The 7-foot-1 freshman put up 32 points and 14 rebounds as Arizona defeated UCLA, 78-67 in overtime. He made 13 of 16 shots and 5 of 6 from the line while also posting three assists and a pair of blocks and steals each.
There will be debates in draft rooms across the NBA about who to take No. 1, but Ayton continues to make his case that it should be a short conversation. Luka Doncic could very well be awesome, Marvin Bagley III is great and Michael Porter, Jr. is intriguing, but Ayton has put up huge numbers night in and night out for a team embroiled in chaos more often than not.
He was great again. And he’s the player of the day.
THE REST OF SATURDAY’S STARS
JORDAN DAVIS, Northern Colorado: Who cares what his numbers were. He did this. If you don’t click that link, you’re depriving yourself of one of life’s greatest gifts.
Remember when Alabama lost five-straight to finish the year and entered the SEC tournament on the bubble? After Collin Sexton’s heroics Thursday and domination Friday, that seems like an awfully long time ago.
The Crimson Tide got 31 points and seven boards from Sexton and defeated rival Auburn, 81-63, to not only strengthen their NCAA tournament team, but to suddenly have a look of a team that should have top seeds running scared.
It’s amazing what a difference a couple of days in March can make.
GAME OF THE DAY
There are plenty of candidates for this one given what a wildly entertaining day Friday was, but let’s give it to a game that was decidedly uncompetitive.
San Diego State 90, No. 22 Nevada 73. Final.
The Aztecs led by as many as 30 and just ran roughshod over a really good Wolf Pack team. All five SDSU starters scored in double figures and they shot 51.9 percent as a team. Now they’ve got a shot to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2015.
Tubby Smith’s lawyer accused Penny Hardaway of sabotage.
Yeah, you read that right. the Memphis coach’s long-time attorney threw a pretty big allegation in Hardaway’s direction, positing that the potential Smith replacement and the leader of grassroots powerhouse Team Penny has been steering high-level Memphis kids away from their hometown team.
It’s quite the accusation, but it’s also kind of a self-own. Smith’s lawyer is essentially admitting that Memphis would maybe, probably, potentially be getting Memphis kids – highly-ranked Memphis kids – if Hardaway took over the program. Even if there is something underhanded going on – and there doesn’t appear to be any evidence right now there is – telling the world your guy is essentially getting out-recruited by the favored replacement isn’t exactly a winning strategy. Especially on a day that Memphis was, ya know, actually winning.
The federal investigation into college basketball has been awfully quiet – aside from leaks detailing ASM Sports’ business plan – but the feds apparently aren’t done digging. The Raleigh News & Observer reported Friday that NC State has been served with a subpoena seeking documents.
Mississippi State’s Nick Weatherspoon suffered what looked to be a very scary injury when a Tennessee player inadvertently stepped on his head. The school later announced that the freshman, whose brother is a junior on the team, was awake and had feeling throughout his body.
VIDEO: Jordan Davis posterizes Montana with a Dunk of March candidate
With the men’s basketball program being investigated by the NCAA for possible rules violations, Northern Colorado announced Thursday afternoon that it was parting ways with head coach B.J. Hill.
Hill spent six seasons at the Big Sky program, posting a record of 86-98. During his first season at the helm, Northern Colorado won the Big Sky’s regular season and tournament titles, making the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. But after winning 21 games that season Hill’s Bears finished above .500 just once (18-14 in 2013-14), and in 2015-16 Northern Colorado went 10-21.
According to the school a national search will be conducted to find Hill’s replacement, but the fact that the program is being investigated by the NCAA could complicate things some. Northern Colorado’s top four scorers, led by guard Cameron Michael, all have eligibility remaining with three of those players (Michael, Anthony Johnson and Dallas Anglin) being rising seniors.
Northern Colorado head coach is Jackie Moon (VIDEO)
The Northern Colorado basketball team got a surprise appearance for Friday afternoon’s practice, as head coach B.J. Hill walked in as Jackie Moon, Will Ferrell’s character from the 2007 comedy Semi-Pro.
Hill went all out, too. He wore the 1970s afro wig, headband, and a full warmups of the Flint Tropics, the fictional ABA team Moon owned, coached and played for. Playing Moon’s hit single ‘Love Me Sexy’ in the background was a nice touch.
The favorite to win the Big Sky 2014-2015 won’t come as a surprise, despite the fact that the program in question lost four seniors from last season’s NCAA tournament team. Randy Rahe’s Weber State Wildcats enter the season looking to make consecutive NCAA tournament appearances for the first time since their run of three straight from 1978-80. Gone are Big Sky Player of the Year Davion Berry, key contributors Kyle Tresnak and Jordan Richardson, and Royce Williams (transfer) and Byron Fulton. However even with those losses the Wildcats return some talented pieces, led by junior forward Joel Bolomboy and sophomore guard Jeremy Senglin. Bolomboy was an honorable mention All-Big Sky selection last season, but he’s poised to make a sizeable jump after leading the conference in rebounding (11.2 rpg).
As for Senglin, the Big Sky Freshman of the Year (10.9 ppg) will slide over into the role of primary ball-handler with Berry having moved on. Weber State will be more balanced this season when it comes to scoring, as they lose a player in Berry who factored into more than 30 percent of their possessions in 2013-14. Adjustments will need to be made, with Richaud Gittens (6.9 ppg) and Kyndahl Hill (4.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg) among the returnees who will need to step forward. But even with that being the case, Weber State is more than capable of winning the Big Sky again.
As for the competition, this will be a balanced race once again. Last year seven teams won between ten and 12 conference games (the Big Sky has a 20-game schedule), with the two teams that finished 10-10 (Eastern Washington and Sacramento State) failing to qualify for the postseason tournament. Both the Eagles and Hornets should qualify without much trouble this season, with Jim Hayford welcoming back four starters led by guards Drew Brandon and Tyler Harvey (21.8 ppg) and forward Venky Jois. In total EWU returns its top five scorers from 2013-14, which will make the Eagles a formidable group from an offensive standpoint. If they can get a little better defensively, Eastern Washington will be a contender.
As for Sacramento State, their experienced guard tandem of Dylan Garrity (13.2 ppg, 3.6 apg) and Mikh McKinney (16.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg) will be asked to lead the way. McKinney was a first team All-Big Sky selection in 2013-14 with Garrity receiving honorable mention status, and with guard Cody Demps and forward Zach Mills also returning the Hornets welcome back their top four scorers from a season ago. Two other players to watch for the Hornets: senior forward Alex Tiffin and sophomore center Eric Stuteville. Sacramento State broke even on the boards last season thanks to a group effort (seven players averaged between 3.1 and 4.2 rpg), and if Stuteville (5.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and Tiffin (4.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg) can step forward the Hornets will be better for it.
Northern Arizona is another team to consider, with head coach Jack Murphy doing a good job of rebuilding the program. Senior guard Quinton Upshur (15.3 ppg), who was the conference’s best newcomer last season, and fellow guards Aaseem Dixon and Kris Yanku will lead the way offensively with Yanku manning the point. Add in leading rebounder Gaellan Bewernick (5.9 rpg), and the Lumberjacks have the pieces needed to contend. Montana, even with the loss of do-it-all guard/forward Kareem Jamar, will be formidable and the same can be said for Northern Colorado, Portland State and Idaho as well.
The top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament, with the regular season champion playing the role of host. And just like last season, the race for those spots won’t lack for suspense this winter.
In: Idaho Out: None
PRESEASON BIG SKY PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington
Harvey averaged 21.8 points per game overall last season, and he was even better in conference games (23.8 ppg) of the Eagles. And in addition to being one of the best scorers in the country as a sophomore Harvey was also one of its best shooters, shooting 44.3% from the field, 43.3% from three and 89.7% from the charity stripe.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-BIG SKY TEAM:
Mikh McKinney, Sacramento State: In addition to the 16.6 points per game, McKinney was also third in the Big Sky in offensive rating amongst players who factored into at least 24 percent of their team’s possessions in 2013-14.
Quinton Upshur, Northern Arizona: Upshur was the Big Sky Newcomer of the Year, averaging 15.3 points per game.
Joel Bolomboy, Weber State: Bolomboy’s already a high-level rebounder, and he made strides in expanding his offensive skill set this summer.
Jeremy Senglin, Weber State: Sacramento State’s Dylan Garrity was another option, but the pick is Senglin due to his solid freshman year and what he can do in moving to a primary ball-handler role as a sophomore.
1. Weber State
2. Northern Arizona
3. Sacramento State
4. Eastern Washington
6. Northern Colorado
7. Portland State
9. North Dakota
10. Idaho State
11. Montana State
12 Southern Utah