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Team of the Week: Northwestern Wildcats

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Northwestern is going to the NCAA tournament for the first time in the history of the program.

There are still four weeks left before Selection Sunday and Northwestern has at least seven games to play in that time frame, but I don’t even think Northwestern is capable of Northwesterning this. On Sunday evening, while most were settling in to watch the Grammys, the Wildcats went into Madison and knocked off No. 7 Wisconsin, 66-59, despite playing without their leading scorer, Scottie Lindsey.

Chris Collins’ club now has a trio of top 35 wins, five more top 100 wins and no losses outside the top 70. Four of their top 100 wins are true road wins while a fifth came over Dayton on a neutral court. Four of their last six regular season games come at home, including games against Maryland and Purdue.

At this point, Northwestern would probably have to lose out in order to miss the NCAA tournament, and I just cannot see that being a thing that happens to them.

So congratulations, Wildcats.

For the first time ever, you should be able to celebrate something more than a trip to the NIT on Selection Sunday.

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THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • UCLA: The Bruins overcame a 19-point deficit at home against Oregon on Thursday night, and while it shouldn’t seem that surprising that a team with as much offensive firepower as UCLA has came make a comeback like that, it’s relevant because of the struggles the Bruins have had defensively. They haven’t guarded anyone all year, and they held an Oregon offense that was as hot as anyone over the previous game-and-a-half to 0.65 points-per-possession for the final 14 minutes.
  • Duke: Duke kept themselves in the thick of the ACC regular season title race with a pair of wins this week, beating arch-rival North Carolina on Thursday night before turning around 39 hours later and surviving Clemson in a letdown game. Duke has won five straight games, earned a top four seed in Saturday’s selection show bracket reveal and sit just a game out of first place in the league.
  • SMU: The Mustangs took over sole possession of first place in the AAC on Sunday evening when they knocked off No. 11 Cincinnati, cementing themselves as a top eight seed in the NCAA tournament and solidifying a résumé that was not as strong as a 22-4 record might indicate.
  • Gonzaga: At this point, it’s pretty safe to assume that Gonzaga is going to go undefeated for the regular season after they completed their season sweep of Saint Mary’s by going into Moraga on Gameday on Saturday night and trouncing the Gaels, 74-64. The Zags are now 26-0 and have yet to have a WCC opponent keep a game within single digits.
  • Purdue: Going into Assembly Hall and knocking off in-state rival Indiana is good enough. Having that be the game that turns the tides on Indiana’s season – Tom Crean is publicly crushing his player’s for their maturity issues while the Hoosiers sit at 15-11 on the season – makes it feel even better.

Trae Jefferson to transfer out of Texas Southern

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Texas Southern guard and NCAA tournament darling Trae Jefferson announced on Saturday that he’s leaving the school.

The 5-foot-7 Jefferson was sensational at times during his sophomore season with the Tigers as he put up 23.1 points, 4.6 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, helping lead Texas Southern to a victory in the 2018 NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton over North Carolina Central. One of the most entertaining talents in college basketball, Jefferson is leaving Texas Southern in-part because former head coach Mike Davis took the job at Detroit this offseason.

While Detroit is going to be the favorite to land Jefferson, because of his connection to Davis, it’ll be interesting to see what his transfer market looks like. Jefferson also made it clear on his Twitter page that he would like to be closer to his hometown of Milwaukee so that he can be closer to his ailing grandfather.

Given NCAA transfer rules, Jefferson would likely have to sit out next season before getting two more years of eligibility. But he could be applying for a waiver if he’s trying to be closer to home to deal with his family situation.

Nevada’s Josh Hall transfers to Missouri State

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Nevada lost a talented player from last season’s team as rising junior Josh Hall opted to transfer to Missouri State on Friday night.

The 6-foot-7 Hall is a former top-150 recruit who played a key part in the Wolf Pack’s postseason run as he elevated his play to average 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game during the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Hall also made the game-winning bucket to lift Nevada past No. 2 seed Cincinnati in the second round.

Although Hall picked up his play late in the year, he was coming off the bench most of his sophomore campaign as he averaged 6.9 points and 3.9 rebounds per game last season.

Since Nevada took in some talented transfers, while players like Jordan Caroline and the Martin twins opted not to turn pro, it left head coach Eric Musselman with too many scholarship players for the 2018-19 season. It looks like some of those issues are now going away as Hall is leaving for Missouri State and graduate transfer guard Ehab Amin opted to decommit from the school.

Nevada is expected to be a preseason top-10 team next season with all of the talent they have returning to the roster, along with the addition of some new pieces like McDonald’s All-American big man Jordan Brown.

Hall will likely have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules as he still has two years of eligibility remaining.

Chris Webber accepts Jim Harbaugh’s invitation to be honorary Michigan football captain

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The frosty relationship between Chris Webber and the University of Michigan could be thawing — thanks to an invitation from football head coach Jim Harbaugh.

On Friday, Harbaugh called in to WTKA’s “The M Zone” as show host Jamie Morris had Webber on the show. Harbaugh offered Webber the opportunity to be an honorary captain for the Michigan football team next season, to which Webber replied that he would love the opportunity.

Webber, a former member of the “Fab Five” who helped the Wolverines to two consecutive NCAA tournament title-game appearances in 1992 and 1993, has not associated directly with the school, or with other members of the Fab Five, for many years.

The NCAA mandated that Webber and Michigan not associate with one another for 10 years after the Ed Martin booster scandal. Webber has always been reluctant to participate in anything Michigan or Fab Five related. When the famous Fab Five documentary was made a few years ago, Webber was the only member of the quintet not to participate in the making of the film. Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson all have a solid relationship with the University of Michigan at this point.

Webber later criticized the film during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, as King and Rose fired back with responses to reignite the feud. In the past, Rose has also been vocal in his belief that Webber should apologize for what happened at Michigan, as the group is hoping to move forward.

Although Webber still isn’t mending fences with the other Fab Five members, or the basketball program, returning to Michigan in some kind of official capacity is a big deal considering his past with the school.

Harbaugh and Webber haven’t decided on a game for next season yet as that will be something to watch for over the next several months.

Akoy Agau returning to Louisville as graduate transfer

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Louisville received a boost to its frontcourt rotation on Friday as former big man Akoy Agau will return to the Cardinals as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-8 Agau originally committed and enrolled at Louisville for a season and a half to begin his college hoops career before transferring to Georgetown. After leaving the Hoyas to play at SMU last season, Agau received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after battling injury for much of his career.

Agau gives Louisville an experienced forward who should earn some solid minutes next season. With the Mustangs during the 2017-18 season, Agau averaged 5.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game in 16.1 minutes per contest.

While this isn’t the biggest splash for the Cardinals, they have plenty of scholarships to use for next season as new head coach Chris Mack tries to find a stable rotation. Getting a graduate transfer like Agau, who should be familiar with the school and the conference at the very least, is a nice step for a one-year placeholder.

NCAA President Mark Emmert got a $500,000 raise in 2016

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NCAA president Mark Emmert, the man in charge of a non-profit association that doesn’t have enough money to pay its laborers, received a $500,000 raise for the 2016 calendar year, bringing his total income to more than $2.4 million, according to an NCAA tax return that was obtained by USA Today.

That number actually pales in comparison to the salaries that are received by the commissioners of the Power 5 conferences.

But there’s not enough money to pay the players.

Nope.

Everyone is broke.

Carry on with your day, and pray for the well-being of NCAA administrators like Mark Emmert, whose salary is in no way whatsoever inflated by amateurism, which allows the schools and the NCAA to bank all of the advertising revenue that college basketball and football brings in and bars the players themselves from accessing that money.