It’s been a really solid, resurgent season for Illinois. A needed one given the two sub-.500 years to start Brad Underwood’s tenure in Champaign.
It won’t likely end with a Big Ten title, though.
Illinois’ hopes of claiming a piece of the regular-season B1G championship took a critical hit with a 71-63 loss to Ohio State in Columbus. The Illini are now a game back of Michigan State, Maryland and Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings and would need all three – none of whom play each other – to lose in their B1G finales this weekend and then the Illini would need to beat Iowa as well.
So, probably not happening. But with the NCAA tournament looming ahead, Illinois has a welcome consolation prize in its future.
Illinois led by as many as 11 in the first half, but saw that lead slip away with the Buckeyes taking an 11-point advantage themselves after halftime. Ayo Dosunmu was electric for the Illini, scoring 21 points on 9 of 14 shooting to go along with five boards and five assists, but the rest of the roster didn’t provide much in the way of offensive support. Andres Feliz was the only other Illini to lodge double figures with 11 points, but he was 4 of 14 from the floor. Illinois was 6 of 22 (27.3 percent) from 3-point range.
Ohio State, meanwhile, got a 17 points and 11 rebounds off the bench from E.J. Liddell while Kaleb Wesson had 19 points. CJ Walker had 15 points, six boards and five assists. The Buckeyes are heading into the postseason on something of a roll after their turn-of-the-year struggles (in which they lost six of seven games). They’ve ripped off four straight that includes victories against Maryland, Michigan and the Illini. Michigan State is up next Sunday in the finale in yet another resume-boosting opportunity in the Big Ten.
San Diego State moves on after scare
There was a little space of time Thursday afternoon where teams like Dayton, Florida State and Seton Hall saw an opening. Air Force, the No. 9 seed in the Mountain West, led San Diego State, a presumptive No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, nearing the midway point of the second half. For a moment or two there, it look as though a top seed might open up.
Then the Aztecs got back to being the dominant force they are in that league, holding Air Force without a bucket for nearly the final four minutes and closing out the last 94 seconds on a 7-0 run.
It was a 13-point win, but still one in which they trailed for a big chunk of the game. Not great evidence to refute the idea that San Diego State has gone wobbly lately. First they lost at home to UNLV (who lost its MWC tourney opener Thursday) and then beat Colorado State and Nevada by just single digits. Easily could just be a team that’s been mostly unbeatable all season long getting a little bored with the stakes lowered a little bit. Or it could be something more.
We might find out in a couple weeks.
Tulsa wins a piece of the American
It wasn’t unreasonable to think heading into this season Frank Haith might be feeling the heat at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane made the First Four in his second season there and spent the subsequent three seasons missing the NCAA tournament. His peers in the American picked his team to finish 10th in the 12-team league in the preseason poll. All that doesn’t scream job security.
Winning the conference does, though.
Tulsa clinched at least a share of the American on Thursday when UConn knocked off Houston, 77-71, in Storrs. The Hurricane can wrap up the title to themselves if they’re able to beat Wichita State on the road Sunday.
Tulsa graduate transfer Curran Scott headed to Clemson
After two seasons at Tulsa, Curran Scott is going to Clemson.
The 6-foot-4 guard is joining the Tigers as a graduate transfer, he announced Monday.
“Thank you to my family and friends for supporting me throughout this process,” Scott wrote on social media. “I would also like to thank the coaches who recruited me as well. I have committed to Clemson University to play for (Brad Brownell) and his staff, Go Tigers!”
God is great. Thank you to my family and friends for supporting me throughout this process. I would also like to thank the coaches who recruited me as well. I have committed to Clemson University to play for @Coach_Brownell and his staff, Go Tigers! 🐅 pic.twitter.com/ADDwQWm520
Scott, who began his career at Charlotte, averaged 8.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game last season for the Golden Hurricane. He shot 39.4 percent from 3-point range, and will be joining a Clemson team that lost two of its three top scorers from lat year’s 20-14 NIT team.
If the NCAA had the NBA’s trade deadline, what deals would get made?
I’m convinced of it. Imagine, for a second, the offers that would get thrown around as Duke looks for some shooting, or Michigan looks for another playmaker, or Kansas tries to find a way to avoid losing the Big 12 for the first time since Hoobastank was still a thing.
It wouldn’t make the headlines that this Anthony Davis soap opera has, but it would be one of the biggest story in sports.
So with that in mind, let’s pretend this trade deadline exists. What would happen? We have the answers.
One major caveat here: These trades have to benefit both teams, and they have to be trades that, in theory, would be accepted. So, for example, no matter how much I want to imagine someone like Cam Reddish with the freedom he’d have at Kansas. The same can be said for someone like Dylan Windler or Ja Morant or Chris Clemons. Those mid-majors superstars are on teams with the talent to win their league. They’re not making moves right now.
I know it’s kind of silly to require some sensibility for something that could never possibly happen, but it makes the exercise that much more fun.
Anyway, here are the trades. Drop a note in the comments or hit me on twitter with any I missed:
WICHITA STATE’S MARKIS MCDUFFIE TO DUKE FOR ALEX O’CONNELL
McDuffie is everything that Duke is missing at this point in the season. He’s an athletic, 6-foot-8 wing that is a versatile defender and, most importantly, a senior that has already won a bunch of games in March. He’s have the best year of his career this season, averaging 18.9 points while shooting 38.1 percent from three. He’s a better version of Jack White, a piece that can spell any of Duke’s Big Three while also being able to hold his own if Duke went to their death lineup — with McDuffie on the floor with the four freshmen.
O’Connell would be a good get for Gregg Marshall. He’s going to have to be better defensively to fit in there, but you get better defensively when you spend time in that program. And frankly, playing for one of the better programs in the American is more O’Connell’s level than playing for arguably the best program in America. He hasn’t been great for Duke, but keep in mind, he’s an athletic, 6-foot-6 wing that can shoot it from three and was a top 75 prospect coming out of high school.
Wichita State is dead in the water this year, so it makes sense to give up McDuffie for the rest of a wasted season to get two more years of O’Connell in return.
STANFORD’S KZ OKPALA TO MICHIGAN FOR BRANDON JOHNS AND THE COMMITMENT OF JALEN WILSON
Stanford’s season is done. They’re 11-10 on the year, they’re 4-5 in the horrid Pac-12 and while Jerod Haase isn’t quite on the hot seat just yet, he’s getting closer and closer to that territory by the moment. He also has one of the best sophomores in the country on his roster in K.Z. Okpala, a 6-foot-9 wing that shoots 41 percent from three, can handle the ball and will likely end up being a top 20 pick in this year’s draft.
This season is currently going to waste for Okpala, who is the perfect fit on a Michigan team that can go through stretches were they really struggle to score. Zavier Simpson, Jon Teske and, to a point, Charles Matthews are sensational defenders that can be liabilities on the offensive end of the floor, and when all of them are playing roughly 20 minutes together, Michigan can get bogged down on that end of the floor.
Enter Okpala, who has the length and athleticism to be a plus-defender and whose shooting and playmaking ability will fit in perfectly with a John Beilein offense. He’ll create depth on a roster that doesn’t have a ton of it, and suddenly give Beilein the option of playing a lineup that includes Iggy Brazdeikis, Isaiah Livers, Matthews and Okpala.
Johns is going to end up being pretty good, and Wilson is a top 50 prospect, so that’s a lot to give up, but Johns will play at least one more year behind Teske and Livers, and Wilson can be replaced on the recruiting trail still. Okpala gives Michigan a real chance to win a title this season, and Stanford will be getting good foundational pieces to add to a young core in return.
NORTHWESTERN’S VIC LAW TO KANSAS FOR CHARLIE MOORE
SOUTH CAROLINA’S CHRIS SILVA TO KANSAS FOR MARCUS GARRETT
Charlie Moore has not had anywhere near the impact we thought he would have this season for Kansas. Devon Dotson has taken over starting point guard duties, and Moore — who was good for a bad Cal team as a freshman — has been forced into essentially being a back-up point guard that shoots a bunch of threes. Northwestern is closer to his level, and Law is a perfect piece to add to the Kansas roster. He’s a versatile and talented 6-foot-7 wing defender — he’s averaging better than 1.0 blocks and 1.0 steals per game this season — that is averaging 15.0 points and 2.9 assists this season. He’s not shooting it all that well this year, but the last two seasons, he was a 39 percent three-point shooter.
But it is the second trade here that really gets the juice flowing. Marcus Garrett has become surplus to requirements for the Jayhawks with the emergence of Ochai Agbaji and the struggles of Quentin Grimes, which has made it seem more and more likely he’ll end up in Lawrence for a second season. Garrett is one of the nation’s best defenders, but he is not the offensive weapon that Self needs him to be.
He is, however, the perfect fit longterm for a South Carolina program that is more or less dead in the water right now. They aren’t going to get an at-large bid and currently sit three games behind the No. 1 team in the country and two games behind the No. 5 team in the country in the SEC title race. Chris Silva is a hoss in the paint and maybe the most underrated big man in the sport. He’s precisely what Kansas needs for the rest of the year with Udoka Azubuike out and the rest of their frontcourt not ready.
These two deals would make Kansas the best team in the Big 12 and would not totally mortgage the program’s future.
USC’S BENNIE BOATWRIGHT TO SYRACUSE FOR JALEN CAREY
Bennie Boatwright is perfect for Syracuse. He’s 6-foot-10 and he’s not all that interested in playing defense, which makes him a perfect fit to be hidden in that zone. He also can shooting the cover off the ball, and what the Orange need more than anything else is someone that can create some space offensively. He’ll pull defenses out of the lane and allow Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett to do what they do best.
Jalen Carey has had some flashes for the Orange, but he’s on the smaller side and he can’t really shoot it, which has limited his effectiveness as the season has gone on.
TULSA’S DAQUAN JEFFRIES TO TEXAS TECH FOR KYLER EDWARDS
Finding the right fit for Texas Tech was tough. I toyed with Justin James of Wyoming, a number of the other wings you currently see on this list as well as Robert Franks from Washington State. I finally settled on Jeffries.
A lot of people won’t be familiar with Jeffries, but he would be a perfect fit for the Red Raiders. He’s tough as hell, he’s a really good defender and, most importantly, he can shoot it from three. That is the big thing that this team needs — floor-spacing. Someone that can ease the burden that is on Jarrett Culver’s shoulders. Jeffries can be that guy.
Giving up Kyler Edwards would not be ideal, but Texas Tech does have some depth on their perimeter and some pieces coming in in their backcourt. He’ll be a star for Tulsa in the American, and would give Frank Haith a nice building block moving forward.
ST. JOSEPH’S CHARLIE BROWN TO KENTUCKY FOR JEMARL BAKER
Charlie Brown is a talented, 6-foot-7 sophomore with an NBA future that has struggled to find his way within the St. Joe’s program. He needs a fresh start, and his length and athleticism on the perimeter would be a really nice fit on Kentucky’s roster. He can shoot it as well, meaning that the Wildcats won’t lose much with Baker leaving.
St. Joe’s, on the other hand, will be getting a former four-star recruit that needs a place where he can get more minutes to prove how good he can be.
UTAH’S SEDRICK BAREFIELD TO INDIANA FOR TWO FRESHMEN TO BE NAMED LATER
There are two things that this Indiana program needs: Veteran leadership at the point guard spot, and someone that can consistently hit jumpers to create space for Romeo Langford, Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis to operate. Barefield is a senior that is averaging 16.3 points and 3.8 assists for Utah while shooting 40.6 percent from three. He’s the perfect fit for the Hoosiers, who, in exchange, would send back some of their young pieces. Who do you like? Clifton Moore? Damezi Anderson? Jake Forrester? Jerome Hunter? If I’m Archie Miller, the only guy that I’m not giving up is Robert Phinisee.
NEW MEXICO’S ANTHONY MATHIS TO VCU FOR P.J. BYRD
I really think that this VCU team has a chance to be dangerous this year … if they can find a way to start consistently making threes. Anthony Mathis is a guy that will consistently take, and make, threes. He plays in a system at UNM that is not all that different from what VCU does, and while Byrd has looked promising in his limited minute with the Rams, VCU will be getting Marcus Evans back next season. There won’t be many minutes for him available, and it shouldn’t be that hard for Mike Rhoades to find another point guard to fit what he wants to do.
Wednesday’s Things to Know: Bizarre double ejection in UConn/Tulsa; Iowa State, Kansas State earn huge Big 12 wins
After Tuesday night’s craziness in college hoops, things were bound to slow down on a Wednesday that only featured a few intriguing conference games. Of course, things got weird with a double head-coach ejection in the American while the Big 12 had some enticing contests.
UCONN’S DAN HURLEY AND TULSA’S FRANK HAITH HIT WITH DOUBLE DOUBLE-TECHNICALS. YOU READ THAT RIGHT.
Strange ejections went down in the American on Wednesday night when UConn head Dan Hurley and Tulsa’s Frank Haith were both kicked out — as they were trying to shake hands to make amends for an argument. The bizarre incident occured one day after Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin was ejected, as the American has a lot of incidents like this being talked about lately.
Tulsa ended up holding on for the close 89-83 win as Jeriah Horne dropped 27 points.
Both head coaches released statements after the game, as well as the officials, as this will surely be talked about among sports talking heads for all of Thursday.
IOWA STATE WIN AT No. 8 TEXAS TECH AFTER LOSING TWO STRAIGHT
Falling to Baylor and Kansas State, the Cyclones avenged those losses and even held everything together once Texas Tech made a late rally. Getting multiple important stops and doing just enough offensively to finish the job, this is a great job by Iowa State to win an important Big 12 road game while staying right in the mix of a very crowded Big 12 race.
Now that unbeaten Texas Tech has fallen, every team in the Big 12 has lost at least one game in conference play as a deep conference looks like it’s going to be a bloodbath once again.
KANSAS STATE BLOWS OUT No. 20 OKLAHOMA IN NORMAN
Perhaps more than any other team going on Wednesday night, Kansas State needed a win to help its cause. With the Wildcats right on the bubble for a handful of NCAA tournament projections, an opportunity for a road win against another ranked team would be huge.
After knocking off Iowa State on the road the last game, Kansas State earned its second straight Big 12 road win over a ranked team with a convincing 74-61 win over the Sooners. The back-to-back road wins are the first true road wins of the season for the Wildcats — who appear to be gaining confidence.
Senior guard Barry Brown Jr. poured in 25 points — his third straight outing of at least 23 points — to pace the Kansas State offense as he’s looked like a consistent go-to scorer in recent wins.
UConn’s Hurley, Tulsa’s Haith ejected after confrontation ‘escalated by the officials’
The UConn and Tulsa game turned into a mess on Wednesday night after a bizarre incident in which both head coaches, UConn’s Dan Hurley and Tulsa’s Frank Haith, were ejected after a pair of double technicals were issued..
As seen in the video below, the two coaches got into a verbal argument over a foul call. That resulted in the duo both receiving a technical foul. Then things got strange. As Hurley and Haith appeared to be mending fences with a handshake with official Pat Adams seemingly in control of the situation, another official — Marques Pettigrew — cam in from the other side of the floor and each coach received a second technical foul. It is the first double head coaching ejection in the American.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Hurley told reporters after the game. “It was surreal, I would say.
“Watch what happened on TV. It’s very clear. I was talking to the official, and then I was engaged by someone on the other sideline. They said my name, in my direction, so I turned and looked [with] kind of a look of surprise.
“I’ve known Frank for a very long time — probably 15, 18, 20 years, back to when I was a high school coach and he recruited my players. I feel as though that situation escalated because of the officials and the way they handled the situation.”
“I don’t feel like it was to that level,” he said. “There was competitive conversation. I didn’t know the both of us got a first technical. I would have hoped it would have been handled a lot differently.”
“That was embarrassing,” Hurley added. “It’s embarrassing for the conference, for both me and Frank, and on the heels of last night, it’s not a good look for our league. It’s just very disappointing the way that thing was handled.”
This comes on the heels of Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin getting ejected on Tuesday night as the conference appears to be on a hot streak with tossing coaches. Cronin acknowledged that he had never been ejected from a game before.
It is the second time that Hurley has been ejected in his first season at UConn. He was also tossed in a loss to Iowa in Madison Square Garden earlier this season.
Davis scores 21 points, No. 19 Houston beats Tulsa 74-56
HOUSTON — Corey Davis Jr. scored 21 points and hit six 3-pointers and No. 19 Houston remained undefeated, beating Tulsa 74-56 on Wednesday night in the American Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
Houston (14-0) extended the longest home winning streak in the nation to 27 games.
Nate Hinton had 13 points and eight rebounds, and Galen Robinson Jr. added 10 points for Houston. The Cougars shot only 37 percent, but outrebounded Tulsa 52-40, including 16-9 on the offensive glass, and had an 18-7 edge in second-chance points.
Martins Igbanu had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Daquan Jeffries added 10 points and six rebounds for Tulsa (10-4). The Golden Hurricane shot 31 percent from the field, and had their five-game winning streak snapped.
Houston missed its first 10 field goals before Robinson’ two free throws and a layup by Brison Gresham with 14 minutes left in the first half cut Tulsa’s lead to 6-4. The Cougars heated up from there, opening a 26-16 lead on Armoni Brooks’ 3-pointer that capped a 10-2 run. Houston led 36-25 at the half, making 11 of its last 24 shots.
Tulsa could never get closer than nine in the second half, with Houston putting it out of reach with a 15-6, capped by DeJon Jarreau’ layup with 6 1/2 minutes left that upped it to 63-45. Davis had six to lead the run.
HOLGORSEN IN THE HOUSE
New Houston football coach Dana Holgorsen sat courtside next to Tilman Fertitta, the Houston Rockets owner and University of Houston system Board of Regents chairman, and University of Houston President Renu Khator. Holgorsen, who will be formally introduced as the head coach Thursday, signed two footballs, throwing one into the student section.
Tulsa: The Golden Hurricane had a chance to open a large lead early, but they hit two of their first eight field goals and allowed Houston to hang around. Tulsa shot 5 of 18 on 3-pointers. The Golden Hurricane had no points off 10 Houston turnovers.
Houston: The Cougars had another slow start, their fourth in the last five games, but the defense continues to keep them in games until the offense picks up. Houston forced 12 turnovers, turning them into 12 points. Houston had 18 assists on 25 field goals.