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NCAA Tournament Friday Recap: USC, Rhode Island score upsets in early games, chalk holds late

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The biggest upset of the NCAA Tournament’s first round went down on Friday afternoon when No. 11 seed USC, a First Four team, knocked off No. 6 seed SMU as the Trojans only led for 50 seconds of that game. Elijah Stewart knocked in the game-winning three-pointer as the Trojans once again came back from a double-digit deficit to win.

Following in USC’s footsteps was No. 11 seed Rhode Island out of the Midwest Region as they defeated No. 6 seed Creighton. A popular first-round upset pick, the Rams proved those people right by getting five players to finish in double-figures as Jeff Dowtin led the way with 23 points.

The third trendy “upset” pick of the day was No. 10 Wichita State picking off No. 7 seed Dayton, and the Shockers made that happen. That sets up a fascinating battle between the Shockers and, as long as they don’t choke, No. 2 seed Kentucky. All the story lines.

Friday’s action got off to a positive start once again as No. 7 seed Michigan took down No. 10 seed Oklahoma State in the Midwest Region as the matchup of point guards Derrick Walton Jr. vs. Jawun Evans didn’t disappoint. Both elite floor leaders flirted with triple-doubles as Michigan and Walton continue to look like a dangerous team in this tournament. I have more on Walton’s ridiculous recent stretch here.

There is a reason that Tom Izzo is known as Mr. March. Despite trailing by as many as a dozen points in the first half, the No. 9 Michigan State Spartans knocked off No. 8 Miami by 20 points. Freshmen Nick Ward and Miles Bridges were just too much for the Hurricanes to handle.

Late turnovers and a controversial Flagrant 1 call helped lead No. 8 seed Arkansas over No. 9 seed Seton Hall in the South Region. The Razorbacks took advantage of two untimely Pirate turnovers and a Flagrant 1 call on Seton Hall’s Desi Rodriguez with 18 seconds left to get by with a win.

No. 2 seed Kentucky advanced despite getting an off night from Malik Monk, and No. 3 seed UCLA advanced despite playing defense like a CYO team.

FRIDAY’S BEST

Sindarious Thornwell and P.J. Dozier, South Carolina — Thornwell and Dozier combined for 50 points as the Gamecocks knocked off No. 10 seed Marquette, coming from behind to beat the Golden Eagles in Greenville, S.C. This was the first NCAA tournament win for the South Carolina basketball program since 1973. That’s 44 years ago.

Elijah Stewart, USC — The junior guard is your hero for the Trojans as he knocked down the game-winning three-pointer with 36 seconds left. After going scoreless in 31 minutes during USC’s win over Providence in the First Four, Stewart responded with a team-high 22 points as he was a huge factor going 6-for-13 from three-point range.

Derrick Walton Jr. vs. Jawun Evans — This one got the day going as Michigan and Oklahoma State had a one-point game that went into the 90s. Walton and the Wolverines won as the senior finished with 26 points, 11 assists and five rebounds. Evans did plenty of damage of his own as he ended up with 23 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds while also becoming a hero for some with his buzzer-beating three.

Troy Caupain, Cincinnati — Caupain had a disappointing senior season, but he saved his best game for the biggest moment, going for a season-high 23 points in a win over No. 11 Kansas State. With the win, the Bearcats because the only No. 6 seed to advance.

WHO GOT UPSET?

THE REST OF FRIDAY’S ACTION

  • It didn’t take long before No. 1 seed North Carolina ran away from No. 16 seed Texas Southern for a double-digit win. Justin Jackson knocked down five three-pointers to finish with 21 points.
  • No. 1 seed Kansas made light work of No. 16 seed UC Davis.
  • No. 2 seed Louisville had an off-day from Donovan Mitchell but had a balanced effort in a double-digit win over No. 15 Jacksonville State in the Midwest Region. Mangok Mathiang led the Cardinals with 18 points.
  • It took a little bit more effort than No. 2 Duke would have liked, but the Blue Devils eventually pulled away from No. 15 Troy to advance to the second round.
  • For a little while it looked like No. 3 seed Baylor might have difficulty with another double-digit seed but they pulled away from No. 14 seed New Mexico State in the East Region. Al Freeman paced the Bears with 21 points while Johnathan Motley had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Easy win for No. 3 seed Oregon in the Midwest Region as they scored 55 points in the first half to run past No. 14 seed Iona. Sophomore guard Tyler Dorsey had 24 points for the Ducks while Jordan Bell had 17 points and 10 rebounds.

North Carolina gets commitment from four-star 2020 forward

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North Carolina has its first piece in its 2020 recruiting class.

Day’Ron Sharpe, a 6-foot-9 forward, committed to the Tar Heels on Sunday, according to multiple reports.

The Winterville, N.C. native picked Roy Williams’ in-state program over offers from Florida, Georgetown and Virginia, among others, after a second visit to Chapel Hill recently.

“We weren’t expecting it, and it kind of came out of the blue,” his father, Derrick Sharpe, told 247 Sports about the commitment. “He told coach Williams and coach was just really excited about it.”

Sharpe averaged 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game during his sophomore season.

“He’s a very multi-talented player,” Dwayne West, executive director of the Garner Road Bulldogs told the Raleigh News & Observer. “He does several things very well at a high rate. He can obviously score the ball around the basket, has a solid shot and is actually a very good playmaker. Handles the ball very well.”

Sharpe is a four-star, consensus top-75 player in the 2020 class. Williams also has one commit in the 2019 class, top-50 point guard Jeremiah Francis, who, like Sharpe, committed to the Tar Heels the summer before his junior season.

Former Western Michigan basketball player cleared of murder

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A jury has acquitted a former Western Michigan basketball player of murder in the shooting death of a fellow student but convicted him of armed robbery and a weapons charge.

The Kalamazoo County jury deliberated two days before returning the verdict for Joeviair Kennedy. He faces a possible life sentence when he’s sentenced July 16.

Nineteen-year-old Jacob Jones was killed near the campus on Dec. 8, 2016.

Co-defendant Jordan Waire of Muskegon was convicted last month of felony murder, armed robbery and weapons charges.

Prosecutors said it was Waire who shot Jones. Kennedy has said they took marijuana and about $25.

Kennedy’s attorney, Eusebio Solis, said his client agreed to the robbery but not the killing.

Kennedy was arrested in 2016 at the start of his second basketball season.

Kansas, Missouri to play alumni game for charity

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Kansas and Missouri are putting their differences aside for charity.

Kareem Rush, a former Missouri Tiger and the brother of Brandon Rush, a former Kansas Jayhawk, is organizing a game called “Rivarly Renewed“, which will pit alumni from Missouri against alumni from KU.

On July 28th, the two teams will face-off in a game where the proceeds will go towards benefitting the Boys and Girls Club as well as Kareem Rush’s “Rush Forward Foundation”.

It’s also a chance for the Tigers and the Jayhawks to reignite a rivalry that has been dormant since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC, although they did play a scrimmage prior to the start of last season. There is no lack of hatred between those two fan bases and any chance they get to square off is a good thing.

There should also be some big names involved. According to the Kansas City Star, Mario Chalmers, Cole Aldrich, Drew Gooden, Kim English, Ricky Paulding and Marcus Denmon are among the players that will be participating.

I love it.

Can we make sure that Bill Self is invited so that he can get convinced to play the Tigers in a non-conference game?

Doppelgangers Grayson Allen, Ted Cruz finally meet

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Ever since Grayson Allen burst onto the national scene during the 2015 Final Four, the former Duke star has been called a Ted Cruz lookalike.

That, frankly, is not exactly a compliment, and it is a comparison that Allen initially bristled at, but now that his college career, Allen seems to be embracing the long-running joke.

We know that because Allen met Cruz this weekend as he helped the senator from Texas beat Jimmy Kimmel in a game of one-on-one:

The actually game won’t be broadcast until Monday night so we won’t know exactly how Cruz won or what Allen did to help, but Cruz did beat Kimmel 11-9.

We will get getting our answers this evening.

2018 NBA Draft: What top ten picks are the most likely to be busts?

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The 2018 NBA Draft is loaded with top-end talent and potential future all-stars.

The fascinating thing about this group in the top ten is that you can make a solid case that most of these guys could become stars.

On the flipside, all of them also have some kind of glaring weakness.

Deandre Ayton is likely going No. 1 overall and there is a healthy contingent of draft analysts and skeptics who point to his lack of defensive presence as a 7-footer.

Some of these same detractors also believe the NBA is continually going smaller — meaning giants like Ayton will get played off the floor by certain small-ball lineups like the Golden State Warriors just did to some teams during another title run.

That’s just one example.

Going down the list of top-ten prospects and you can point to a lot of potential flaws that could lead to downfalls. But here are two top-ten prospects who could wind up being busts.

MICHAEL PORTER JR.

Before his freshman season at Missouri, I thought Michael Porter Jr. was going to put up monster numbers and be a Player of the Year candidate. His top-five status in the 2018 NBA Draft appeared to be safe. After a decorated high school career in which he destroyed most challengers and played well on the international stage with USA Basketball, Porter looked like he could be a jumbo scoring wing at the game’s highest level.

Then the back and hip issues began.

Porter only played in three games during his lone season with the Tigers — including two uninspiring postseason efforts in which he couldn’t get his shot to fall while trying to prove that he was healthy. And now it feels like there are a million questions about MPJ and his health.

During the NBA Draft process, Porter has cancelled and rescheduled pro days, kept medical records private for long lengths of time and given plenty of teams pause as to whether or not he is truly healthy. If Porter’s back and hip stay as a lingering issue then it changes who he is as a basketball player. Already a bit rigid, with hips that aren’t particularly fluid, Porter could have trouble moving laterally in an increasingly quick and nimble league that is only getting smaller.

Porter’s jumper also uses his whole body to elevate. It didn’t look nearly the same during those March games where he tried to gut it out. And Porter has been such a gifted scorer during his high school career that he’s never had to worry about passing or making others around him better.

Some have also questioned Porter’s ego and his ability to be a willing teammate — which are legitimate questions in a league that often sees its stars feud with others and move on to new teams.

Again, if Porter is fully healthy and ready to go, he could be a double-double threat on the wing and a 20-point per game scorer. But if Porter isn’t healthy? Some team is taking a big risk on not only taking an injured player but passing on a talented healthy player who could morph into an all-star.

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TRAE YOUNG

Perhaps the most fascinating prospect in the draft because of his insane range and overall offensive ability, Young is going to be one of the names to watch on draft night.

Some mock drafts feel he’s a top-three talent, or even the best prospect overall because of his new-age ability to pull-up and hit threes from 30 feet away. Others feel like he’s a potential defensive liability who doesn’t necessarily play winning basketball all the time because of his shot selection and high number of turnovers.

While Young could be a monster steal for some team hoping to get the next Steph Curry, those comparisons are also going to be dangerous, while likely following Young the rest of this career.

For Young, it could be all about fit and who winds up taking him.

When Young was in high school, he was at his best when he had elite talent around him. Michael Porter Jr. was the go-to scorer on a MoKan team that won the Nike Peach Jam. Young also looked solid during stretches with USA Basketball when he had tons of weapons around him.

Once teams in the Big 12 figured out his individual offensive tendencies after a hot start last season, they forced him into being a playmaker and the Sooners struggled to win games. Of course, the lack of talent around him doesn’t fall on Young, who didn’t recruit his teammates at Oklahoma. But what happens if Young falls to a dysfunctional franchise like the Orlando Magic? He’ll be expected to be a savior right away with minimal help — while also having to overcome glaring deficiencies like perimeter defense and a high number of turnovers.

And how do you think NBA players are going to react to the task of guarding Young? There’s an old Dream Team story about Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen practically fighting so they could defend future Chicago Bulls teammate Toni Kukoc one-on-one during the ’92 Olympics. They had heard about the hype surrounding Kukoc, even though he had never played in an NBA game.

After being a national media darling much of last season, Young is going to get a lot of strong one-on-one defenders who are hungry to slow him down. Game plans will revolve around limiting Young’s touches and ability to launch shots. Teams and veteran players are going to do everything they can to frustrate Young and make life tough.

Young is talented and skilled enough to make all of these questions go away. He’s a unique talent who could very well end up being worthy of all of the hype. But he’s going to need some help reaching his full potential, and some of those things are out of his control.