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North Carolina releases loaded non-conference schedule

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The Tar Heels released their non-conference schedule over the weekend, and it is about as difficult as any that you will find from the top of the college basketball world.

Let’s start with this nugget: Roy Williams will play his first two games of the season on the road against mid-major competition. He opens at Wofford — who, by the way, won in the Dean Dome last season — and he’ll follow that up by playing at Elon three days later. UNC’s first home game will come against former assistant Jared Haase and Stanford before finally playing a couple of cupcakes.

UNC is then off to Vegas to play in the Continental Tire Invitational, whether they get Texas in the opener and either Michigan State or UCLA the next night, before a road trip up to Ann Arbor to face off with Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

After another home date with another former assistant — UNCW and C.B. McGrath — the Tar Heels play three straight weekends against Gonzaga, Kentucky (in Chicago) and Davidson before wrapping up non-league play with Ivy League titan Harvard.

This is the kind of schedule that I love to see. Home-and-homes with other high-major competition and a couple road trips against good, local mid-major teams.

Kudos, Roy Williams.

Here is the full schedule:

Nov. 6: at Wofford
Nov. 9: at Elon
Nov. 12: Stanford
Nov. 16: Tennessee Tech
Nov. 19: St. Francis (PA)
Nov. 22-23: Continental Tires Invitational (Las Vegas)
Nov. 28: at Michigan
Dec. 5: UNCW
Dec. 15: Gonzaga
Dec. 22: Kentucky (Chicago)
Dec. 29: Davidson
Jan. 2: Harvard

Big East, Ed Cooley to represent Team USA in Pan-Am Games

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USA Basketball and the Big East announced on Tuesday that the conference will be representing the United States in the Pan-American Games in 2019. It is the first time that a conference has represented the stars and stripes in an international basketball competition.

Providence head coach Ed Cooley will be coaching the team. He has been on USA Basketball staffs in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

“I am very honored to be asked to coach this unique squad of Big East players,” Cooley said. “Any time you have the opportunity to represent your country, it is special. I have the highest level of respect for USA Basketball and the Big East as they are two organizations that have been so instrumental in my career development.”

“We are very honored to have been chosen by the NCAA and USA Basketball to represent the United States in this prestigious competition,” Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said. “This will be a unique educational, cultural and competitive experience for our participating players and coaches, and we look forward to working with Coach [Ed] Cooley to assemble the best possible group to carry the basketball flag in Peru.”

The United States has not won the Pan-Am Games since 1983. The games will be played Aug. 6-10 in Lima, Peru.

Sam and Joey Hauser give No. 20 Marquette a brotherly boost

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — There have been times when guard Markus Howard can’t tell Marquette teammates Sam and Joey Hauser apart.

They have similar builds and games, along with a familiarity on the floor that comes with playing a lot of basketball together.

The brotherly bond has given a boost to the 20th-ranked Golden Eagles, who are off to an 8-2 start while weathering nonconference tests.

“The fact that they’re related — for one they look just alike, I always get them confused,” said Howard, the team’s leading scorer. “But the fact that they’ve played together for so long, and they kind of know each other’s tendencies, it really shows on the court.”

Sam, a junior, is the elder Hauser, a 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 14.1 points and 7.0 rebounds going into a game Tuesday night against North Dakota. What he lacks in flash, he makes up for in consistency and the ability to fill multiple roles.

His 13 points and career-high 14 rebounds in 41 minutes in an overtime win over Wisconsin might have been one of the best games of his career. Hauser also had four assists and a steal with no turnovers.

“In my opinion, Sam is one of the most underappreciated players in the United States. Sam is all about winning,” coach Steve Wojciechowski said after the 74-69 victory over the Badgers on Dec. 8. “He’s an absolute joy to coach.”

Sam Hauser started since his freshman year, much like what his brother is doing now.

A touted recruit who helped his high school in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, win three straight state titles, Joey Hauser ended up enrolling at Marquette for the spring 2018 semester after an ankle injury sidelined him for his senior prep season.

Getting to the Marquette campus early aided in his recovery after being able to work with the team’s trainers, not to mention the opportunity to assimilate early to college life and practice ahead of an important 2018-19 season. Playing home games at a new downtown arena, the Golden Eagles have the talent and depth to contend in the Big East and return to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons.

“In high school, you can get away with some things that you can’t get away with in college,” Sam Hauser said in the preseason. “We were the biggest ones in high school. Now if you look at our team, we’re right in the middle of the pack. The play style is different, the speed.”

They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, though they might not divulge the latter in public.

“On the court, it just helps us play off each other. We’re looking for each other on the court. We both know that we can shoot the ball if we’re open,” Joey Hauser said.

He also knows to feed Sam down low. And there might even be a pass back out to the perimeter, if Joey is open.

“You’ve got to get the ball to him and get the ball into the post,” the younger Hauser said. “It’s playing off each other and playing off our teammates … something we think we’re definitely good at.”

The 6-9 Joey Hauser (10.7 points, 5.3 rebounds) seems to be getting acclimated quite nicely. He showed poise against the Badgers with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 3 of 5 from the 3-point arc while sometimes being guarded by preseason All-American big man Ethan Happ.

It’s not unusual to Sam, though. The brothers have seen each other hit big shots from everywhere — from the playground to the Fiserv Forum.

“We still have that chemistry between us being brothers, knowing what our strengths and weaknesses are,” Joey Hauser said. “That will always be the same.”

VIDEO: Memphis had some laughably bad flops against Tennessee

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The highlight of No. 3 Tennessee’s win at Memphis on Saturday wasn’t the win itself or a Memphis fan deciding he needed to find some relief behind a concession stand.

It was the laughably bad flopping efforts by the Memphis guards:

Actually, let me take that back.

What is actually laughably bad here is that two of these flops were actually called as offensive fouls.

Seriously, watch that first clip and explain to me how a referee standing ten feet away can possibly believe that was a real foul.

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Zion Williamson reigns again

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1. ZION WILLIAMSON, Duke

Nothing has changed with Zion since last week as Duke has yet to play since the last time we rolled out these rankings. We will, however, get a better sense of what he is able to do come Thursday, when the Blue Devils take on No. 11 Texas Tech, the only team in college basketball that has yet to allow more than 1.0 points-per-possession to a team this season.

2. ETHAN HAPP, Wisconsin

The only game that the Badgers played last week was against Savannah State, and Happ finished with 18 points, 11 boards and six assists. The only reason this is relevant is because is bumped Happ up to averaging 5.0 assists on the season, so I can now say that he’s averaging 19 points, 10 boards and five assists. Not bad.

3. R.J. BARRETT, Duke

Ditto, Zion Williamson.

4. GRANT WILLIAMS, Tennessee

I asked around about Grant Williams this week, talking to a few coaches that have scouted or game-planned for him, to try and get a sense for what makes this undersized four-man so good this year. Some mentioned the fact that his long arms make him bigger than he is. Others mentioned his sneaky-athleticism, and that he’s able to step out on the perimeter and be a threat more this year than in the pass.

But one thing that I did hear was how good Williams is as a high-low passer and how well Rick Barnes is able to incorporate this into the offense that the Vols run. The advantage here is that Williams is able to pull a bigger player away from the rim, particularly since he is now effective shooting from beyond the arc. It also allows Rick Barnes to attack matchups, particularly when Admiral Schofield is on the floor. Schofield is 6-foot-5 but is built like a wrestler while also being able to elevate over most defenders. The third clip in the video below shows a perfect example of Williams pulling size out of the paint to allow Schofield to post-up a smaller Zach Norvell Jr.:

5. RUI HACHIMURA, Gonzaga

One thing that I have touched on over and over again is that Rui Hachimura is not a great defender on the perimeter. According to Synergy, he’s allowed 25 points in 23 possessions where he was isolated defensively, and the 1.087 points-per-possession that he has allowed is good for the 14th percentile nationally.

It has gotten to the point that opposing offenses target the matchup with Hachimura. Mark Few has been mixing up his defenses this season, but one of the things that he does quite a bit is to switch everything on the perimeter, and when he does, opponents have had a tendency to create those switches until they get the matchup they want: Hachimura guarding a ball-handler on the perimeter. The last three clips in the video below show that happening:

6. DE’ANDRE HUNTER, Virginia

Hunter had one of his worst games of the season the last time we saw the Wahoos play, but that was last Sunday. UVA is at South Carolina this week.

7. JARRETT CULVER, Texas Tech

Texas Tech has looked really good this season. They’ve also played Nebraska, USC and Memphis … and that’s basically it. We’ll be able to better have this conversation on Friday morning, after the Red Raiders get Duke in Madison Square Garden.

8. DEDRIC LAWSON, Kansas

Lawson was awesome again on Saturday, going for 28 points and 12 boards as Kansas knocked off Villanova in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. The only reason that I don’t have Lawson ranked higher than this is that he might not actually be the best player on his own team this season; Lagerald Vick, when he’s not benched or suspended, has been a monster.

9. NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER, Virginia Tech

Alexander-Walker was the best player on the floor for the the Hokies as they smoked Washington in Atlantic City on Saturday. He finished with 24 points and three assists, a return to dominance in the first game Virginia Tech has played against a relevant opponent in nearly three weeks.

10. CHARLES MATTHEWS, Michigan

This is the first appearance for Matthews — for any Michigan player — in the top ten of these rankings. I’m torn on who from that team should be considered their all-american candidate. I’ve discussed this before, but the way that this Michigan team is built does not lend itself to having a player in that mix. Zavier Simpson is their leader, but that doesn’t really show up in the box score. Ignas Brazdeikis is the team’s leading scorer, but this is a team that wins with defense. Jon Teske is the most-improved player on the roster. Jordan Poole is in that conversation as well.

But for my money, Matthews — who is an alpha defensively, plays a leadership role himself and is the team’s second-leading scorer — is the guy that should get the nod.

IN THE MIX: Jordan Caroline (Nevada), Luguentz Dort (Arizona State) Carsen Edwards (Purdue), Ja Morant (Murray State), Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s), Lagerald Vick (Kansas)

Trent Forrest helps No. 11 Florida State beat SE Missouri 85-68

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Trent Forrest scored a career high 23 points and freshman Devin Vassell added 16 points as No. 11 Florida State overcame a sluggish first half and beat Southeast Missouri 85-68 on Monday night.

Forrest shot 8 for 12 from the floor, and had a team-high eight rebounds and four assists to help the Seminoles (9-1) win their fourth straight.

Florida State secured its 30th straight non-conference home win. Nebraska is the last non-conference team to defeat the Seminoles, 70-65 on Dec. 1, 2014.

Ledarrius Brewer scored 16 points and Skyler Hogan added 14 points for Southeast Missouri (5-7).

Christ Koumadje added seven rebounds as Florida State outrebounded the undersized Redhawks 46-28.

Southeast Missouri led 47-42 with 14:46 to go but Florida State went on a 12-0 run to take control for good.

The Seminoles shot 50 percent (31 for 62). They were just 1 for 12 on 3-pointers in the first half before finishing 6 for 24.

Florida State senior forward Phil Cofer played for the first time this season after missing nine games due to a preseason foot injury. Cofer didn’t have a point or rebound in five minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Southeast Missouri: The Redhawks had Florida State on the ropes as Brewer scored 10 points in the first half. They ran out of gas in the second half and couldn’t match up with the Seminoles’ height or athleticism.

Florida State: The Seminoles were playing for the first time in eight days and were able to withstand the scrappy Redhawks.

UP NEXT

Southeast Missouri will host Abilene Christian on Friday.

Florida State hosts North Florida on Wednesday.