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2018 NCAA Tournament: Upset Specials!

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FIRST ROUND

No. 12 DAVIDSON over No. 5 KENTUCKY: The biggest reason that I like this upset to happen is that Davidson runs an offense that is a nightmare to prepare for. If you talk to coaches in the Atlantic 10, that’s what they’ll tell you. And this Kentucky team, made up of all freshmen and sophomores that have never experienced an offense like this, are going to be asked to slow it down after learning about it for three days? We’ll see.

But the other side of this is that Davidson also has some talent. Peyton Aldridge is probably the best player — currently, as of today — that is going to be on the floor in this game while Kellan Grady is a freshman with NBA potential in his own right. This will be a fun game.

No. 12 SOUTH DAKOTA STATE over No. 5 OHIO STATE: There are four things that South Dakota State has going for them when it comes to picking upsets:

  1. They lead the nation in turnover percentage.
  2. They are top 20 nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.
  3. They are top 30 nationally in three-point shooting percentage.
  4. They have Mike Daum, who is a matchup nightmare for the Buckeyes.

All the dots connect on this one.

No. 11 LOYOLA-CHICAGO over No. 6 MIAMI and No. 3 TENNESSEE: The Ramblers ended up with a pretty perfect draw for a team looking to make a run. They are a good defensive team going up against Miami in the first round while Miami will be without their best player. They can cut off penetration, and if you do that, you cut off Miami’s offense. Then they draw Tennessee, who is good but is certainly not unbeatable this season. They may be the best matchup for Loyola when it comes to a No. 3 seed. If there is going to be a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16, I think it will be the Ramblers.

No. 13 MARSHALL over No. 4 WICHITA STATE: This pick is relatively simple for me: Marshall run one of the wildest, most up-tempo offensive systems you’ll ever see. Wichita State really struggles to guard people. This is the kind of game that could end up getting played in the 80s or 90s, and if that is the case Marshall can absolutely win that.

SECOND ROUND

No. 9 ALABAMA over No. 1 VILLANOVA: The dots on this one connect. There are, essentially, two things that need to be done in order to beat this Villanova team: You have to be able to run them off of the three-point line and you need to have a dynamic playmaker at the lead guard spot to take advantage of some of their defensive deficiencies. The Crimson Tide are 13th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency. They’re top 20 nationally in defensive three-point percentage. And they have this guy named Collin Sexton, who is pretty good.

Now, remember, Alabama still has to beat Virginia Tech first. And they are a team with 15 losses this season that didn’t play well away from home until those two games in the SEC tournament. But strictly from a strength-on-strength perspective, I think this matchup makes some sense.

No. 10 PROVIDENCE over No. 2 NORTH CAROLINA: Where North Carolina has a tendency to struggle is with ball-screen defense, and one of the things that Ed Cooley loves to do more than just about any other coach in the country is to … run ball-screens. Cooley’s proven his coaching chops over the years, and there aren’t many coaches out there who are better when it comes being able to scheme a way to get his playmakers in a position to, you know, make plays. Kyron Cartwright is that guy this year, and if the Friars can get past Texas A&M, this may be the matchup to look at when it comes to a No. 2 seed losing.

Keep in mind, in each of the last eight NCAA tournament, a No. 2 seed has failed to make it out of the first weekend of the tournament. Will North Carolina be this year’s victim?

Ohio State grabs five-star 2019 point guard D.J. Carton

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Ohio State landed one of the biggest commitments so far this summer on Saturday as five-star Class of 2019 point guard D.J. Carton pledged to the Buckeyes.

The 5-foot-11 Carton burst onto the national recruiting scene this spring as he went from a relative unknown into a five-star prospect. Although Carton doesn’t play on a major shoe-company circuit he impressed national scouts and college coaches with his play during the April live evaluation period with Quad Cities Elite — the same program that produced quality college players like Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ and Montana State’s Tyler Hall.

An explosive athlete who can play above the rim, Carton showed a high amount of upside during the USA Basketball U18 tryouts in June as he competed against many of the top players in his class.

Ohio State is landing a key piece at an opportune time as they now have a lead guard of the future to help build around. Carton is only the third five-star prospect to commit from the Class of 2019 so far, as he’s the No. 17 overall prospect in the Rivals national rankings. Carton joins in-state four-star wing Alonzo Gaffney in the Buckeyes’ 2019 recruiting class as Ohio State has the makings of a potential top 10 recruiting class.

With where Ohio State was last summer, with head coach Chris Holtmann taking the job in June and the roster lacking scholarship players, the Buckeyes have had a monster turnaround in the last 14 months. Ohio State now, once again, looks like a scary team when it comes to recruiting as they should be a major factor for some elite prospects.

Alabama lands four-star wing Juwan Gary

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Alabama added a quality wing to its Class of 2019 recruiting haul on Friday as four-star Juwan Gary pledged to the Crimson Tide.

The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Gary has been a known national prospect since his freshman season as the South Carolina native is an athletic two-way wing who thrives in the open court. Although Gary still needs to polish up his jumper, he has the potential to be an impact player in the SEC, especially if Alabama gets him going in transition.

Gary joins four-star forward Diante Smith in the Crimson Tide recruiting class in 2019 as now head coach Avery Johnson and his staff can focus more of their efforts on adding to a potentially strong class. Pulling Gary out of South Carolina — especially in light of recent NCAA tournament success from in-state programs like South Carolina and Clemson — is an impressive recruiting win for Alabama.

Former UCLA guard Billy Knight was facing child molestation charges before suicide

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Former UCLA guard Billy Knight, who took his own life earlier this week, was arrested in June for sexually abusing a nine-year old girl, according to court documents that were obtained by The Mercury News.

The alleged assaults occurred in April of 2017 and Knight was reportedly arrested in Arizona in June. He was being charged with two counts of sexual conduct with a minor, two counts of sexual abuse, and two counts of molestation of a child.

Knight posted a video to YouTube prior to his death saying that he had lived a life of “sin”.

Jalek Felton signs pro contract in Europe

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Jalek Felton’s college basketball career is over.

The former North Carolina point guard has signed a pro contract with Olimpija Lubiana, a club team in Slovenia, they announced.

“I’m happy to join a club like Petrol Olimpija,” Felton said in a statement. “This is a club with a rich tradition, where many NBA players have begun their careers. For me, this is a big step. I know that this will be a great challenge for me and I am ready to go there and work. My agent told me that Olimpija will play in various competitions and that makes me all the more pleased. Playing in such competitions with Olympia in Europe will prepare me for playing in the NBA. The city looks nice and I heard that basketball there is a religion, so this will be an interesting experience.”

Felton, the nephew of former UNC guard Ray Felton, was a five-star prospect that played in 22 games as a freshman with the Tar Heels. But he was suspended from the program in January and, in March, withdrew from school.

He averaged just 2.9 points in his one season in Chapel Hill.

Creighton lands local 2019 commit

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Omaha isn’t exactly thought of as a high school basketball hot bed, but Creighton has had success mining its hometown for talent in recent years, most notably in recent NBA draft picks Justin Patton and Khyri Thomas.

The Bluejays went back to the well Thursday by securing the commitment of Shereef Mitchell, a 6-foot guard from local Burke High School, he announced via social media.

“Being a kid from Omaha you dream of playing for Creighton and in front of the hotown fans,” Mitchell wrote. “That is something I want to do  and I don’t want to turn that opportunity down.

“I can’t wait to play in front of my family, friends and the best fans in the world!”

Burke was offered by Greg McDermott’s staff just earlier this week, adding to a list of offers that included Bradley, Loyola Chicago and South Dakota State.

Burke recently graduated from his Omaha high school, but will reclassify to 2019 after spending a season with Sunrise Christian in Wichita, Kan.

“I really feel like I will be a way better player than what I am right now after my year at Sunrise,” Mitchell told the Omaha World-Herald. “I think I could have a shot at being an impact player right away and possibly starting after a year there.”

Burke averaged 24.6 points and 3.8 assists per game as a high school senior, earning state player of the year honors in the process. He’s hoping to extend the line of Omaha products to thrive at Creighton.

“I’m a kid from Omaha, and getting an offer from Creighton is something kids dream of and it would be hard for me to pass up,” Mitchell told the World-Herald. “Seeing players like Khyri Thomas and Justin Patton, two kids from (Omaha public schools) that are in the NBA, it gives you hope that you can do the same thing.”