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What if USA Basketball’s World Cup team was only college players?

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Since none of the best American pros seems all that interested in playing in the FIBA World Cup, we decided that it would be fun to take a swing at putting together a World Cup team built with nothing but college players. 

This is that team.

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COACH: Matt Painter, Purdue

This was a tough decision, but I’m going with Painter over the rest of the field because of the way that he can change what he wants to do and how his teams play. Purdue has been one of the best programs in all of college hoops the past four seasons, finishing in the top ten on KenPom three times – and no lower than 19th – while playing three very different styles. They went from using two bigs with Caleb Swanigan at the four to playing four shooters about Isaac Haas to basing an entire offense on running Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline off of pin-downs and DHOs.

Put another, he relies less on playing a specific brand of basketball and thrives on finding a way to make the pieces on his roster fit together, and in this situation, that makes the most sense to me.

And he has experience in the international ranks, having taken his Purdue team overseas for the 2017 World University Games. The Boilermakers did not win that event largely because his team was not overwhelmingly more talented than everyone they came across, like the rest of the coaches with experience running Team USA at youth levels.

ASSISTANTS: Mark Adams, Texas Tech, and Ed Cooley, Providence

I want Adams on this staff for his defensive mind. He was the brainchild behind what Texas Tech has done the last two seasons, and I personally love the way that his defenses force offenses to the baseline and takes away any and all sets they want to run. I have Cooley here because of the way his teams run through point guards and the prevalence of ball-screens on offense, and with a team that is more or less built around Cassius Winston, that is important.

Jarron Cumberland (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

STARTERS

CASSIUS WINSTON, Michigan State

This is the easy and obvious pick. Winston is the very obvious pick for Preseason National Player of the Year, and I’m honestly not sure if there is anyone else that can be in this discussion. He’s coming off of a year where he averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 assists while leading an injury ravaged Michigan State team to a Big Ten regular season title, a Big Ten tournament title and a trip to the Final Four. He’s a senior point guard that thrives in ball-screens, that is unselfish and that is an efficient shooter and scorer. He is the guy that we need to build this team around.

TYRESE HALIBURTON, Iowa State

No player has risen more in the minds of basketball people than Haliburton has in the last 18 months. From a complete afterthought as a recruit to a potential top 20 pick, Haliburton is coming off of a terrific showing in the U19 World Cup. He’s a 6-foot-5 guard that can play the point, defend multiple positions and shoots threes at a 43.4 percent clip. He’s the perfect wing in the modern era of basketball.

JARRON CUMBERLAND, Cincinnati

Cumberland is one of the most underappreciated talents in college hoops, as he is coming off of a season where he posted 18.8 points, 4.4 boards and 3.6 assists for Cincinnati while shooting 38.8 percent from three. He’s 6-foot-5 but a physical 205 pounds can will be able to guard bigger wings. He’s also a veteran presence, a scorer that can create for himself and a guy that spent the last three years playing for Mick Cronin. You know the toughness is there.

KERRY BLACKSHEAR, Florida

Blackshear might be better suited to playing on a team where he is the starting five, but I think he fits as the four in this situation. He can score in and around the paint, but he’s also a capable three-point shooter with the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. He’s also one of the few veteran bigs in college hoops right now that has the chance to play in the NBA one day. Getting a 23-year old to pair with a roster full of freshmen and sophomore posts matters.

JAMES WISEMAN, Memphis

Wiseman is one of just three freshmen on this team and the only one that I have slotted as a starter. The favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Wiseman is a 7-foot center with a 7-foot-6 wingspan and all the athleticism in the world. He has decent touch and a perimeter stroke that is developing, meaning that there is a world where he is one day a floor-spacer in addition to being the kind of rim-runner I envision him being on this team. Part of the reason I have him starting here is that I think he’ll thrive as the roll man on a team with Winston and three shooters around him. I also think that, if motivated, he has the ability to do the kind of things that Mark Adams will ask a five-man to do defensively.

Wiseman’s status as a No. 1 pick as more to do with his potential longterm than what he is at this very moment, but I do think that the current version of Wiseman is the best fit at the five on this team.

Myles Powell (Elsa/Getty Images)

BENCH

MYLES POWELL, Seton Hall: There are two talented, undersized scoring guards in the Big East heading into next season and I was only going to take one of them. I went with Powell, who is more athletic, a better defender and less ball-dominant than Marquette guard Markus Howard. Put another way, I think that Powell would fit better on a team where the offense isn’t built entirely around him than Howard is.

COLE ANTHONY, North Carolina: Anthony is a bit of a weird fit on this team, but I think that he is a pretty good change-of-pace for Winston in the backcourt. He will more or less operate as the backup point guard on this roster, and while he plays the position a totally different way than Winston does, an aggressive, score-first guard with athleticism and the stones to take and make tough shots is needed on this roster.

TRE JONES, Duke: Jones is here for one reason and one reason only: perimeter defense. We have yet to see him be anything other than a liability on the offensive end of the floor, but assuming that he spent the offseason working on improving his perimeter stroke, the hope is that will not be the case anymore. Either way, one thing this roster lacked was a lockdown on-ball defender, and Jones will provide it without needing a certain number of shots to be kept happy.

ISAIAH JOE, Arkansas: I wanted shooting. Isaiah Joe is a shooter, knocking down 41.4 percent of his threes with more than eight attempted per game as a freshman. He is also about 6-foot-5 and averaged 1.5 steals at Arkansas, which means he should be able to contribute defensively as well.

AYO DOSUNMU, Illinois: Dosunmu had flashes of brilliance as a freshmen but ultimately returned to school for his sophomore season to prove he’s more of a lead guard than a combo and to continue to develop his jumper. His presence as a secondary ball-handler and what he can bring defensively makes him a nice fit in this roster build.

TRES TINKLE, Oregon State: Tinkle is not a name that many people are going to know, but he is an absolute baller and a big-time scorer. He is coming off of a season where he averaged 20.8 points, 8.1 boards and 3.8 assists, and at 6-foot-8, he has the kind of size that will allow him to play the four in smaller lineups while keeping the floor spaced.

ISAIAH STEWART, Washington: Stewart make end up being the most productive freshman in college hoops this season. He’s 6-foot-9, 250 pounds and a terrific rebounder and finisher in the lane. He’s not all that switchable or much of a rim-protector, but he’ll allow this group to matchup with teams that still play big-bodied posts.

REGGIE PERRY, Mississippi State: Perry is going to be one of the breakout stars of college basketball this season. He’s coming off of an MVP run through the U19 World Cup, and the former McDonald’s All-American really came on strong down the stretch of last season.

Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim comment on death of Kobe Bryant and daughter, Gianna

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Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski was the head coach of the USA Men’s National team for nearly a decade, and in that time, he won two gold medals with Kobe Bryant.

Bryant, and his daughter Gianna, died on Sunday morning after a helicopter that they were flying in crashed in Calabasas, Cali.

“We have tragically lost one of the greatest sports figures of our time with the passing of Kobe Bryant,” Coach K said. “He was an incredibly gifted person who was universally respected. He was in constant pursuit of doing something special and there will never be a greater warrior in our sport.

“I had the amazing honor of coaching Kobe in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, and I will always remember how much he cherished representing his country in a first-class manner playing the game he so loved. The game of basketball is better today because of Kobe, and he deserves eternal appreciation for that. This is a devastating loss, made even more tragic by the passing of his daughter, Gianna, and all others on board. The entire Krzyzewski family is saddened as we genuinely loved and admired Kobe. We extend our deepest sympathies to his wife, Vanessa, their daughters Natalia, Bianka, and Capri, and the families of those involved.”

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim was an assistant on the 2008 Gold Medal winning team, dubbed the Reedem Team. That squad restored the image of USA Basketball after winning bronze medals in the 2004 Olympics and the 2006 World Championships.

“I first saw him in person when he came to the qualifier in ’07 before the Olympic year,” Boeheim told Syracuse.com. “He came in the first day and worked twice as hard as everybody else. He taught all the young players, LeBron and Carmelo and all those guys: ‘This is what you gotta do. You gotta go after this.’

“We lost in the World Championship the year before. And he just showed everybody — this is what you do. And we overpowered everybody in that tournament, then we went to the Olympics and overpowered everybody. When it was a close game against Spain in the finals, he took the ball, made the play to win the game.

“That’s who he was. He set a high standard. He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen. Jordan, I didn’t coach, but Jordan was the same. Of all the guys that I’ve ever coached and ever seen, he worked harder than everybody.”

Tom Izzo broke the news of Kobe Bryant’s death to Cassius Winston on live TV

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While the shock and immediacy of Kobe Bryant’s death spread through my network of friends and social media follows like wildfire on Sunday afternoon, one thing I kept thinking about was how many people involved with the game of basketball were actually playing while this was happening.

Take Michigan State and Minnesota, for example. The news of Bryant’s death broke around 2:30 p.m. ET. This game tipped off at 3 p.m. ET. Cassius Winston, Michigan State’s resident all-american, found out about Kobe’s death live on TV after the game came to an end:

 

Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu breaks down during moment of silence honoring Kobe Bryant

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Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu was moved to tears during a pregame moment of silence in honor of Kobe Bryant prior to a rivalry game against Oregon State on Sunday:

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna died Sunday morning in a place crash that also resulted in the death of one of Gianna’s teammates and a parent.

Ionescu is the best women’s player in the country, recently surpassing Gary Payton for the Pac-12 career assist record, and she has developed a friendship with Kobe Bryant over the years. Gianna, a budding basketball star in her own right, was a huge fan of Sabrina Ionescu’s game, and Kobe Bryant had brought her and her teammates to a number of Oregon games in recent years.

These are the details of the crash, according to our Kurt Helin:

The crash took place in Calabasas, an area about 30 miles northeast of the Staples Center, where Kobe starred as a player for more than a decade. It is not far from the Mamba Academy athletic training center where Kobe was both an owner and an active participant. It was a foggy day in Southern California, which could have contributed to the crash.

The crash killed five people, of which Kobe was one.

Kobe was 41. He and his wife Vanessa have four daughters. Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was aboard the helicopter with Kobe (they were on their way to one of her basketball games, along with a fellow teammate of Gianna’s and her parent).

 

Saturday’s Things To Know: Kentucky survives, Ayo Dosunmu’s on a tear, Roy and Huggs reach milestones

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It was actually a relatively slow day for a Saturday in late-January in college hoops, but there is still plenty to discuss. Here are the ten things that you need to know:

1. No. 15 KENTUCKY KNOCKED OFF No. 18 TEXAS TECH

Nick Richards went for 25 points, 14 boards and four blocks and Immanuel Quickley chipped in with 21 points of his own as Kentucky went into Lubbock and knocked off the Red Raiders in overtime. A full breakdown of that game can be found here.

2. TEXAS TECH IS IN REAL BUBBLE TROUBLE

I’m not sure people realize just how little their is on Texas Tech’s resume right now. They beat Louisville (11) on a neutral court. They beat Iowa State (70) at home. They beat Oklahoma State (83) at home. They won at Kansas State (89). Combined, that’s one Quad 1, two Quad 2 and a Quad 3 win. They have eight wins against sub-200 teams and have lost to seven Quad 1 opponents, including Kentucky (23) at home on Saturday. The Red Raiders will have plenty of chances to build on their profile — they get West Virginia (7) at home and play at Kansas (3) next week alone — but there is no doubt that this team has to start winning some games against teams that are not horrific.

3. AYO DOSUNMU CONTINUED HIS TEAR

In case you haven’t noticed, No. 21 Illinois is the hottest team in the Big Ten, sitting all alone in first-place in the conference standings and Ayo Dosunmu — who scored 27 points and hit the game-winner at Michigan today — has been the best player in the Big Ten this month. More on the Illini and their star here.

4. ROY WILLIAMS PASSED DEAN SMITH ON THE ALL-TIME WINS LIST

It’s ironic when you think about it: North Carolina was in the midst of their first five-game losing streak since 2003, and it just so happened to come after Williams had tied Smith on the all-time wins list. He finally broke the streak on Saturday, blowing out Miami, 94-71, to win his 880th game as a head coach. It is, quite literally, the first win for the Tar Heels in 2020.

5. BOB HUGGINS PASSED ADOLPH RUPP ON THE ALL-TIME WINS LIST

No. 14 West Virginia blew out Missouri in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge to give Huggy Bear is 876th career win, good for seventh on the all-time list, one better than Adolph Rupp, the legendary Kentucky head coach.

6. No. 1 BAYLOR UPSET UNRANKED FLORIDA

This might sound ridiculous, but if you subscribe to the theory that any underdog that wins a game is an upset happening, then No. 1 Baylor going into the O-Dome and knocking off Florida is, technically, an upset. The Gators entered the game as 2.5 point favorites, jumped out to a big league and then proceeded to watch as the nation’s best team proved that they are, in fact, the nation’s best team.

We have spent the majority of this season explaining away the reasons why there isn’t an elite team in college basketball, but I’m beginning to think that there’s a chance Baylor could be that team. They’re never going to be the darlings of the metrics and they don’t have much NBA talent, but they are so balanced, so effective in crunch time and elite on the defensive end of the floor.

7. MEMPHIS BLEW AN 11-POINT LEAD IN THE FINAL SIX MINUTES

This one was hard to do.

The Tigers were up 70-59 with less than six minutes remaining in the game and then never scored again. They would give up a 15-0 run in that stretch and go on to lose, 74-70, at home to an SMU team that is not very good. Penny Hardaway’s team has found themselves in a bad, bad spot this season.

8. ARIZONA BLEW A 22-POINT LEAD

The No. 22 Wildcats led Arizona State in Tempe by 22 points in the first half. With 1:40 left before the break, they were ahead 43-24. At halftime, they were up 43-30. With 16:30 left on the clock, the Sun Devils had cut that lead to 43-40, and after Alonzo Verge scored with 10 seconds remaining, the Sun Devils had a 66-65 lead and went on to win by that score.

The importance of this win for Bobby Hurley’s club cannot be overstated.

9. SAN FRANCISCO WORKED THEIR FOULING MAGIC AGAIN

Last weekend, San Francisco fouled a ball-handler at the end of the first half in order to get the ball back. It was a sneaky bit of math that gave the Dons an extra two points on their lead heading into the break.

On Saturday against BYU, Todd Golden drew up something similar. With 22 seconds left in the game and the Dons clinging to a 79-77 lead, he had his team intentionally foul Yoeli Childs, BYU’s star center who just so happens to be a 60 percent free throw shooter and coming off of a broken finger. The reasoning was simple: Since BYU was in the one-and-one, Childs shooting free throws meant that A) BYU’s xPPP for that possessions was 0.96, lower than the average possession for a team that had scored 77 points in 39 minutes and shot 15-for-27 from three on the night. If he made both, USF had a chance to win on the final possession. If he missed one, BYU’s best rebounder was shooting the free throws. Turns out, he missed the first, and USF hung on to win, 83-82.

10. SAMUELL WILLIAMSON MAY HAVE HAD HIS BREAKOUT GAME

Last weekend, it was freshman David Johnson that had his breakout game for No. 6 Louisville. He went for 19 points and seven boards as the Cardinals went into Cameron and beat Duke. This weekend, it was fellow freshman Williamson, who scored 14 points for the Cards as they blew out Clemson in the Yum! Center. Is this the start of his star turn?

No. 1 Baylor smothers Florida 72-61, 16th straight win

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — MaCio Teague and Devonte Bandoo scored 16 points apiece and No. 1 Baylor extended its winning steak to 16 with a 72-61 victory over Florida in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday night.

The Bears improved to 6-1 in the annual inter-conference series – the best record of any team in either conference – and themselves another week atop The Associated Press poll.

Baylor also gave the Big 12 an even split (5-5) in the daylong series.

The Bears (17-1) overcame an eight-point deficit early and led by 19 points in the second half before Florida mounted a minor rally. The Gators (12-7) had a chance to make it a single-digit game with a little more than 7 minutes to play, but they missed the front end of three consecutive one-and-ones. Kerry Blackshear Jr. misfired twice on back-to-back possessions and then Noah Locke did the same seconds later.

What could have been an eight-point game was still a comfortable lead for the Bears.

Florida eventually managed to whittle Baylor’s lead to 10 on Andrew Nembhard’s driving layup with 2:40 remaining. But the Bears answered on the other end thanks to their 13th offensive rebound, which led to two free throws for Bandoo.

Davion Mitchell finished with 11 points and six assists for Baylor, which was a slight underdog entering the game. Jared Butler chipped in 10 points.

Baylor’s length, athleticism and defensive prowess posed problems all night for Florida, which shot 44% from the field and 23.5% from 3-point range.

The Gators fell to 2-17 against the No. 1 team, including 10 consecutive losses.

Keyontae Johnson led Florida with 20 points. Nembhard added 16 points and eight assists, but he missed more shots (8) than he made (6), including all four 3-pointers. The Gators missed 13 of 17 from behind the arc.

Baylor took control of the game with a 13-2 run to close the first half, turning a tie game into a double-digit lead. The Bears hit six 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes – twice as many as Florida – and had seven offensive rebounds.

They got help from an unlikely source. Bandoo, who averages 7.5 points off the benched, scored 11 in the opening half on 4 of 6 shooting.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: The Bears matched their best 18-game start in school history. They also started 17-1 in 2011-12 and 2016-17. They landed No. 3 seeds in the NCAA Tournament after those regular seasons and were eliminated both times by SEC teams (Kentucky in ’12, South Carolina in `17).

Florida: The Gators appeared to be taking strides while beating then-No. 4 Auburn last Saturday and nearly stunning LSU on the road earlier this week. But the team’s offensive woes returned against Baylor – no surprise given the Bears are one of the best defenses in the nation.

STILL HOBBLING

Florida forward Dontay Bassett missed his second consecutive game with a calf injury. Bassett averages 1.3 points and 2.1 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Baylor: Returns to Big 12 action and plays at Iowa State on Wednesday night. The Bears have won three of the last four in the series, but lost to the Cyclones in the conference tournament last March.

Florida: Returns to SEC play and hosts Mississippi State on Tuesday night. The Gators lost to the Bulldogs last year to end an eight-game winning streak in the series.