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Bracketology: All Hail the Wolverines

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With Duke’s home loss to Syracuse, and with the status of Blue Devils’ point guard Tre Jones uncertain following a shoulder injury, Michigan climbs the final rung on the latest Seed List ladder.

The Wolverines hold the No. 1 overall position in today’s bracket, followed closely by Virginia and Tennessee.

The real debate involved the fourth No. 1 seed position.

One could make a compelling case for Duke, Kansas, or Michigan State.

The Blue Devils were without two of their primary players for much of the loss to Syracuse.

In the end, however, the Jayhawks’ eight Group 1 wins, plus victories over both Tennessee and Michigan State, proved to be the difference.

UPDATED: January 17, 2019

FIRST FOUR – DAYTON
EAST REGION VCU vs. Pittsburgh
WEST REGION Texas vs. Arizona State
SOUTH REGION Norfolk State vs. Prairie View
EAST REGION Sam Houston vs. UMKC

SOUTH Louisville   EAST – Washington, DC          
Columbus Columbia
1) MICHIGAN 1) VIRGINIA
16) PR VIEW / NORFOLK ST  16) SAM HOUSTON / UMKC
8) NC State 8) Kansas State
9) Mississippi State 9) Minnesota
Salt Lake City Des Moines
5) Florida State 5) VILLANOVA
12) LIPSCOMB 12) VCU / Pittsburgh
4) Marquette 4) Maryland
13) GEORGIA STATE 13) YALE
Des Moines Jacksonville
6) Nebraska 6) Indiana
11) SAINT LOUIS 11) Arizona
3) HOUSTON 3) Kentucky
14) LOYOLA-CHICAGO 14) VERMONT
Jacksonville Tulsa
7) LSU 7) Auburn
10) TCU 10) Syracuse
2) Duke 2) Texas Tech
15) RIDER 15) UTSA
WEST – Anaheim MIDWEST – Kansas City
Tulsa Columbia
1) KANSAS 1) TENNESSEE
16) WEBER STATE 16) WAGNER
8) Purdue 8) Ohio State
9) St. John’s 9) Seton Hall
Hartford San Jose
5) Iowa 5) Louisville
12) Texas / Arizona State 12) MURRAY STATE
4) North Carolina 4) Oklahoma
13) HOFSTRA 13) UC-IRVINE
San Jose Hartford
6) Iowa State 6) BUFFALO
11) WOFFORD 11) Temple
3) NEVADA 3) Virginia Tech
14) NORTHERN KENTUCKY 14) SOUTH DAKOTA ST
Salt Lake City Columbus
7) Wisconsin 7) Ole Miss
10) Cincinnati 10) WASHINGTON
2) GONZAGA 2) Michigan State
15) RIDER 15) LEHIGH

BUBBLE NOTES
Last 4 Byes Last 4 IN      First 4 OUT Next 4 OUT
TCU Texas Butler Clemson
Cincinnati Arizona State UCF San Francisco
Temple VCU Florida Fresno State
Arizona Pittsburgh Alabama Dayton

TOP SEED LINE: Michigan is the No. 1 overall seed, followed by Virginia, Tennessee, and Kansas

Breakdown by Conference …

Big 10 (10): MICHIGAN, Michigan State, Maryland, Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Wisconsin, Purdue, Ohio State, Minnesota

ACC (9): VIRGINIA, Duke, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Florida State, Louisville, NC State, Syracuse, Pittsburgh

SEC (6): TENNESSEE, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, Auburn, Mississippi State

BIG 12 (6): KANSAS, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Iowa State, TCU, Texas

Big East (4): VILLANOVA, Marquette, Seton Hall, St. John’s

American (3): HOUSTON, Cincinnati, Temple

Pac 12 (3): WASHINGTON, Arizona, Arizona State

Mountain West (1): NEVADA

Atlantic 10 (2): SAINT LOUIS, VCU

West Coast (1): GONZAGA

ONE BID LEAGUES: Loyola-Chicago (MVC), Rider (MAAC), UTSA (C-USA), Georgia State (SBELT), Yale (IVY), Weber State (BSKY), Northern Kentucky (HORIZON), Sam Houston (SLND), Wofford (STHN), UC-Irvine (BWEST), Buffalo (MAC), Lipscomb (ASUN), Murray State (OVC), Hofstra (CAA), Radford (BSO), Norfolk State (MEAC), South Dakota State (SUM), UMKC (WAC), Vermont (AEAST), Lehigh (PAT), Wagner (NEC), Prairie View (SWAC)

Garza’s 22 lead No. 23 Iowa over Penn State 89-82

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — With plenty of time left on the shot clock and his team nursing a slight lead late, Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon probably could’ve been more patient.

His coach is glad he wasn’t.

Bohannon stepped back with 36 seconds left and drained his fifth 3-pointer of the night to clinch the No. 23 Hawkeyes’ 89-82 win over Penn State on Wednesday night.

“It’s a good shot because he took it,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “I would’ve been surprised if he didn’t shoot it.”

Bohannon finished with 19 points and Luka Garza matched a season-high 22 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds. Ryan Kriener had 15 off the bench for the Hawkeyes (15-3, 4-3 Big Ten), who won their fourth straight and ninth of 10.

Meanwhile, Penn State coach Patrick Chambers was surprised his team didn’t defend like it has recently when its last five opponents have failed to eclipse 71 points.

“It’s unfortunate that our defense wasn’t as good as it’s been all season long,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “The stats look fantastic but we couldn’t get the stops when we needed to.”

Josh Reaves and Rasir Bolton scored 16 points apiece for the Nittany Lions (7-11, 0-7), who led for most of the second half and by as many as eight with 11:05 left.

Mike Watkins chipped in 11 points and and 11 rebounds and Myles Dread scored 14 points for Penn State which scored the first eight points and led 45-40 at halftime.

After the teams swapped the lead five times in the final six minutes, Garza put Iowa ahead for good with a free throw that made it 83-82 with 1:36 to play. Bohannon’s 3-pointer moments later to put the game out of reach.

“We maintained our composure, got the lead back and got the stops we needed,” McCaffery said.

MISSED CHANCES

After opening with an 8-0 run, the Nittany Lions missed 16 of their next 21 shots including 10 misses from 3-point range.

OUT OF CHARACTER

Iowa’s not known as a 3-point shooting team and the Hawkeyes had made just 35 percent of their 3-pointers on the season heading into the game. However, they drained 12 of 28 (43 percent) overall against Penn State and 9 of 19 in the first half.

STEVENS’ STRUGGLES

Iowa planned to harass Stevens all night with double teams and hoped the pressure would force Penn State’s top-scorer to pass more than shoot.

Stevens was still able to set up his shots but went just 4-for-18 and 0-for-5 from 3-point range. His eight points were a season-low and marked the first time he was held below double digits since March 1 last season.

“He’s getting in the gym,” Chambers said. “He’s not happy with his jump shot right now and it’s unfortunate because he’s working hard right now.”

COOK’S RETURN LOOMING

Iowa played its second game this season without starting forward Tyler Cook who’s nursing a sprained ankle suffered against Ohio State.

But the team’s leading scorer and rebounder is nearing a return. McCaffery said he’s hopeful Cook can return Saturday against Illinois.

“That’s the plan,” McCaffery said. “You never know with sprained ankles.”

Cook missed Iowa’s Jan. 9 game with a sore knee.

THE BIG PICTURE

Iowa: Coming off arguably their best game of the season, the Hawkeyes came back to earth a bit. They struggled to keep up with Penn State’s speed, especially early when the Nittany Lions posted nine of of their first 11 points on fastbreaks.

Penn State: The early portion of the Nittany Lions’ conference schedule has been brutal with five losses to Top 25 teams already. It eases up a bit as their next three opponents are a combined 8-9 in conference play so far.

UP NEXT

Iowa hosts Illinois on Sunday.

Penn State visits Minnesota on Saturday.

Nick Ward leads No. 6 Michigan State over Penn State, 71-56

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Tom Izzo wasn’t impressed with much of No. 6 Michigan State’s double-digit victory over Penn State.

The Spartans built a big lead early and dominated at times in the paint in their 71-56 win on Sunday. From Izzo’s standpoint, that’s all they did well and that won’t be enough for the Spartans to be the team they want to be.

“Maybe we’re all talking too much about how good we are,” Izzo said. “We’re not that good.”

Playing without guards Joshua Langford and Kyle Ahrens, Michigan State’s offense suffered through spurts of inconsistency while also mounting the runs necessary to keep the game out of reach.

Nick Ward had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Matt McQuaid added 15 points and Cassius Winston chipped in 11 for the Spartans (15-2, 6-0 Big Ten), who have won 10 straight. They also beat the Nittany Lions (7-10, 0-6) for the 10th consecutive time.

Michigan State turned the ball over 17 times and shot 49 percent from the field.

“They missed some shots that I think they could’ve made,” Izzo said. “The turnovers were a joke.”

Kenny Goins added 10 rebounds for the Spartans, who only trailed for 10 seconds and led by as many as 21 with 6:44 to play.

The Spartans took control just over five minutes into the first half with a relentless possession.

Fueled by a pair of offensive rebounds from Goins and Xavier Tillman, the Spartans controlled the ball for nearly 40 seconds and took the lead for good when Winston pinpointed a bounce pass through traffic to Goins, who finished with a right-handed dunk. Goins’ jam sparked a 28-14 run for the Spartans, who led 40-24 at halftime.

Lamar Stevens led Penn State (7-10, 0-6) with 20 points. Myles Dread, Josh Reaves and Mike Watkins all scored 11 points.

“We haven’t brought it all together yet,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. “We still have 14 (games) to go and we can turn this ship around right away.”

CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM

Izzo leveled some pointed criticism at Winston.

“I hate to say it, and I’m giving him credit for the whole season, but I told Cass, that was one of the worst games I’ve seen him play,” Izzo said.

Winston, who entered averaging 18 points per game, led the team with seven turnovers. His 11 points were his lowest output since Florida held him to 10 on Dec. 8.

Izzo said he wasn’t sure when Langford and Ahrens, who missed his first game this season with a back injury, would be back to help take the load off Winston in the backcourt.

“He sure as hell deserves a hall pass,” Izzo said. “But he can’t get many of them if we’re going to be a real good team.”

DOMINATION ON THE GLASS

Ward and Goins combined to grab more than half the Spartans’ rebounds. Overall, Michigan State outrebounded Penn State 41-21 but only scored two more points in the paint than Penn State’s 22.

“We did a better job keeping them off the glass in the second half,” Chambers said.

NOTHING TO DREAD

Dread went down with an apparent ankle injury with 8:11 to play.

The freshman guard got tangled up with Ward chasing a loose ball, fell and appeared to twist his left leg while sliding to a stop. He writhed in pain and had to be helped to the locker room. He was able to return minutes later, however.

Dread entered the afternoon averaging 8.4 points per game, and his 28.3 minutes per game were fourth on the team.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan State: The Spartans are getting by just fine without Langford, who missed his fourth straight game with an ankle injury. In his place, a handful of Spartans have provided scoring depth, including Ahrens, Aaron Henry and McQuaid.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions are in desperate need of some positivity. Their 0-6 start in the Big Ten is their worst since the 2014-15 season, when they finished 4-14 in conference play.

Best Bets: Eight top ten teams on the road, which underdogs have a chance to win?

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There is a wild weekend of basketball on tap.

The No. 1 team in the country is heading down to Tallahassee to take on a top 15 team, and they are one of eight top ten teams that will be playing on the road this weekend. 

One of those games is a rivalry game. Two of them involve elite mid-major teams visiting the second-best team in their league. Two elite Big 12 defenses face-off while Kansas takes another road trip in the league. Indiana tests themselves at Maryland. Myles Powell vs. Markus Howard. And, surprisingly enough, a battle between two Mississippi schools that carries quite a bit of weight. 

But the game of the weekend is the features a pair of teams that reached last year’s Elite Eight, one of whom has an entirely new roster and the other who returned basically everyone from a season ago.

As always, this column is running on Friday morning. The official Vegas lines will not come out until Friday night or Saturday morning, so we will be using projections from KenPom and Haslametrics. KenPom is typically better for projecting what the lines will be, while Haslametrics tends to be more useful to gauge if I’m on the right side of the bet or not. 

No. 1 DUKE at No. 13 FLORIDA STATE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Duke 81, Florida State 73
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Duke 85, Florida State 71

This game is projected to be quite high scoring, as Duke plays at the ninth-fastest pace nationally while Florida State averages better than 70 possessions per game, and it’s worth noting that the only two losses that Florida State has taken on this season have come in their two slowest games — Villanova on a neutral and at Virginia.

There aren’t a lot of teams that want to run with Duke, but my guess is that the Seminoles will be one of those teams — they are in the 63rd percentile nationally in points-per-possession in halfcourt offense, and average 0.15 PPP more in transition than they do in a halfcourt setting. There are two reasons for this: They do not have good point guard play and they are not a good three-point shooting team. If they have to go up against a set defense, one that can clean the defensive glass, they are in trouble. (They were down 65-36 to Virginia, which is all the evidence you need.)

Duke is not Virginia in the halfcourt, but what they are is a top 30 team nationally in steal percentage playing a Florida State team that turns the ball over on 20.6 percent of their possessions. In fact, they actually rank second in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric as of today, while Virginia ranks third.

So this is how I see this game playing out: Tre Jones overwhelms whoever is trying to initiate offense for the Seminoles. Duke gets their quota of “pick-six” dunks and layups off of live-ball turnovers, and Florida State’s press struggles to slow down a team that starts four players that can bring the ball up the floor. The only real concern that I have here is that Duke will be playing on the road against a good team for the first time this season, and I don’t love taking heavy favorites on the road.

PICKS: This matchup favors Duke, and if the line ends up close to what KenPom is projecting, I would probably take the Blue Devils and the over. I can’t see the game not getting into the 80s, and I don’t think that Duke will smother the Seminoles like Virginia did. Their defense isn’t about suffocating teams, it’s about turning steals and rebounds into easy buckets.

No. 3 TENNESSEE at FLORIDA, Sat. 6:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Tennessee 67, Florida 65
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Tennessee 67, Florida 65

I just do not see it with Florida this year. This is a young group whose two best returners — Jalen Hudson and Kevaughn Allen — have seemingly forgotten how to score the ball. They are 9-5 on the season. Their three best wins came against West Virginia, Arkansas and Butler, none of whom were in our more recent bracket update. Only Butler was close, and the Bulldogs split with the Gators.

Should I mention that Florida lost at home to South Carolina?

PICKS: I will say this about Florida: They are terrific defensively. They grind teams down and force a bunch of turnovers, although I’m not sure that will have too much of an effect on a Tennessee team that protects the ball. I love Tennessee and I think the computers are overvaluing Florida at this point in the season, but the fact that both KenPom ad Haslametrics are projecting the same score is worrisome. I like the Tennessee side better, but I’ll probably stay away.

No. 4 VIRGINIA at CLEMSON, Sat. 12:00 p.m. (ACCNET)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Virginia 65, Clemson 58
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Virginia 67, Clemson 54

Virginia has played two ACC games this season and both of them were essentially 30-point blowouts. Clemson has played two ACC games this season and gotten rocked by Duke and Syracuse, both on the road. Coming back home will help, but the Tigers are a team that struggles with turnovers and can’t shoot it from the perimeter, which is what you have to be able to do to beat the Pack-Line.

PICKS: Clemson has struggled this season adjusting to a lineup where they have to play three forwards instead of three guards, and struggling is not something that works against a team as ruthless as Virginia. I expect this line to be around (-8), and I love Virginia there.

No. 5 GONZAGA at SAN FRANCISCO, Sat. 10:00 p.m. (ESPN2)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Gonzaga 80, San Francisco 73
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Gonzaga 83, San Francisco 73

Don’t sleep on San Francisco. The Dons already own wins over Stanford, Cal (on the road) and Saint Mary’s. The knock on Gonzaga is on the defensive end of the floor, and while they’ve rocketed up from sub-70 to top 35 in adjusted defensive efficiency, they’ve done so by steamrolling six horrible teams. The Zags have struggled to stop good teams this year, and USF is the second-best team in the WCC.

PICKS: My concern here is that USF doesn’t have the dudes to really take advantage of Gonzaga’s weaknesses. Josh Perkins and Zach Norvell Jr. can be exploited in plus-matchups, and it’s hardly a secret that talented forwards can attack Rui Hachimura, a freak athlete that is still figuring it out defensively. I do, however, have plenty of respect for the Dons defensively, and I think they’ll be able to handle Gonzaga’s ball-screens action. Where the line opens will be interesting. If it gets to double-digit, I’ll be all over USF, but I don’t expect it to open higher than around (-8).

No. 6 MICHIGAN STATE at PENN STATE, Sun. 4:30 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Michigan State 75, Penn State 67
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Michigan State 81, Penn State 64

Penn State has had a brutal start to Big Ten play, and it doesn’t get any easier with Michigan State coming to town. The Nittany Lions are a 7-9 team on the verge of starting 0-4 in Big Ten play. Their backs are against the wall, and unfortunately, the Spartans are hitting their stride.

PICKS: I’m not really interested in this game from a betting perspective. I’m still trying to figure out what Michigan State is, and Penn State always has at least one shocking win in them per season. If I do bet this game, it will probably be just a small moneyline bet on the Nittany Lions.

No. 7 KANSAS at BAYLOR, Sat. 4:00 p.m. (ESPN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Kansas 70, Baylor 66
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Kansas 69, Baylor 66

Kansas is cratering in KenPom. They’re all the way down to 10th after losing two of their last five games, and I still don’t think we truly know that this team is without Udoka Azubuike. Baylor, who plays a tricky zone, will certainly make it difficult for the young Jayhawks and will definitely make a team that can’t really shoot prove they can hit threes.

PICKS: I like the Baylor side here. Playing Scott Drew’s zone — which is somewhere between a 1-1-3, a 1-3-1 and a 2-3 — is always weird, and without knockdown perimeter shooters or their best offensive rebounder, I can see Bill Self’s team getting into some trouble. Iowa State has a similar makeup to what Kansas is right now, and they lost in Waco on Tuesday.

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No. 8 TEXAS TECH at TEXAS, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (LHN)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Texas Tech 61, Texas 60
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Texas 58, Texas Tech 57.8

Texas Tech has the nation’s No. 1 defense, according to KenPom, and ranks outside the top 100 in adjusted offensive efficiency. Texas is 11th defensively and 73rd offensively. This will not be pretty basketball.

PICKS: This total is going to open in the low 120s. Take the under. This will be my heaviest bet of the day. I also expect the Red Raiders to win, and fully expect this to end up in the 50s.

No. 10 NEVADA at FRESNO STATE, Sat. 8:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Nevada 73, Fresno State 70
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Nevada 71, Fresno State 69

Is it safe to believe in Nevada again? They bounced back from an ugly loss at New Mexico by absolutely running San Jose State out of California. But Fresno State on the road will be the toughest game that Nevada has played to date.

PICKS: I’m going to be very interested to see where this line opens up. If I had to guess, I think it will open around (-3) and get bet up a few points once the public sees a top ten team in what’s perceived as a weak league only giving three. I think I’d probably lean towards Fresno State here, but I will wait and see where the line moves before I bet on it.

No. 25 TCU at No. 23 OKLAHOMA, Sat. 2:00 p.m.

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Oklahoma 75, TCU 70
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Oklahoma 75, TCU 71

The key here is entirely Jaylen Fisher. If he doesn’t play, then I really like Oklahoma if the line ends up around (-4). This is a really, really good defensive team, and Fisher means so much to the Horned Frogs offensively.

No. 22 INDIANA at MARYLAND, Fri. 7:00 p.m. (FS1)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Maryland 74, Indiana 69
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Maryland 75, Indiana 68

Another injury to keep an eye on here. If Indiana point guard Robert Phinisee is out, I would lean towards taking Maryland, but I don’t really love this spot. I’m not quite buying the Terps the way that the computers are at this point, and while Indiana’s three losses are on the road, two of them were at Duke and at Michigan and the third was a game they probably should have won at Arkansas. They tend to play teams tight, so if this ends up around (-7), it would be tough not to take the points.

Again, a lot of that thinking revolves around Phinisee.

SETON HALL at No. 21 MARQUETTE, Sat. 2:00 p.m. (FS1)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Marquette 78, Seton Hall 72
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Marquette 76, Seton Hall 72

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do not like betting on Marquette because you’re betting on whether or not you think Markus Howard will go bonkers. I do think Seton Hall’s Myles Cale will be able to disrupt Howard — the key to slowing him down is length, but there really is no “key” to slowing Howard down because he could put 35 on a Monstar if he gets into a rhythm — but again, I don’t like betting Marquette.

PICKS: If I’m going to bet this game, I’ll probably just take the over, assuming it’s in the high 140s. I also like the idea of taking prop bets on points scored by Howard and/or Myles Powell. Always take the over with them.

OLE MISS at No. 14 MISSISSIPPI STATE, Sat. 1:00 p.m. (CBS)

  • KENPOM PROJECTION: Mississippi State 78, Ole Miss 72
  • HASLAMETRICS PROJECTION: Mississippi State 79, Ole Miss 72

This is quietly a huge gauge game in the SEC. Ole Miss has won a bunch of games but didn’t beat anyone until they took down Auburn at home. Mississippi State has won a bunch of games and does have some solid Ws, but they also just lost to South Carolina.

PICKS: To be frank, I have no feel for Ole Miss and how good they are, but if we don’t know whether or not a team is good by mid-January, I think we can bet on the idea they aren’t that good. If Mississippi State is (-5) or lower at home in the Egg Bowl, I’d feel comfortable taking them.

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Penn State’s Chambers suspended one game for shoving player

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State has suspended basketball coach Patrick Chambers for one game for shoving a player during a timeout Thursday night in a loss at No. 2 Michigan

Midway through the first half in the 68-55 loss, the ESPN broadcast showed footage of a fired-up Chambers in a huddle, reaching out with one arm and pushing freshman guard Myles Dread in the chest.

Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour announced the suspension Friday.

“Coach Chambers and I have spoken about what occurred during the Michigan game and he is very remorseful,” Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said in statement. “His actions were unacceptable, which he recognized, and he apologized to Myles Dread last night and his family today. His actions do not reflect the values of Penn State and the expectations we set for our programs and must not occur again.”

Chambers will miss Nittany Lions’ home game Sunday against Wisconsin.

“I apologized to Myles after the game and I have spoken with his family. My actions were inappropriate; that’s not what Penn State stands for or what I stand for,” Chambers said Friday in a statement. “I told Myles I was sorry that it happened. Sandy and I have spoken and agreed there are some things I need to address. I’ve assured her this won’t happen again and understand my actions last night come with consequences.”

Chambers addressed the incident in his postgame news conference, without being asked about it Thursday night.

“I absolutely love, love Myles Dread. He committed to us as a sophomore. So I’ve known him forever, him and his parents,” Chambers said. “Absolutely love him. I apologize to him. I was just trying to challenge him, just trying to get the best out of him, and hopefully I’ll do it differently next time. No, not hopefully. I will do it a different way next time.”