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Duke’s R.J. Barrett announces he’s heading to NBA

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R.J. Barrett announced on Wednesday that he will be leaving Duke and heading to the NBA draft.

In his one season in Durham, Barrett averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 boards and 4.0 assists, becoming the first high-major player since Anfernee Hardaway to do that.

Barrett is likely going to end up being a top three pick in this year’s draft, and while there are some valid concerns about him as a player — specifically, he is an inconsistent shooter that is left-hand dominant, hunts his shots a bit too often and not as quick as would be ideal — but part of what makes him so appealing is that his intangibles are off the charts. One source close to Barrett told NBC Sports that he has the same determination to be great that guys like Kobe Bryant and Kawhi Leonard do.

“He’ll figure out a way to be great,” he said.

Final Four is set after memorable Elite Eight

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The 2019 Final Four is set for next weekend in Minneapolis as the second weekend of the NCAA tournament was a memorable one.

After four memorable Elite Eight games, No. 1 seed Virginia will face No. 5 seed Auburn in one national semifinal with No. 2 seed Michigan State battling No. 3 seed Texas Tech in the other Final Four game on Saturday.

Falling in last season’s NCAA tournament to No. 16 seed UMBC, the Cavaliers figured things out to make the Final Four with a memorable overtime win in the South Region over No. 3 seed Purdue. Despite 42 points from Boilermaker junior guard Carsen Edwards, Virginia outlasted his 10 three-pointers with a flurry of their own from Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome. And with the team needing a buzzer-beating bucket just to force overtime, big man Mamadi Diakite came through.

Virginia’s win will go down as one of the better Elite Eight games of the decade as Edwards became a March hero while the Cavaliers finally overcame some NCAA tournament demons.

Also winning an overtime game in the Midwest Region was No. 5 seed Auburn as they outlasted SEC rival Kentucky. Playing without Sweet 16 star Chuma Okeke, who suffered a torn ACL on Friday, the Tigers rallied in the second half to beat the Wildcats behind Bryce Brown and Jared Harper to make their first Final Four in school history. The Wildcats’ great season ends behind a strong game from P.J. Washington as he overcame a foot injury last week to end a memorable sophomore season with 28 points and 13 rebounds.

Texas Tech advanced to its first Final Four in school history as well with a win over No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Saturday. In a close Elite Eight matchup in the West Region, the Red Raiders held off the Bulldogs with shot-making from Jarrett Culver and Matt Mooney while Gonzaga was held to 7-for-26 three-point shooting. Rui Hachimura (22 points) and Brandon Clarke (18 points) both had strong games while Josh Perkins (16 points) committed a late out-of-bounds foul that sealed the game for the Red Raiders.

The final Elite Eight thriller saw No. 2 seed Michigan State outlast No. 1 seed Duke in the East Region. Cassius Winston (20 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks) and Xavier Tillman (19 points, nine rebounds) both had big games for the Spartans as they limited turnovers to shock the No. 1 overall seed. The loss likely ends the college career of freshmen Zion Williamson (24 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks, three steals) and R.J. Barrett (21 points, six assists) as the Blue Devils fall short of the Final Four when many considered them a title favorite.

Between the four great games, two overtime thrillers, a buzzer-beater to force overtime and some big star performances, this makes a strong case for the best Elite Eight ever. We had a jaw-dropping Edwards performance in a losing effort, two blueblood programs (Duke and Kentucky) getting upset in close games and the final college game of the sport’s biggest star of the decade (Zion).

And that doesn’t even include Auburn and Texas Tech making the first Final Four in school history, Izzo’s finest coaching job and Winston’s heroics and Goins’ big shot. Virginia overcoming a shaky reputation and the Tigers overcoming the loss of Okeke to injury.

The first weekend might have been mostly chalk. The second weekend of the 2019 NCAA tournament was a great one as it culminated in memorable Elite Eight games and stars coming through in the clutch. It’s led to some unexpected Final Four matchups, but at least college hoops fans have plenty to talk about this week after some ridiculous games.

Duke’s Cam Reddish a game-time decision in Elite 8 vs. Michigan State

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Whether or not Duke will be missing one-fourth of its fantastic freshman class as it looks to return to the Final Four remains up in the air.

Cam Reddish, the Blue Devils’ third-leading scorer, will be a game-time decision Sunday in the Elite 8 against Michigan State with a knee injury.

“He’s getting treatment today. We’ve really not been on the court yet,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Saturday. “And after we stretch and — we’re not going to really do anything physical today; we’ve got to be careful. But just to see how he feels.

“If he’s progressed, we might try to get him to shoot. But we haven’t done that yet.”

The injury kept Reddish sidelined Friday as Duke narrowly got past Virginia Tech.

“He’s had a little bit of problem with his knee. It’s not structural,” Coach K said. “And a jumper’s knee, a tendonitis. I guess there are a number of different things. At different times it can inhibit you, or you feel pretty good and then you can play. Or you can work yourself through it. But yesterday we weren’t able to do that.”

Without Reddish, the Blue Devils shot just 30 percent from 3-point range while playing with a shortened rotation. Only Marques Bolden played more than 3 minutes off the bench.

“Definitely missing Cam out there,” RJ Barrett said Saturday. “It’s tough to have a game plan and then couple minutes before tip-off see that he’s out. But we’ve gone through so much adversity that we were able to step up last night. And just moving forward, whether he plays or he doesn’t, we’re going to have to give everything we’ve got.”

Reddish is averaging 13.6 points and shooting 33.3 percent from 3-point range this season. Duke had lost the only previous game it had played without Reddish – an overtime setback to Syracuse – before Friday’s victory.

Duke’s Cam Reddish sidelined with knee injury as status for Elite Eight remains unclear

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Duke escaped with another NCAA tournament win on Friday night as they outlasted ACC rival Virginia Tech to advance to the Elite Eight.

The Blue Devils were carried to victory by three freshmen as Zion Williamson, Tre Jones and R.J. Barrett were the team’s three top scorers. But it was the absence of the team’s fourth five-star freshman, Cam Reddish, that has people asking questions ahead of Sunday’s showdown in the East Region with No. 2 seed Michigan State.

Reddish was removed from the Duke lineup only 10 minutes before tip on Friday night with an apparent knee injury as he was replaced by Alex O’Connell in the starting lineup. Following Duke’s win, head coach Mike Krzyzewski was mum on Reddish’s injury and future status for Sunday.

“We didn’t know until right before the game that he was not going to be able to play,” Krzyzewski said. “He went out, just had something wrong with his knee. He was limping, but we didn’t find out until right before the game.”

According to The Chronicle, Reddish was not on the floor during the first part of warmups, but he remained in uniform and on the bench during the entire game. It’s still unclear what caused Reddish’s injury, or when it happened, but it will be a major storyline for Duke during Sunday’s Elite Eight matchup with the Spartans.

Reddish is third on the Blue Devils in scoring at 13.6 points per game as the streaky scorer can be a potent perimeter option if he’s feeling it. Duke likely needs a healthy Reddish if they want to win the title since the team has been so poor shooting from the perimeter this season.

2019 NCAA Tournament: Who do you want taking the big shot?

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March is all about buzzer-beaters. It’s what makes the NCAA tournament the most thrilling sporting event on the planet. So who is going to be making iconic moments this March? Here’s a list of candidates who might play themselves into the March Moments Hall of Fame.

Cam Reddish, Duke

The Blue Devils freshman hasn’t been the absolute knockdown shooter many envisioned he could be, but at 6-foot-8 there are few defenders that are going to bother him if he needs to get a 3-pointer off with the clock running down. Plus, there’s a track record.

Jordan Bohannon, Iowa

The Hawkeyes aren’t exactly entering the tournament on a heater, having lost five of their last six, but Bohannon has big-shot chops. He hit a game-winner with under a second to play to beat Northwestern and then a forced OT and an eventual win against Indiana later in February. Also worth noting his teammate, freshman Joe Wieskamp, hit this shot last month, so Iowa might have two guys that should be on this list.

Kyle Guy, Virginia

The junior guard is a killer. He’s incredibly confident and seems to thrive when the moment is biggest. He’s a relentless scorer who can hunt his shot and bail Virginia out of tough possessions. A 46.3 percent 3-point shooter, Guy is someone you want either with the ball in his hand or stalking the arc with the game on the line.

Jordan Poole, Michigan

We’ve entered the Titanic Music part of this post.

Ja Morant, Murray State

An athletic wonder, first-rate passer, solid 3-point shooter and devastating finisher, there aren’t many players across the country who you’d rather have the ball in their hands with the clock racing toward zero and a long summer break staring you in the face. The Racers are the rare mid-major that can count on a likely top-three pick taking the last shot for them in a close game. Not bad.

Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech

The 6-foot-6 Culver can seemingly get any shot he wants, and he’s quite good at them all. He’s comfortable at every level, even if he’s not a great 3-point shooter. He can get to the rim either off the bounce or from the post, and he’s one of the country’s most talented scorers.

Tyler Herro, Kentucky

If you need a bucket at the end of the game, who better to call upon than a guy who, by his own telling, is actually a bucket.

It’s also good that he’s a knockdown shooter and a likely first-round pick.

 

2019 NCAA Tournament: Big men you need to know

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This might not be the Year of the Big Man, but the country has produced some really good ones this year.

There are some you know – there’s one everybody knows even if they’ve never even seen him play – and some you might not. T

hey are, however, all important to get acquainted with when you’re filling out your bracket.

Zion Williamson, Duke

I feel like I don’t need to explain this one. Just spend a couple minutes watching Zion do Zion stuff.

Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga

The Bulldogs have the best frontcourt duo in the country, and it gets to be an embarrassment of riches if you factor in Killian Tillie, who has hardly played this season due to injuries. Both Hachimura and Clarke could be NBA draft lottery picks in a couple months, and they’re a big reason why the Zags once again secured a No. 1 seed and could be headed back to the title game. Clarke might be the best two-way player in the country, shooting 69 percent from the floor while swatting 11 percent of opponents’ shot attempts while he’s in the game while also being an elite rebounder with the ability to defend on the perimeter. Hachimura might be the better pro prospect with a little-used-but-effective 3-point stroke to go along with his athleticism and 6-foot-8, 230-pound frame. Together, it’s an incredibly formidable frontcourt.

Ignas Brazdeikis, Michigan

The freshman from Ontario is a major reason while the Wolverines look capable of returning to the Final Four. He’s averaging 15.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per  game while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range. He’s not alone in the Wolverine fonrtcourt, though, getting help from 7-foot-1 junior Jon Teske, whose rebounding and shot-blocking are solid complements to Brazdeikis.

Luke Maye, North Carolina

Luke Maye wasn’t the first-team All-American type many thought possible this season, but he’s been really good for a No. 1 seed. The senior is averaging 14.7 points and 10.5 rebounds. He’s got tournament experience – NCAA tournament hero experience, no less. Oh, and championship experience. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him replicate both.

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

The Badger big man hasn’t been in the conversation for national player of the year for a lot of legit reasons, but his production would suggest he’s one of the country’s best players. He’s more central and critical to Wisconsin’s offense than nearly any other player for any other team nationwide, and he’s still incredibly productive and efficient. He’s a premier rebounding, a fantastic passer and assistman and a strong fundamental defender, even if his shot blocking isn’t high-level. Wisconsin’s supporting cast has been the question for much of the last two seasons – which included Wisconsin’s first missed NCAA tournament in two decades last year – but Happ is good enough to get the Badgers through tough spots. As long as he doesn’t have to shoot free throws, an area in which his percentage has plummetted from 64.3 percent as a freshman to 46.5 percent as a senior.

Cameron Jackson, Wofford

Wondering how Wofford got so much love this season? Well, they’re really good, for one, but Jackson is a huge part of that success. The 6-foot-8, 250-pound Virginia native averages 14.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 1 block per game while shooting 58.1 percent from the floor. He’s a high-usage player and a very good rebounder that helps give the Terriers their bite.

Dedric Lawson, Kansas

This season was disappointing by the standards set by Kansas, which missed out on the Big 12 regular-season title for the first time in 14 years, but things didn’t totally crater largely because of Lawson’s excellence. The Memphis transfer averaged 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds along with 1.7 assists per game. He was the center of everything the Jayhawks did as they lost players to suspension, injuries and a leave of absence. If Kansas is going to go on a run, the Jayhawks are going to need someone like Marcus Garrett, Devon Dotson or Quentin Grimes to outpace their regular-season production, but Lawson will be the foundation that off of which they’ll build.

Bruno Fernando, Maryland

The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder is one of the more physically imposing players in the country with the stats to back it up. He’s a high-level rebounder and a good shot blocker that figures to be a first-round pick come June. If he gets the ball around the goal, he’s probably scoring.

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota

The Big Ten’s all-time career rebounder, Murphy should surpass 1,300 career boards against Louisville on Thursday. He’s averaging 11.5 boards per game this season, doing most of his damage of the defensive end with a 28.5 rebounding percentage there. He’s a capable scorer at 14.5 points per game with a shooting percentage of 48.3 percent, but it’ll be his work on the glass that’ll help the Gophers try to win their first NCAA tournament game under Richard Pitino, against his father’s former employer, no less.

Darnell Cowart, Murray State

Ja Morant deservedly gets the headlines, but if the Racers make a play for the second weekend, it wouldn’t be surpringing to see Cowart, at 6-foot-8 and nearly 300 pounds, play a big part. He’s an elite offensive rebounder at 14.5 percent, and averages 10.4 points per game. Now, I did mention Morant, so by rule we have to take a moment to watch him dunk.

Nick Muszynski, Belmont

The 6-foot-11 freshman is both an excellent passer and solid shot blocker. He’s posting 2.2 swats per game along with 2.7 assists. Add that to his 61.4 percent field goal number, and he makes a pretty strong complement to Dylan Windler. 

Scottie James, Liberty

If James shoots it, it’s likely going in. As in an overwhelming likelihood. The Liberty big man is shooting 70.3 percent from the floor this season, top-15 in the country. He’s also a great rebounder, corralling 15.6 percent of his own team’s misses and 27.6 percent of his opponents’, both of which are top-25 numbers nationally.

Drew McDonald, Northern Kentucky

The Horizon League player of the year is averaging 19.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game this season while shooting 38.4 percent from 3. The Norse’s upset chances likely hinge on how well he plays against Texas Tech.