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Bone leads hot-shooting Tennessee past Arkansas 84-66

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ST. LOUIS — Admiral Schofield insists Tennessee’s play in the Southeastern Conference Tournament isn’t about validating the school’s remarkable and surprising regular season.

Rather, trying to win the Volunteers’ first tournament championship in almost 40 years is always where the Tennessee junior expected to be — even when the Rocky Top faithful were disappointed by a preseason pick of 13th in the SEC.

Tennessee will have that chance at its first conference tournament title since 1979, courtesy of an 84-66 win over Arkansas in the semifinals on Saturday. The No. 13 Volunteers (25-7) showed off for all the SEC to see against the sixth-seeded Razorbacks, putting on a shooting exhibition in the first half and setting up a third meeting this season with Kentucky in Sunday’s championship game.

“We just have a standard we’re trying to play toward,” Schofield said. “The biggest thing is we try to go out to every game with that mindset, like we’re trying to perfect our standard. We haven’t done that yet, so we’re still a hungry team. We still want more.”

Tennessee shared the SEC’s regular-season title with No. 16 Auburn, doing so after being picked to finish next to last in the league during the preseason. The Volunteers won their opening tournament game over Mississippi State, and they continued their recent hot streak against sixth-seeded Arkansas (23-11) — winning their sixth straight and for the 13th time in their last 15 games.

Jordan Bone set the tone for Tennessee’s first-half shooting exhibition and finished with 19 points. The sophomore scored 17 of his points in the first half, during which the Volunteers hit 11 of their first 12 shots and 19 of 25 (76 percent) overall while building a 48-29 halftime lead.

Schofield added 16 points for Tennessee, while Grant Williams, Kyle Alexander and James Daniel III finished with 12 points apiece.

But it was Bone who left the weary Razorbacks search for answers in the first half, hitting 7 of 7 from the field and all of his 3-point attempts. He finished 8 of 11 from the field and his three 3-pointers were a part of an overall 11-of-17 shooting effort from behind the arc for the Volunteers.

“First half, we arguably played the best basketball we have all year,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “Jordan Bone was terrific, and the team feeds off him when he’s out there playing with the speed and quickness that he has.”

Daryl Macon scored 19 points to lead the sixth-seeded Razorbacks, who had won eight of their previous 10 games. Jaylen Barford added 14, and Anton Beard and Darious Hall had 11 each in the loss.

Arkansas closed to within nine points early in the second half, but it was unable to climb all the way back from Tennessee’s first-half barrage.

RESTED VOLS

The game was the third in three days for the Razorbacks, who defeated No. 3 seed Florida on Friday night and left the Scottrade Center less than 15 hours before Saturday’s tip. Because they were one of the top four seeds, the Volunteers were playing only their second game of the tournament. “I thought the toll of three days might have caught up with us,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said.

BIG PICTURE

Arkansas: The Razorbacks defeated Tennessee 95-93 in overtime on Dec. 30 in Fayetteville, a game in which Macon and Barford combined to score 61 points. The duo had 33 points on Saturday on a combined 9-of-18 shooting, but the rest of Arkansas’ players shot only 35.5 percent (11 of 31) in the loss.

Tennessee: The Volunteers won their last SEC Tournament championship in 1979 when they defeated Kentucky in the title game. The school has reached the championship game 10 times, tied for the third-most appearances in the conference, and it lost to Mississippi State in its most recent title game in 2009.

UP NEXT

Arkansas awaits its NCAA Tournament opponent.

The Volunteers face Kentucky on Sunday.

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.