WEEKLY AWARDS: Providence isn’t a one-man show, and Saint Mary’s is for real


PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Ben Bentil, Providence

As good as Kris Dunn has been this season — and he’s been good, I have the Friar star at No. 2 in my Player of the Year Power Rankings — he’s not the leading scorer for Providence, nor was he their best player in their biggest week of the season. Both of those titles go to Ben Bentil, who is the nation’s most improved player and arguably one of the five best big men in college basketball.

He certainly looked the part on Saturday, when the Friars went into snowy Philadelphia and handed Villanova their first Big East loss in more than a year. Bentil had 31 points and 13 boards in that game, which followed four days after he popped off for 20 points as Providence knocked off Butler at home.

What made his performances that much more valuable is that the Friars had struggled in recent weeks, losing at home to Marquette and Seton Hall with an ugly win at Creighton mixed in the middle. I’ve written about this plenty of times before, but if Providence is going to be as successful as they should be, it’s going to be the result of Dunn’s supporting cast showing up to play. They did last week, and it was Bentil that led the charge.


  • Brice Johnson, North Carolina: Johnson continued his push for National Player of the Year, as he averaged 23.0 points and 14.0 boards in two wins for the Tar Heels this week.
  • Jakob Poeltl, Utah: Poeltl was just OK in a blow out win at Washington State but he followed that up with 29 points, 10 boards and four assists as the Utes knocked off Pac-12 leaders Washington on Sunday night. Utah has now won three in a row.
  • Jalen Jones, Texas A&M: Jones went for 20 points twice last week as the Aggies grabbed total control of the SEC regular season race.
  • JeQuan Lewis, VCU: There are many teams in the country that are hotter than VCU right now, as the Rams are currently sitting at 7-0 atop the Atlantic 10. Lewis was the star this week, averaging 18.5 points and 7.5 assists with just a single turnover in two wins.
  • Elgin Cook, Oregon: Oregon steamrolled their way back into the Pac-12 discussion with a sweep of UCLA and USC this weekend. Cook played the starring role, averaging 21.5 points, 5.0 boards and 5.0 assists in the two wins.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Saint Mary’s

This was supposed to be a down year for the Gaels. That’s what usually happens when you’re coming off of a less-than-stellar season and losing five starters. But as of today, the Gaels are in sole possession of first place in the WCC, sitting at 18-2 on the season with an offense that ranks in the top ten in efficiency, according to KenPom, and a 1-0 record against Gonzaga.

That win came on Thursday, as Saint Mary’s rallied from 15 points down in the second half to knock off the Zags, their first win in the last nine games against the WCC’s resident power. They followed that up with a win over Portland over the weekend, and all of a sudden, the Gaels are back in the at-large bid conversation. Who knows how long that will last, but with a pair of talented lead guards in their back court, a couple of quality post scorers and more shooters than Randy Bennett knows what to do with, it’s safe to say at this point that the Gaels are for real.


  • Oregon: The Ducks stormed their way back into the Pac-12 race with a pair of wins over the LA schools this weekend.
  • Iowa State: No coach in college basketball needed a win worse than Steve Prohm needed the win over Oklahoma on Monday night. He answered the ‘What Would Hoiberg Do?‘ question with a statement win over the No. 1 team in the country, and landing another one over Kansas on Monday night would certainly help as well.
  • Temple: The Owls handed SMU their first loss of the season on Sunday afternoon in emphatic fashion, taking a 19 point second half lead and cruising to a win in snowy Philly.
  • Iowa: The Hawkeyes are now sitting at 7-0 in the Big Ten with a sweep of Purdue, a sweep of Michigan State and a win over Michigan. They are the hottest team in college basketball.
  • Cal: Tyrone who? The Golden Bears landed a critical 2-0 week, including a win over Arizona, despite playing without their star point guard.


No. 20 Duke at No. 15 Miami, Mon. 7:00 p.m.
No. 3 Kansas at No. 19 Iowa State, Mon. 9:00 p.m.
No. 5 Xavier at No. 16 Providence, Tue. 8:30 p.m.
No. 9 Iowa at No. 7 Maryland, Thu. 7:00 p.m.
No. 13 Virginia at No. 17 Louisville, Sat. 1:00 p.m.
No. 19 Iowa State at No. 10 Texas A&M, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

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.