that this season makes absolutely no sense, and that’s what makes this season so much fun.

When I recorded a podcast with Mark Titus of Club Trillion fame, he said he loved watching this year’s Ohio State team because, good or bad, he had no idea what was going to happen on a given night. It’s like that from a national perspective as well. You have to pay attention every night because, at this point, nothing is a given.

And that’s fun.

Right?

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

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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

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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

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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.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.