No. 7 Kansas beat No. 1 Duke thanks to Frank Mason’s game-winner

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NEW YORK — Kansas was my pick to win the national title in September.

They were my pick to win the national title when the season started last Friday.

They were my pick to win it all even when they lost to Indiana in the Armed Forces Classic, and they would have been my pick to win the national title had they lost to Duke in the Champions Classic on Tuesday night.

They did not lose to the Blue Devils.

The No. 7 Jayhawks left their troubles in Hawai’i, getting 21 points, five assists and the game-winning bucket from Frank Mason in a 77-75 win over a depleted No. 1 Duke in Madison Square Garden.

As Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski told Mason after the game, it was a “big time shot by a big time player.”

The Blue Devils were without Harry Giles III, as he is still recovering from a knee scope he had in September, while Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden both sat out as they are working their way back from a foot and “lower leg” injury, respectively.

Mason was the story, however. He was, once again, incredible, but I’ll get to that in a second.

The bigger story is that Kansas needed this win more than you probably realize.

It’s hard to call any game a must-win five days into the season, particularly when that win involves a team like Kansas, who is probably going to win the Big 12 title and who will undoubtedly end up in the NCAA tournament barring a Duke-esque run of injuries.

But Kansas is in a unique situation this season. This was the last chance for the Jayhawks to get a marquee win on their résumé until a January 30th visit to No. 2 Kentucky. The rest of their non-conference schedule is headlined with programs that are better in theory than they will be on the floor. Stanford is a middle-of-the-road Pac-12 team. The same can be said about Nebraska in the Big Ten and Georgia, should Kansas get the Bulldogs in the CBE Classic, in the SEC. Davidson? They’re OK. UNLV? Gross.

Then there is the Big 12, which isn’t nearly as good as it has been in past seasons. There may not be another top 25 team in the league this year – that depends on how you view a Baylor team that beat No. 4 Oregon without Dillon Brooks at home – but the bottom-line is that it doesn’t look like there are going to be many chances for the Jayhawks to land the kind of victories they would need in league play to earn a No. 1 seed.

Which is what makes this win so important. On Selection Sunday, we may all remember that Duke was without three of their top four players, but that won’t factor into where they get bracketed. Injuries matter for who was missing when you lose. They are not considered when discussing teams that you’ve beaten, and if tonight taught us anything, it’s that Duke is going to be scary-good if and when they finally get healthy.

Come March, this win is going to look sensational, and Kansas is not going to have too many more chances to get wins that look that way this season.

Back to Mason, were just five days into the season, but he is undoubtedly the front runner for National Player of the Year despite the fact that he is playing on a team that is just 1-1. After two games against top ten teams, Mason is averaged 25.5 points, 7.0 assists and 5.0 boards while getting to the line 22 times and, ya know, hitting a game-winner in MSG.

Perhaps more important, however, is the fact that he totally took over both games down the stretch. That’s who he is for the Kansas team, and considering that the Jayhawks are dealing with some of the growing pains that come with building a roster entirely around freshmen, it’s a luxury that other programs aren’t necessarily afforded.

“Frank made some plays tonight that were … ,” head coach Bill Self said, trailing off as he did the real-life version of ‘SMH’, as if he couldn’t believe how lucky he was that a kid that a kid that originally committed to Towson was torching the No. 1 team in the country for him.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15: Devonte' Graham #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks puts up a layup over Amile Jefferson #21 of the Duke Blue Devils in the second half during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Devonte’ Graham (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

And the scary part?

Self isn’t doing anything more than giving Mason the rock and letting him do what he can do. It’s what we like to call the ‘Do Him’ offense.

“The last three minutes we were just wasting time and putting him in pick and roll situations,” Graham said.

“Quite a play we called,” Self added with a laugh. “‘Get out of [Mason’s] way and he’ll shoot it.’ He’s made a lot of big plays for us. He’s a stud.”

There isn’t a player in the country that is better in a big moment than Mason, and what should be comforting for Kansas fans is that he’s not alone in that back court.

“I’m really big on strong faces and leadership,” Coach K said of Mason, whose stoic demeanor makes him appear incapable of emoting during a game. “He gives the face of a great leader all the time. Big time guard. Big time winner.”

Devonte’ Graham, who originally committed to Appalachian State, was just as impressive for the Jayhawks before he started cramping up. He finished with an impressive 13-point performance, buoying Kansas early as the Jayhawks struggled to gain a foothold in the first half.

“[Graham] could’ve made the same play,” Mason said of his his game-winner.

“Those guys are both pitbulls,” Self added. “They have an assassin mentality. They bring our team as much toughness as anybody does. We don’t always play pretty, but [with them] we can compete.”

Freshman Josh Jackson, who was rated as a first-team preseason all-american by NBC Sports, was on the verge of a sensational game, finishing with 15 points in 18 minutes. But he fouled out thanks, in part, to a technical foul he earned in the first half when he slapped the ball out of a Duke player’s hands after a foul was called. Udoka Azubuike also provided critical minutes, grabbing 12 rebounds and adding six points in just 15 minutes off the bench.

But it was the play of Mason and Graham, a pair of guards that were rated as mid-major prospects in high school, that led the Jayhawks to this win. It was the play of Mason and Graham that forced overtime in Kansas’ loss to Indiana.

And it will be the play of Mason and Graham, who make up the best back court in college basketball, that will be the reason the Jayhawks will compete for a national title this season.

“[They don’t] fit the eye test with length and height but [they’ve] got some things you can’t teach,” Self said. “Intangibles that are as good as anybody in america possess.”

“There isn’t much they can’t do.”

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.

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.”