No. 15 Kansas maintains hope in Big 12 race with big win over No. 16 Kansas State

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Monday night’s biggest game featured an in-state rivalry in the Sunflower State as No. 15 Kansas stayed in the Big 12 race with a 64-49 home win over No. 16 Kansas State.

The win for Kansas (21-7, 10-5) means they’re only one game behind the Wildcats in the Big 12 standings as Kansas State moves into a tie with Texas Tech in the loss column. While Kansas State (21-7, 11-4) can still win-out and claim a share of the Big 12 regular-season title, this game could have massive conference implications heading into the final stretch.

Here are some takeaways from an important Kansas win.

Mitch Lightfoot gave Kansas a massive boost off the bench

The best player for the Jayhawks on Monday night was junior forward Dedric Lawson. Registering his 17th double-double of the season, Lawson finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds and five assists as his production remains among the nation’s best.

But Kansas doesn’t win so easily on Monday night without the outstanding contributions of reserve junior forward Mitch Lightfoot. An afterthought during most of his career with the Jayhawks, Lightfoot has earned more steady run recently as Kansas has tried to tinker with lineups that might work for the final month.

Lightfoot rewarded the Kansas coaching staff on Monday by finishing with nine points, five rebounds, three blocks and two assists. After Kansas went scoreless through the first TV timeout, Lightfoot gave the Jayhawks a major lift on both ends of the floor. Scoring on the inside, defending alone on the interior and swatting shots with Mutumbo-like swag, Lightfoot was so good that some on Twitter were joking that this would be called The Mitch Lightfoot Game.

Lawson is going to remain the go-to player for Kansas. Quentin Grimes (12 points) and Devon Dotson (16 points) are known talents who can provide a scoring pop. But if the Jayhawks want to stay in the Big 12 race, and make any sort of dent in the postseason, they need players like Lightfoot to step up and provide production. If Lightfoot can even give a few good spurts off the bench each game, it would alleviate a lot of what Lawson is asked to do on the interior and it makes his life significantly easier.

Does Bruce Weber trust Dean Wade?

Kansas State lost on Monday because its veterans didn’t come to play during the biggest game of the season. Outside of Kamau Stokes (12 points), the other Wildcat veterans struggled to maintain consistency at any point during the loss.

Xavier Sneed (eight points, 3-for-11 shooting) and Barry Brown (four points, 1-for-8 shooting) both shot the ball poorly and couldn’t seem to find any sort of rhythm. Kansas perimeter defenders — particularly Dotson on Brown — did a tremendous job of utilizing switches and smothering any kind of look the Kansas State offense could generate.

But most of the basketball world was puzzled by the decision of Wildcats head coach Bruce Weber to bench senior Dean Wade (eight points, four turnovers, 2-for-7 shooting) when the forward picked up his second foul during the first half. With the Wildcats noticeably struggling to get their offense going, sitting Wade — arguably the most important player for the Kansas State offense — was a controversial decision. A senior who has been one of the Big 12’s best players the past few seasons, Wade wasn’t given any sort of leeway from his coach during a critical spot.

So does Weber have trust issues with Wade right now? When Wade returned to the lineup in the second half, he really never got going. Wade fouled out on a loose-ball foul with over three minutes left to end an uneven and strange game. Since returning from injury, Wade has been inconsistent, and he really hasn’t looked like himself during the month of February. Wade hasn’t scored more than 12 points in any game since Feb. 2 as his offense has lagged in recent weeks.

Yanking Wade in the first half and not letting him play through mistakes during a huge game will be something to watch going forward. Wade and Kansas State could very well find themselves in this position again in the next few games and they have to do a better job of playing through foul trouble.

Kansas earns another quality win for its NCAA tournament cause

The crowded Big 12 race will be important to follow during the final weeks of the season, but Monday’s win was also very important for the Jayhawks when it comes to potential NCAA tournament seeding. Earning another Q1 win with the victory over Kansas State, the Jayhawks moved to an impressive 10-6 against the top quadrant of NCAA teams.

Sitting as a No. 4 seed in the latest NBC Sports bracketology projections released on Monday, Kansas dropped from a No. 3 seed after the blowout loss to Texas Tech over the weekend. Earning this Q1 win puts the Jayhawks back on track to potentially climb back to the No. 3 seed line as some of the teams currently there like Houston don’t have a high number of quality wins.

Kansas still needs to prove that it can win on the road during a two-game swing through Oklahoma before hosting Baylor in its regular-season finale. But all three of those games are winnable, which gives Kansas a chance at staying in the Big 12 race while also potentially putting them back up to a higher seed line.

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.