Weekend Preview: Villanova-Creighton, Louisville-Indiana headline loaded New Year’s

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Note: Betting lines for Saturday’s game won’t be out until Friday afternoon or evening. This post will be updated then. For now, we’ll be using the projections on KenPom.com as a line. It’s usually pretty close to what Vegas sets.


No. 1 Villanova at No. 10 Creighton, Sat. 1:00 p.m.

The Big East is home to the biggest game of the day, as undefeated reigning champion Villanova will make the trek to Omaha, somewhere in middle america, to take on undefeated Creighton. That’s notable, because it’s just the second time in the history of the Big East that two undefeated teams will square off in conference play. The only other time it happened was in January of 1989, when Georgetown took on Seton Hall.

But there is so much more in this game. Creighton is one of, if not the most underrated team in college basketball. They are the nation’s best three-point shooting team. They are the seventh-most efficient offense in the country. They play at as fast of a pace offensively as anyone. They spread the floor and may actually have a better set of guards than Villanova does. What’s more is that the Bluejays matchup perfectly with the Wildcats. What makes Villanova so good is that they create mismatches everyone on the floor. Kris Jenkins can play the four or the five. Josh Hart can play any position on the floor. They can both guard big men. It’s a nightmare for opponents to deal with …

… but it’s exactly what Creighton does as well. Their four-man is Cole Huff, who is – or thinks he is – a natural wing. Their bigs, Justin Patton and Toby Hegner, are 7-foot and 6-foot-10, respectively, but shoot a combined 47.4 percent from three. Patton has the chance to be lottery pick one day.

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What’s more is that a loss here will essentially take Creighton out of the Big East title race. Yes, I know how that sounds with 16 games left, but think about it like this: Villanova has gone 16-2 in the Big East each of the last two seasons, and this team may be better than the team that won the national title last season. They’re not losing many games this season, and this loss would not only put Creighton a game behind the Wildcats, it would mean they would have to win in the return game in Philly to have any shot of winning the league outright. Forgive me if I don’t see that happening, which is what makes this game so important.

  • Prediction: Creighton historically gives Villanova trouble and plays in an arena that holds 17,000 people. That town will be fired up and so will the team. If you can get Creighton (+2), take it.

No. 6 Louisville at No. 16 Indiana, Sat. 12:30 p.m.

The matchup of styles here is quite intriguing. Louisville is the best defensive in the country, according to KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, and the number of different looks they can give on that end of the floor is a nightmare for teams that don’t have strong point guard play. Indiana doesn’t have strong point guard play but what they do have is a team that can score in transition, spread the floor with shooters and bang 15 threes in a game. The Hoosiers are the most unpredictable team in college basketball because they can quite literally win or lose any game they play.

What may be more interesting about this game is that one of these two teams is going to have their New Year’s Eve ruined and the future of their season questioned after this game. Indiana is coming off of a home loss to Nebraska which came two weeks after a loss to Butler in Indianapolis. The Hoosiers, who beat North Carolina and Kansas earlier this season, need to turn things around. Louisville, on the other hand, followed up a home win over Kentucky by getting punished in that same building by Virginia.

  • Prediction: Louisville’s defense will be too much for Indiana, even in Indianapolis, so give me Louisville (-3).
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - DECEMBER 06: Kyle Guy #5 of the Virginia Cavaliers goes to the basket in the second half during a game against the East Carolina Pirates at John Paul Jones Arena on December 6, 2016 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Cavaliers defeated the Pirates 76-53. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Kyle Guy (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

No. 20 Florida State at No. 12 Virginia, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

Florida State has quite a bit of talent on their roster this year, namely future lottery pick Jonathan Isaac, and a gaudy record through the first seven weeks of the year. But they haven’t beaten anyone yet that would make you believe they are “for real”. They’ll get a chance to do just that against a Virginia team that is coming off of a resounding win at Louisville last week.

The ‘Hoos are going to have to figure out a way to deal with both Isaac and Dwayne Bacon, who are two of the best scorers in the ACC and guys with the kind of size and athleticism that can conceivably give Virginia’s perimeter options some trouble. It is important to note, however, that FSU is a team that likes to run, and Virginia is as good as anyone in the country at taking away the transition game.

  • Prediction: I think Virginia runs away with this. Like Louisville, this just isn’t a good matchup, so I’ll be on Virginia (-10).


  • No. 11 West Virginia at Oklahoma State, Fri. 4:00 p.m.: There are two intriguing things about this game: 1. West Virginia’s press going up against Jawun Evans, and 2. Brad Underwood, a former Bob Huggins assistant, taking a swing at Huggy Bear. Underwood upset WVU in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament, when he was the head coach of Stephen F. Austin. Pick: I loved Oklahoma State at (+5.5), but the line has moved to OSU (+1), in which case I’m on West Virginia
  • No. 22 USC at No. 21 Oregon, Fri. 10:00 p.m.: Coming off of the high of a home win over UCLA on Wednesday night, the Ducks have to regroup to take on a still-undefeated USC team. The Trojans picked off Oregon State this week and are still playing without Bennie Boatwright. I think the Trojans are a good team, but this is a tough ask. Pick: Oregon (-7)
  • No. 18 Arizona at Cal, Fri. 11:00 p.m., and Stanford, Sun. 8:00 p.m.: Arizona has themselves quite a weekend with a pair of road games to kick off Pac-12 play. We’ll get into this more in a bit. Pick for Friday: Arizona (+1) over Cal
  • No. 5 Duke at Virginia Tech, Sat. 12:00 p.m.: Virginia Tech is a good basketball team that has been glossed over this season. This is their first chance to prove it. Pick: I think the Blue Devils make a statement Saturday, so I’ll be on Duke (-6)
  • No. 24 Notre Dame at Pitt, Sat. 2:00 p.m.: There are going to be a lot of sneaky-good games in the ACC this season, and this is one of them. The Irish make the road trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers in a game that will feature about 12 6-foot-8 combo-forwards. Michael Young of Pitt is one of the best players you’ve never heard of. Pick: Notre Dame (-1)
EUGENE, OR - DECEMBER 28: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks hits the game winning shot over Lonzo Ball #2 and Bryce Alford #20 of the UCLA Bruins on December 28, 2016 at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Dillon Brooks (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)


1. Conference play officially begins this weekend: While league play has slowly started to happen this week, it won’t be until this weekend that conference play starts in full. We get a full slate on games, starting on Friday afternoon, as the Big 12 and the Pac-12 get festivities going a day earlier than usual. As anyone with even a mild interest in college basketball can tell you, it gets real once those league foes start coming to town, and if I can guarantee one thing this weekend, it’s that …

2. … there will be upsets: The hardest thing to do in college basketball is to win road games in league play. League rivals know each other so well and the crowds create such a difficult environment to play in it’s inevitable. And this weekend, it just so happens that the only top ten team playing a home game is No. 10 Creighton, who hosts No. 1 Villanova.

No. 2 UCLA is at Oregon State on Friday night. No. 5 Duke and No. 9 North Carolina both tip off at noon on Saturday at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, respectively. No. 6 Louisville is at Indiana. No. 7 Gonzaga is at Pacific.

Things get particularly interesting in the Big 12, the conference that had the best record in non-conference play of anyone. TCU will get their chance to prove their 11-1 record is legit when they host No. 3 Kansas on Friday night. Oklahoma will have the opportunity to bounce-back from some disappointing non-conference losses when they host No. 4 Baylor in the opener. Even Bobby Huggins will have a chance to get some revenge on Brad Underwood as No. 11 West Virginia visits Oklahoma State.

Things are going to get weird this weekend.

They always do in league play.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15: Luke Kennard #5 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts against the Kansas Jayhawks 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)
Luke Kennard (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

3. Duke will play their first game without Grayson Allen at Virginia Tech: It feels like Duke has all of the story lines this season. First, it was Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden getting injured. Then, there were questions about when those two would finally return. After that, those questions landed at the feet of Harry Giles III, who still hasn’t really shown up yet this season. And now, nearly two months into the season, we have to wonder about Grayson Allen, the NBC Sports Preseason National Player of the Year. He’s been suspended indefinitely due to his third tripping incident of 2016.

The issue isn’t necessarily when he will return; I’d be shocked if Allen wasn’t in the lineup when Duke plays at Florida State in two weeks. The issue is A) who will Allen be when he returns to the floor, and B) how is Duke going to react to his absence? They’ve been fine without Tatum and fine with Allen banged up, but this feels different. Allen is supposed to be one of the veteran leaders on this roster and he’s out here tripping people and throwing tantrums on the bench in a game where Luke Kennard told reporters that he didn’t think his team was “unselfish” enough.

Oh, and Virginia Tech is good and scrappy and everything you’d expect out of a team coached by Buzz Williams. This will be a test.

4. Arizona will have a chance to prove their mettle in the Pac-12 race: The No. 18 Wildcats have been flying under the radar a little bit. Many wrote them off due to the disastrous start they had to the season, losing Ray Smith, appearing to lose Allonzo Trier and watching Parker Jackson-Cartwright go down with a bad ankle injury. But a funny thing happened to Sean Miller’s team: he coached ’em up. Lauri Markkanen has been terrific all year while Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons, two super-talented freshmen that arrived at Arizona with red flags, have gotten better game-by-game.

Now it looks like Arizona might have Jackson-Cartwright available this weekend, meaning they’ll essentially be at full strength as they pay visits to Cal and Stanford. Why is this relevant? Because UCLA is unquestionably awesome and Oregon looked like they were back to being awesome when they beat UCLA on Wednesday. This is Arizona’s chance to make a statement: “We Outchea, Too.”

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

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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.

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.